Several refugees from southern Sudan gathered at Treaty Oak on the Southbank Saturday, to celebrate their native country's independence after years of genocide and civil war.
The new Republic of South Sudan separated from Sudan on Friday. There are no agreements on some of the two country's major issues like, borders, oil, security or even the status of its citizens. But, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is expected in South Sudan's capital, Juba, later Saturday. It's a gesture of pragmatism and what his office is calling a hope for brotherly relations.
Many of the southern Sudanese people, who suffered from civil war and genocide, took refuge in the United States. There are more than 150 living in Jacksonville. They are known as the Lost Boys of Sudan.
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The Lost Boys celebrated a new era Saturday, one they hope will bring peace and stability for their people back home in Africa. They said the independence has been long coming, and their efforts wouldn't have succeeded without help from other nations, like the United States.
"We did not make it on our own," Lost Boy Abraham Kuany said. "We were with friends, especially Americans."
"When I was born, raised as a refugee, I didn't know my father. I was a migrant," Lost Boy John Kot said. "My people will never again be a refugee. Never again migrate from country to country."
The United States recognizes South Sudan as a sovereign and independent state, U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday.
"After so much struggle by the people of South Sudan, the United States of America welcomes the birth of a new nation," Obama said in a statement. "Today is a reminder that after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible. A proud flag flies over Juba and the map of the world has been redrawn."