Dr. Saka Ssali, host and managing editor of Voice of America’s (VOA) “Straight Talk Africa” weekly program on April 27, called on President Salva Kiir of South Sudan and the rebel opposition leader, Dr. Riek Machar to put their ethnic and political differences behind them and together walk the long walk to peace for social and economic development in the young embattled oil rich African nation.
The veteran American journalist made this call when he moderated a discussion on South Sudan with his guests (Ambassador Garang D. Akuong, South Sudan envoy to the U.S., John Tanza, host of VOA “South Sudan in Focus,” and Reath M. Tang, North American SPLA/M opposition representative.)
The guests, in their discussion on the way forward for South Sudan in the implementation of a peace accord signed by the two leaders in August 2015, were unanimous in their opinion that the two year civil war has retarded economic growth in the country, resulted in the death and displacement of many people, and put the country in huge debt with a large population of the people facing chronic starvation.
In view of the hardship and suffering faced by the people, they believed that South Sudan needs peace for the formation of a government of national unity to implement the Ethiopia peace agreement deal to enhance reconstruction, healing, and social and economic development of the war torn country.
They called on the two leaders to close ranks and work together for peace to move the nation forward.
The discussants agreed that within 30 months of formation and the working of the unity government, the two leaders must let peace rein in the country to prepare the minds of the people and make appropriate preparation for a national general election to forestall the growth of a viable democracy in the country to enable people to choose their leaders by way of the ballot box.
The United Nations, America and African Leaders have talked and amicably settled the civil war that almost divided the country two years after independence from Sudan in 2011.
Reports from Juba, the capital of South Sudan indicate that security is still tense with the presence of soldiers and weapons almost everywhere and people scared to move about freely.
President Kiir is of the opinion that he alone cannot bring peace to the country without the support of the opposition leader, Riek Machar and his followers. After a long delay, Kiir eventually met with the security request of Machar, that his soldiers must lay down their weapons before he could return to join the new government in the country.
The long awaited opposition leader, flew into Juba on April 26, 2016 with an apology to the government and people for his lateness. He was met on arrival at the airport by jubilant supporters shouting the slogan,” We want a united South Sudan.”
He was driven straight to the state house where the 15-member governing council were meeting and he was immediately sworn in as the first vice president to join hands and steer the country.
Political observers around the world are however scared about why Machar would hold President Kiir to ransome about still returning with a large number of soldiers and weaponry? With the new unity government in place, the country should be demilitarized for a physical manifestation that the war is over and everybody is a free citizen of the nation.
Many observers however believe that Machar’s return to take up his former frontline position as one of the founding leaders of the country will forestall harmony, peaceful co-existence and support of the opposition group for the task of moving the nation into the limelight.
South Sudan has reached the dawn of a new era for peace, unity and rapid growth. The new national government of unity must quickly and successfully work to meet the aspirations of the people, gladden the hearts of its founding fathers and make their freedom fight and struggle meaningful to the world.