South Sudan President, Salva Kiir, has called on opposition fighters allied to his former deputy, Riek Machar, to ceasefire and respect the cessation of hostilities in his Independence Day message.
While delivering his state of the nation address to mark the nation’s 6th Independence anniversary on Sunday, Kiir pointed out: “Today I want to repeat our call on armed groups to reciprocate the ceasefire we have declared and respect the cessation of hostilities agreement and allow us to achieve a permanent ceasefire.”
Speaking to the press in Juba the president addressed several issues including security, the economy and the humanitarian situation.
For the second year in a row, the world’s youngest nation will not have any official celebrations to mark the anniversary of its birth because of the widespread suffering caused by its ongoing civil war.
Earlier this year, the government declared a unilateral cease-fire, however reports of fighting by government forces have continued.
Four days ago the opposition reported government attacks on rebel-held territory, according to opposition spokesman, William Gatjiath Deng.
Kiir also urged the international community to support the national dialogue, announcing that the government has earmarked about $200 million for this “crucial national project.”
“War is not an option. It is my conviction to restore peace”
Kiir who paid tribute to Dr John Garang for his role in South Sudan independence struggles, said the only viable solution is to implement the peace agreement.
“We did not feel it was appropriate to spend whatever little funds we may have to celebrate, when our people are hugely affected by the economic crisis,” said Kiir.
“It’s difficult for many people to afford even one meal per day.”
Six years after South Sudan gained independence, the country is ravaged by fighting, severe hunger, mass displacement and accusations of war crimes by government and opposition forces.
For the country’s 11 million people, what began with optimism has turned into a day of mourning.
Roughly 4 million people have been forced to flee their houses, more than half of them children, said the Norwegian Refugee Council.
Six million people — half the country’s population — are in need of food aid and almost 2 million South Sudanese are living as refugees in neighbouring countries.