Sudan yesterday marked 50 years of independence, a turbulent half-century of civil wars, humanitarian suffering, frequent dictatorship and a long search for a way to grow as Africa's biggest nation.
The huge state stretching from Egypt's southern border deep into the heart of black Africa was among the first on the continent to gain independence, on Jan. 1, 1956. But political instability kept it lagging behind others when their turn came.
After 58 years of joint Anglo-Egyptian colonial rule, Sudan has known four decades of totalitarian power and just 10 years of democratic rule made vulnerable by economic hardship, labor unrest and partisan squabbling.
Today, it is under military rule, but the year has seen an end to Africa's longest civil war, with hopes that peace talks in Nigeria could also end a bloody conflict in the western region of Darfur.
At a ceremony on the banks of the Blue Nile late on Saturday, President Omar al-Beshir vowed to ensure Sudan's continued unity by implementing the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) that ended 21 years of war between north and south.
"We are determined to fully implement the CPA and to carry out development projects in all regions of the country during the interim period so that unity will be attractive to both southerners and northerners," Beshir said.
Last year's peace agreement between north and south provides for a six-year period of interim rule headed by a national unity government, after which the south will vote in a referendum on self-determination.