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South Sudan bans independence anniversary parties

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Jason Patinkin/Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


The government of South Sudan has ordered the population to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its independence in private, officially because of Covid-19.

The country, which officially came into being on July 9, 2011, before plunging into a bloody civil war between 2013 and 2018, has not held a ceremony for the occasion since 2014.

According to Deputy Information Minister Baba Medan, South Sudanese ministers expressed concerns about holding possible events in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic during a government meeting Wednesday.

"His Excellency (President Salva Kiir) orders the public, the citizens of South Sudan, to celebrate in their own homes," he told reporters after the meeting.

The deputy minister said President Kiir would make a public speech, "so that everyone will see it on their television or hear it on their radio, and we will also avoid any public health problems.

The swearing-in of members of the "reconstituted" parliament, which had been announced in late May, was initially announced, but was postponed without further details.

The only public event announced is a 10 km race, called the Great South Sudan Run, which will start at 5:00 a.m. (02:00 GMT) in the capital Juba, the deputy minister said.

Salva Kiir spoke on Wednesday about the international sanctions that "impoverish" according to him South Sudan and deprive the state of income.

"That is why we will not celebrate the tenth anniversary in the way people would have liked," he said in an interview with Kenyan television station Citizen TV, broadcast Wednesday night.

South Sudan has received billions of dollars in financial support after its people voted overwhelmingly to secede from Sudan in a 2011 referendum.

In late 2013, the country plunged into a bloody civil war between President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar. The five-year conflict killed nearly 400,000 people, displaced four million others and ruined the economy.

The world's youngest country is currently facing its worst food crisis since independence, with some 60 percent of the population suffering from severe food shortages - some near starvation - according to the World Food Programme.

Kiir and Machar currently lead a fragile unity government, created after a 2018 peace deal that officially ended the war.


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