South Sudan leaders appeal for forgiveness after brutal civil war

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(From L) First Vice President of South Sudan and former rebel leader Riek Machar, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Second Vice President of South Sudan James Wani Igga shake hands after the formation of the new cabinet of the Transitional Government at the Cabinet Affairs Ministry in Juba on April 29, 2016. South Sudan President Salva Kiir has named his transitional unity government, sharing power with ex-rebels in a key step in a long-delayed peace process, a decree read out on April 29 said. Under terms of an August 2015 peace deal, the 30 ministerial posts are split between Kiir, former rebel chief turned first vice president Riek Machar, opposition and other parties. / AFP / CHARLES LOMODONG (Photo credit should read CHARLES LOMODONG/AFP/Getty Images)

 

(From L) First Vice President of South Sudan and former rebel leader Riek Machar, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Second Vice President of South Sudan James Wani Igga shake hands after the formation of the new cabinet of the Transitional Government at the Cabinet Affairs Ministry in Juba on April 29, 2016.

Photo AFP / CHARLES LOMODONG 

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his deputy Wani Igga have joined a campaign seeking to reunite and reconcile South Sudanese torn apart by a five-year conflict.

Using pre-recorded audio messages aired on local radio stations, the leaders of the world’s youngest nation are urging the people of South Sudan to embrace forgiveness to pave way for nationwide reconciliation.

The campaign, spearheaded by a local religious group, is using billboards and recorded voices to share peace messages across South Sudan.

“As the president of the republic, I feel duty bound to lead the people of South Sudan to forgive each other even when forgiveness is being perceived as a weakness by those to whom they are forgiving,” Kiir said in an audio message.

“Indeed South Sudanese have brutally destroyed themselves – untold loss of lives, untold loss of property, and those who lost property and dear ones are definitely bitter. This reconciliation should be proceeded by forgiveness. You reconcile in order to forgive and open a new page,” Igga said.

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

The United Nations estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally. A peace deal signed in August 2015 collapsed following renewed violence in the capital of Juba in July 2016.

The conflict left many South Sudanese communities fractured along ethnic lines, prompting the United Nations to warn in 2016 that the east African nation risks descending into genocide if the use of inflammatory rhetoric, ethnic polarization and name calling by the warring factions do not end.

A new peace deal signed in September appears to be holding as fighting and targeted killings have reduced in recent months.

“All of us the people of South Sudan have to forgive one another for the wrongs we have committed against one another,” he said.

“I always forgive as I also ask to be forgiven when I had wronged someone,” the South Sudanese leader added.