By Duncan Mackay in Durban

South_Sudan_independence_day_celebrationsJuly 10 - South Sudan, the world's newest nation, faces a race against time to be able to compete in next year's London Olympics after officially gaining its independence yesterday.

Sudan, a former British colony has been plagued for the last 50 years by famine, military coups, terrorism and a conflict between the Muslim north, which includes Darfur, and the Christian south that cost nearly two million lives.

Earlier this year, following a 2005 peace agreement at the end of the civil war, the southern states held a referendum to separate. 

Many western countries, including Britain, the United States and Russia, recognised South Sudan yesterday and the United Nations is expected to vote to recognise them as its 193rd member later this week.

The landlocked country is bordered by Ethiopia to the east; Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the south; theCentral African Republic to the west; and Sudan to the north.

South Sudan is now one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world but it is oil rich and expected to expand rapidly.

The best-known athlete to have been born in South Sudan is British basketball captain Luol Deng.

The Chicago Bulls superstar took part in the independence day celebrations and staged a basketball clinic in the capital Juba (pictured).

UN recognition will be the first step towards making it to the Olympics but it is thought unlikely they will fill all the necessary criteria before London 2012, although their athletes would still be able to compete under the Olympic flag.

"They have to recognised by the international community," a spokesman for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) told insidethegames.

"Then they need to have at least four National federations to allow them to have a founding session of the National Olympic Committee.

"Only after that can the country be represented in london.

"Of course that doesn't affect the athletes participation - but for country to have an NOC it needs a session and I believe there need to be minimum four IFs."

A more likely place for South Sudan's debut as an independent country on the major international stage is the Commonwealth Games at Glasgow in 2014.

The country has already applied to join the Commonwealth. 

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]