South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir has called for a national dialogue to end the country’s three-year civil war.
Kiir’s call comes at the start of the traditional fighting season and on the eve of the civil war’s third anniversary.
In a speech to parliament on Wednesday, Salva Kiir said the dialogue would “consolidate peace in the country”.
The process he said would be guided by a panel of “eminent personalities and people of consensus” and would involve “all the people of South Sudan” but he did not say who would constitute the panel.
The aims of the initiative, he noted, are to “save the country from disintegration and usher in a new era of peace, stability and prosperity.”
He thus asked all those still bearing arms to lay down their weapons.
“I call upon those who are still carrying arms to stop destroying their own homes and their own country and join the process of national dialogue. I also call upon our national army and all the security organs to uphold their constitutional mandate to protect all the citizens and their properties,” the South Sudanese leader said in his address.
“I also call upon those propagating hate speeches in the social media, international, and local forums to stop tearing their country and communities apart. We are bound together as one people; one nation and we cannot allow our political and social disappointments to destroy our unity,” he added.
Salva Kiir also used the opportunity to seek forgiveness from his countrymen saying: “I am asking you the people of South Sudan to forgive me for any mistakes I might have committed. This is the spirit that our country needs and we must act now.”
Kiir’s call for calm in the country also comes on the heels of warnings by UN officials of genocide in the country particularly in the southern town of Yei.
Kiir’s troops and allied militia have been accused of ethnic massacres, rape and sexual slavery, looting and forced recruitment of child soldiers, crimes the rebels have also been said to have perpetrated.
Kiir however issued a directive to both government and rebel forces “to immediately cease hostilities, protect their fellow citizens and prepare the ground for a more peaceful, secure and joyous Christmas and New Year.”