At 9:00 PM GMT on Friday the Republic of South Sudan was born. It is the end of a long journey that started with a peace deal in 2005 that ended a protracted civil war with the north. President Salva Kiir signed the constitution and took his oath of office during huge, country wide celebrations. The feeling among the crowds is that of a fresh start and a new chapter. But there still is much work to be done.

South Sudan is still one of the least developed nations even though they sit on rich oil reserves. Decades of civil war has left South Sudan extremely poor. And as the peace deal with the north remains tenuous the military is the priority recipient of South Sudan’s money taking the majority over education and health care. In outlying areas of South Sudan tribal conflicts continue to be a threat to peace of the new nation.

However, the birth of the nation seems to have sparked a sense of unity among the South Sudanese people. If the unification holds, new opportunities combined with their natural resources may elevate South Sudan to one of the great nations of Africa.