Juba — The South Sudanese President Salva Kiir on Saturday reiterated calls for peace in his conflict-ridden country, but warned citizens against involvement in revenge killings.
Speaking at a rally organised by the ruling party's (SPLM) youth wing, Kiir said it was time for South Sudanese to forgive one another as leaders seek remedies to the current conflict.
"This country needs peace. This country needs development. The country needs widows and orphans to recover from war trauma attitude. This country needs education," said the president at his first public rally since the conflict broke out.
"There will be reconciliation and forgiveness, the forgiveness will not be today, but it must happen for the sake of having a peaceful country, not warlord country," he added.
The event, attended by thousands of citizens, was organised by the SPLM youth wing as part of its mobilisation campaign under the theme, "one nation, one people".
The South Sudanese leader further stressed the importance of national reconciliation as the young nation grapples with a conflict that nearly caused civil war.
Violence erupted in the South Sudan capital in mid-December last year, but later extended to its states of Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity, leaving thousands dead and nearly a million homeless.
ATTACKS FORMER VICE PRESIDENT
Meanwhile, the South Sudanese leader described his former deputy Riek Machar as "an enemy of peace and progress in South Sudan," directly referring to the latter's alleged involvement in what he said was a coup attempt against his leadership.
"My brother Riek Machar has hurt [the] people of South Sudanese after he made a mistake to become a rebel leader again in the nation. He assumes himself to be a democratic man, but his heart does not apply democracy," a visibly angry Kiir said.
"It is now a great shame worldwide that newest nation South Sudan has insurgency," he added, while urging the country's citizens to work for peace.
Machar, despite the president's claims, denies any involvement in any coup attempt and instead accuses the latter of falsely implicating him in a bid to silence opposition within the SPLM.
NUER NOT TARGETED
The violence, according to President Kiir, had no ethnic dimension as initially portrayed and that it never targeted the Nuer, South Sudan's second largest tribe.
He however appealed to the youth across the country to put their national interests above personal reasons as they help government restore peace and stability in the new nation.
"I appeal to youth in greater Bahr-El-Ghazal to be peaceful, do not revenge. We need peace, which is only option that could save this nation," said the South Sudan leader.
"Revenge will lead us nowhere," he further stressed, while cautioning youth against being used by politicians with no agenda.
The president also expressed regret regarding the thousands killed in the "senseless" conflict, but assured the population of South Sudan army's (SPLA) commitment to protect civilians and end the conflict.
"There is no danger now - all those people residing inside UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] bases should return to their residences. I need all youth to disengage from retaliation and stay as colleagues and under one nation as one people," said President Kiir, who advised elders to peace among the youth.