South Sudan President Salva Kiir says he has forgiven former vice president Riek Machar “in the spirit of our experience in Rome.”
Delivering the State of the Nation Address at the National Assembly in Juba, President Kiir invited Dr Machar for the second time in a month to return to Juba from Khartoum where he is in exile.
He said the physical distance between them was an obstacle to peace and caused unnecessary delays in implementing the revitalised peace agreement reached in September last year.
âIn the spirit of this agreement and our experience in Rome, I once more extend my invitation to Dr Riek Machar to return home. I have completely forgiven him and all I ask from him is to become a peace partner, for he is no longer my opponent,â he said.
Last month President Kiir and Dr Machar went for a two day retreat in the Vatican where Pope Francis kissed their feet and committed them “to hold hands united and to become fathers of the nation.
In a largely reconciliatory speech apart from the now regular dig at international media Mr Kiir said he recognised Dr Machar’s apprehensions.
“While I recognized Dr Riekâs fears and concerns, they all could not be addressed in his absence; some of these require his physical presence,â he said.
He admitted the country was facing a critical time but promised his government would do everything possible to restore lasting peace in the troubled nation.
âI stand for peace and stability and I completely will reject war,” Mr Kiir said, terming consolidating peace and stability in the country a ‘constitutional, moral and religious duty.’
He asked government and opposition forces to open corridors in their areas of control for free movement of people, goods, and services.
âI call upon armed oppositions to work in concert with the national army to continue to open corridors for freedom of movement of our citizens and to open trade routes. Peace in our local communities can only be experienced when citizens can move and trade freely.
âIt is therefore important to open all roads and rivers to facilitate trade and movement of people and goods,â he said.
Kiir and Dr Machar inked peace deal last year but failed to form a new government as stipulated in the agreement by May 12.
The formation of the new unity government was extended by six months to November but Mr Kiir has reservations that this may not be possible in less than a year.
He has however pledged to handover power should he be defeated in a fair election.
The war between the two arch-rivals has claimed nearly 400,000 lives and displaced millions.
Gross human rights have been committed by both sides.
President Kiir once again blamed international media and some foreign entities for fuelling political instability in the country.
He said most reportage by international media and âpeople of bad faithâ portrayed ‘the worse of us’ instead of encouraging peace and stability.
âWe are faithful people; we love God and we love humanity. We are not killers and savages as the international media would want the world to believe,â President Kiir said.
He said the government would spend all resources at its disposal in consolidating peace and stability in South Sudan.
country. This is not only our constitutional duty but also it is our moral and religious duty to bring peace to our people,â he said.