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World's newest country: Can South Sudan limit internal strife?

As the Republic of South Sudan prepares to declare independence Saturday, internal ethnic and political divisions threaten the nation's long-term viability.

A southern Sudanese solider stands during a rehearsal for independence festivities in the southern capital of Juba on Tuesday. The Republic of South Sudan is set to declare independence from the north on July 9.

Pete Muller/AP

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• World's newest country is a three-part series examining the challenges facing South Sudan.
Part 1: Can South Sudan limit internal strife?
Part 2: South Sudan's oil remains a sticking point
Part 3: Future of South Sudan tied to efficacy of foreign aid

When South Sudan becomes the world's newest country Saturday, its upcoming challenges will take a back seat to the euphoria surrounding the historic moment.

Still, internal conflicts loom large.

Before the young government can truly focus on the monumental task building a nation from scratch, it must first figure out a way to manage a range of pressing security issues.

Not only must the nascent, oil-rich country overcome the threat posed by its longtime enemy to the north – the Islamist-dominated government of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court – it must also deal with militias, ethnic divides, and vocal critics within its own borders.

Analysts warn that if South Sudan's government does not seize the "independence moment" to begin a new chapter in the region's history, then it risks fulfilling the doomsday prophecies fueled by the northern government and other actors opposed to southern secession.

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