South Sudan marked its birth as an independent nation on Saturday, raising its red, white, and green flag in front of thousands of cheering citizens who were also celebrating the end of their 50-year struggle.

Newly inaugurated South Sudan president Salva Kiir acknowleged that the world is now watching the developments in his country and encouraged his citizens to unite and help advance their country even by casting aside their allegiances to their tribes.

South Sudan’s declaration of independence meant Africa’s largest nation has now been broken into two. This was a result of a January 2011 referendum vote that was overwhelmingly won by those who wanted secession from Khartoum.

In 2005, a peace deal was signed between the north and south that practically ended decades of civil war between people from the north that are predominantly Arab Muslims against those from the south that are comprised mostly of black Christians and animists. There were approximately 2 million people that have been reportedly killed by the war from 1983 to 2005.

US President Barack Obama released a statement expressing the formal recognition of South Sudan as a sovereign nation by the United States. However, there was no mention concerning the lifting of years-long sanctions against Sudan. Washington has placed Khartoum in its terrorism-sponsoring states watchlist.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who was also in attendance during the inauguration rites, urged President Obama to end the US sanctions against his country. He insisted that Mr. Obama deliver on his promise to lift the unilateral sanctions paving way for the normalization of ties between Khartoum and Washington. Mr. Obama, however, reiterated that the road toward full normalization still has to wait until certain issues are resolved including the border disputes in Abyei and Southern Kordofan regions.

By next week, the United Nations (UN) is expected to recognize South Sudan as its 193rd member country essentially making it the 54th African nation to gain a UN seat. South Sudan is likely going to follow the steps of East Timor (2002) and Montenegro (2006) that immediately became full-fledged members of the UN just within weeks or months after declaring their independence. Kosovo, on the other hand, declared independence in 2008 but is so far recognized only by 76 nations and still waiting full UN membership status.

Numerous statements from heads of state were sent recognizing South Sudan’s sovereignty such as the US, United Kingdom, and Russia, and millions of people around the world witnessed the symbolic flag-raising ceremony in the country’s now capital city of Juba. Some of the high profile world leaders present in the ceremony included al-Bashir, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, as well as South African President Jacob Zuma.