South Sudan officially separated from Sudan and proclaimed its independence in a ceremony in Juba on Saturday.

Parliamentary president James Wani Igga pronounced the declaration of independence in the capital. Thousands cheered as the Sudanese flag was lowered and replaced with the new South Sudanese flag.

The ceremony was witnessed by heads of state and dignitaries from around the world, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who faces an international arrest warrant for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Merkel pledges support

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday pledged support for South Sudan, saying the founding of the new state was a “very special day for Africa”.

The issue of Sudan was top of the agenda for the United Nations Security Council, she said in an online video message. Germany took over the rotating presidency of the council on July 1.

“What we want is for Sudan and South Sudan to become two stable states. South Sudan in particular needs our support and that of the international community,” she said.

Merkel is to travel to Kenya, Angola and Nigeria next week.

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