JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Southern Sudanese community celebrated freedom from war and genocide Sunday night as they marked their first year as an independent nation.
Hundreds of South Sudanese immigrants celebrated the first anniversary of its independence from Sudan.
"It's good to have our independence. It's good to be free," said Lual Lual.
However the past 12 months have not been easy for the new nation, which was formed as people tried to escape decades of genocide and war.
"It's really good to celebrate our first year of independence. It's been tough a year so far, but things are moving on," said Dombek Kuol, the First Secretary at the Embassy of South Sudan.
The country's first year has seen renewed fighting with Sudan and the shutdown of oil production. Ongoing struggles that the hundreds of South Sudanese men and women who now live and work in Jacksonville said they're frustrated with. But they are still proud of how far they've come.
"People of South Sudan will live a better life than the life they were living in. They are excited because they have their own country. They are free now - free people. They are going to develop their country," said Kuol.
And while their new government continues to grow, they say their future is bright because of support from the U.S.