South Sudan gains its independence
His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon and Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim represented Norway today at the ceremony marking South Sudans independence.
The peace agreement signed in 2005 ended the lengthiest civil war in Africa. At that point, the conflict had raged for 20 years, costing more than two million lives and forcing an additional four million people to flee their homes. South Sudan has declared its independence today, 9 July 2011, as scheduled in the peace agreement which expires at the same time.
Jubilation in Juba
South Sudan celebrated its independence in a large-scale ceremony in the capital city of Juba. More than 3 000 guests attended the ceremony, including the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the African Union and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, as well as a number of heads of state and government. Crown Prince Haakon and Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim were in attendance as Norways official representatives.
Several Norwegian non-governmental organisations – Norwegian Peoples Aid and Norwegian Church Aid in particular – have been active in South Sudan for many years. Since the 1990s, the Norwegian authorities have also been involved in the peace process, sending representatives to serve as observers during the negotiations and providing support to the African Union and former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa who led the concluding negotiations.
Sudan has been one of the largest recipients of development assistance from Norway in recent years.
South Sudan is now Africas 54th state and UN Member State number 193. Norway officially recognises South Sudan as an independent state as of 9 July, and the Norwegian Consulate General in Juba will be upgraded to the status of Royal Norwegian Embassy.
Congratulations are presented today from His Majesty King Harald to His Excellency Mr Egils Levits, President of the Republic of Latvia.
World Heritage at Vega
In 2004, UNESCO inscribed the Vega Archipelago on the World Heritage List. Today His Royal Highness The Crown Prince was in attendance to open the new Vega Archipelago World Heritage Centre – Norway’s first authorised centre of its kind.