South Sudan became the world's newest nation just after midnight Saturday local time, marking its final separation from Sudan following decades of conflict, DPA reported.
Church bells started ringing at midnight (2100 GMT Friday) to signal the beginning of the historic day, and loud drumming greeted Africa's 54th country.
The new nation will be officially declared into existence at ceremonies Saturday morning in Juba, when President Salva Kiir is sworn in as the first president of the new nation and as the independence declaration is read aloud.
South Sudan is to be recognized next week as Earth's 193rd country when it is expected to be admitted to the United Nations. Germany has already declared its recognition from the moment of independence.
It's been nearly nine years since the world saw a new UN-recognized country - East Timor in 2002, when it gained independence from Indonesia. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but has not been recognized by the United Nations.
Residents of Juba, the capital, were already celebrating Friday evening with music, horn honking and events all around the city. The new South Sudan national flag was everywhere in evidence, draped over cars, trucks and street lights.
Plastic flowers decorated the main street from the airport, along which high profile guests travelled as they arrived for the celebrations - including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, led a US delegation.