South Sudan President Salva Kiir has launched a national dialogue that encompasses all the troubled country’s rival political parties and groups, which will be led by eminent statesmen.
Addressing members of South Sudan national legislative assembly in the capital Juba on Wednesday, President Kiir asked for forgiveness for wrongs committed.
“National dialogue in my view is both a forum and process through which the people of South Sudan can gather to redefine the basis of their unity as it relates to nationhood and sense of belonging,” the South Sudanese leader told the country’s lawmakers.
“In the light of national endeavor, I am calling upon all of you to forgive one another, enter dialogue with one another in your personal capacities, embrace yourself,” he said adding “I am asking you, the people of South Sudan to forgive me for any wrong I might have committed.”
A national committee of eminent personalities and persons of consensus will be instituted to steer the process, Kiir said. The committee will work with independent experts from Juba-based think tanks such as the Ebony Center, Sudd Institute and Centre for Peace and Development.
The three institutions will also constitute secretariat work for the committee.
The process will have bottom-top approach with the first phase being ‘grassroots consultation’ to map out grievances unique to each community and the region. Second phase will convene regional peace conferences and the final phase will lead to convergence in Juba for the National Conference.
“The National Conference shall tackle remaining issues that are not addressed in the sub-national processes, which would have direct baring on national cohesion,” Kiir said, in what has been described by experts as his first detailed plans to address issues in a tribally divided, war torn country.
The resolutions adopted will aid writing of permanent national constitution. Kiir said experience has shown that South Sudanese can dialogue. He recalled his disagreement with late SPLM leader John Garang in 2004, return of Riek Machar to SPLM in 2002, SPLM convention of 1994 and Dinka and Nuer communities conference of 1999 as evidence of viability of local led peace initiatives.
President Kiir expressed disappointment with the economic and security situation affecting lives of the people, declaring that peace and reconciliation would be his priorities.
“My comrades, Taban Deng Gai, James Wani Igga and myself will do our part in National dialogue. We will hold peace rallies within Juba and across the Country to educate our people on peace and unity. I have directed the Minister of Finance and Planning to mobilize necessary resources”, Kiir told lawmakers.
Armed opposition groups, Kiir said, will be invited to take part in the dialogue. He did not say when the process will start but revealed having instructed the ministry of financé to avail funds.
Meanwhile, the South Sudanese leader also called for help from the international community and warned citizens against hate speeches that target Americans and the United Nations.
He said he was particularly concerned with the rise in living costs because of the shrinking economy resulting from effects of war his administration struggles to end.
“I am deeply concerned about the parents who can no longer feed their children because of our shrinking economy”. I am also concerned about the growing number of street children and women who have lost everything due to the ongoing political situation. I am deeply concerned that all our citizens are distraught over the current political conflict and drastically declining economy”, said president Kiir in a prepared speech he delivered before legislators.