The world's newest nation has lived to see its first birthday! This is a big deal for a country that was written-off at birth by analysts and observers, just a year ago.
South Sudanese's overwhelming vote to secede from Sudan last year was seen as counterproductive in some quarters. Naysayers even coined 'pre-failed state' to refer to the would-be new nation.
The world had credible reasons to be skeptical. Here was a nascent country, roughly the size of Texas with only 100 miles of paved roads and no basic infrastructure, electricity and water, trailing in every indicator of human growth and development.
Many South Sudanese saw last year's secession ballot as vote for peace, but they have not truly enjoyed it for two main reasons, which are intimately related.
Firstly, Sudan and South Sudan are locked in a bitter divorce. The protracted dispute has led to intermittent clashes between the two sides and caused massive displacements and insecurity in border areas. Khartoum considers South Sudan an enemy state and accuses it of propping up rebels in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.
While much of the fighting is subsiding - giving way to the African Union sponsored on-and-off dialogue in Ethiopia - the situation remains precarious and many issues are outstanding.
The two countries have not agreed on their 1,800km border and are also yet to come up with an equitable transit fee to transport oil from landlocked South Sudan. Last January, South Sudan shut down its oil production depriving the fledgling country of 98% of its budget.
Secondly, internal rebellions, recurring ethnic clashes and cattle rustling in restive Jonglei have left thousands dead and displaced in the first year of South Sudanese independence, and threatened to scuttle the little gains of nationhood.
There is no denying the truth about South Sudan, as it marks its first independence anniversary. It's not yet the country its founders and liberators envisioned. The fruits of independence have not yet trickled-down to the very poor. Rampant corruption in government has not been curbed or fought. Impunity continues unabated. Many live in appalling poverty.
And yet, irrespective of the harrowing disappointments, many South Sudanese believe a nation of their own trumps all considerations. And, as a South Sudanese who was born during the last war, I hope very much that the dreams of a better, freer future will be fulfilled and peace will reign.
I believe we can amicably resolve these prolonged quarrels over land and resources amongst ourselves and with our brothers and sisters in Sudan. I wholeheartedly believe the bonds of history and kinship between the Sudans will eventually smash deep suspicions stemming from a difficult past, paving the way for the people of the two nations to move and trade freely.
Although the road to peace is uncertain and citizens from both countries have every reason to be nervous given the war-like posture maintained by the two states, I believe the symbiotic nature of our existence will eventually compel the negotiators in Addis Ababa to strike a compromise and mutually acceptable solution. The two countries need peace in and between themselves to prosper.