January 30, 2014 (JUBA) - The youth league of South Sudan’s ruling party - the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) - launched a peace and reconciliation campaign at Juba University on Thursday.
The rally was attended by thousands of South Sudanese, including students, members of the public, lawmakers, and senior members of SPLM’s political bureau.
After weeks of political tension within the SPLM, South Sudan’s army fractured along political and tribal allegiances in mid-December following fighting between soldiers in the Presidential Guard.
The various speakers at the event called for nationwide peace and reconciliation. The government claims that the outbreak of violence on December 15 was a coup attempt but this is denied by both the politicians accused of conspiring in the alleged plan and those who have subsequently rebelled.
Akol Paul Kordit, the chairman of SPLM Youth League, vowed to fight tribalism in South Sudan. "Tribalism is not the pride" he said, adding that "South Sudan was liberated through struggle of brotherhood and patriotism."
South Sudan became independent in 2011, following decades of conflict with various Khartoum governments, becoming the 193rd country to have its flag raised at the United Nations in New York.
Although the current conflict began as a result of a power struggle within the SPLM, the fighting has in some case taken on an ethnic dimension mirroring the unresolved schisms caused by infighting within the SPLM during the civil war.
Kordit, who also serves as member of the SPLM political bureau and a member of the national parliament, urged South Sudanese youth to unite under an umbrella of patriotism and nation building rather than being misled into joining the conflict for tribal reasons.
"Youth must to unite under patriotism and nation building. The international community cannot identify us by tribes line, the international community identify us because we are South Sudanese with our flag flying in New York – there is no Nuer flag, Dinka flag, Acholi, Kakwa or Bari flag in New York. The pride for us is a South Sudanese flag which define value of our liberation during 22 years."
He called on South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit to remove the SPLM’s deputy chairman Riek Machar Teny, who is leading the rebellion against the government.
Machar was sacked by Kiir in July shortly after confirming that he planned to stand against the President to become the next Chairman of the SPLM and, therefore, the likely party candidate for the 2015 elections.
Kordit called for Machar to be removed from his position as SPLM deputy chairperson because of his disloyalty, claiming that history was repeating itself as Machar had previously defected in 1991 during the civil war.
On both occasions Machar’s forces have been accused of committing atrocities in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state. Both sides have committed abuses according to the United Nations and human rights groups.
Daniel Awet Akot, a member of the SPLM Political Bureau and former deputy speaker of the national parliament encouraged the South Sudanese public to be faithful citizens of the young nations.
He called upon South Sudanese youth to practice being the "leaders of tomorrow" and remain the backbone of the country and not be manipulated by politicians with personal agendas.
Akot called upon members of the South Sudanese army who had defected and joined the rebellion should not fear handing themselves in and reintegrating back into the military.
The soldiers would be "forgiven", he said, but added that "history will not forgive" Machar his actions.
The former Vice President denies starting the rebellion and claims he was forced to flee Juba after his compound was attacked. The two sides signed a ceasefire deal in Addis Ababa a week ago but both sides accuse the other of violating the deal.
South Sudan has released seven of the 11 political detainees that have been held in Juba since the beginning of the conflict accused of collaborating with Machar in the alleged coup attempt. However, the SPLM are under pressure to release the remaining four senior members of he ruling party to help the peace process.