UNITED NATIONS // South Sudan yesterday became the newest member of United Nations, as it joined the world's top club amid pledges to help one of the planet's poorest states take its first steps.
"I declare South Sudan a member of the United Nations," said Joseph Deiss, president of the UN General Assembly, after a vote by acclamation admitted the country as the UN's 193rd member.
The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, added: "Welcome, South Sudan. Welcome to the community of nations."
South Sudan declared independence on Saturday at a ceremony in the new capital, Juba, before tens of thousands of its citizens and numerous foreign leaders after nearly 50 years of war with Sudan and millions of deaths.
The nation's independence came exactly six months after southerners voted almost unanimously to split with their former civil war enemies in the north.
For decades, until a peace agreement was signed in 2005, southern rebels fought successive wars with the north, leaving the region in ruins, millions of people dead and a legacy of mutual mistrust.
Mr Ban acknowledged the country's painful past as he welcomed South Sudan into international organisation.
"All those who endured the long civil war. All those who lost so many loved ones. All those who left their homes and fled their communities. All those who held fast to hope. Now they have reached an important milestone," he said.
Millions of southerners fled to northern Sudan during the devastating north-south civil war between 1983 and 2005. Many have returned south this year to participate in the building of their new nation.
The challenges ahead are truly daunting for one of the poorest countries on Earth. Despite the widespread poverty and corruption, however, South Sudan is sitting on potential riches, with estimated oil reserves of some 6.7 billion barrels.