February 13, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudanese Church youth leaders and members of the mother’s union organised a rally at Juba’s Nyankuren Cultural Centre on Wednesday to highlight the alleged failed coup attempt that the government claims occurred on December 15 led by former South Sudan vice-president Riek Machar.
- South Sudan’s minister for electricity and dams Jemma Nunu Kumba speak at a Nile Basin initiative meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, November 12, 2013 (NBI photo)
The rally, which was run with support from the youth league of South Sudan’s ruling party - the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) - was an opportunity to reiterate the government’s narrative over what triggered the conflict that has last almost two months, displaced almost a million people and result in thousands of deaths.
Akol Paul Kordit, the chairman of SPLM Youth League (SPLM-YL) thanked church leaders for their role in promoting peace and reconciliation in South Sudan.
"South Sudan is still a new country needs stability so that development and basic services reach people in their remote residential areas”, he said.
Daniel Awet Akot, the former deputy speaker of National parliament who is also the senior member of SPLM Political Bureau and a deputy chairman of crisis management committee (CMC) created to deal with the current conflict also addressed the rally.
He called for calm and stability to save orphans, widows and other vulnerable people. However, he said South Sudan needed to prevent the country’s image from being distorted by the international community.
Many countries, as well as the African Union, are yet to be convinced of the Juba’s narrative over that conflict started after a failed coup attempt.
“We do not need blood. We need peace. Do not quarrel to your brother. Do not fight for power struggling of one man interest. Nation first and your patriotism above all tribe angle,” said Akot.
Speaking at the rally, a senior female member of SPLM political bureau Jemma Nunu Kumba also called upon the churches to preach for peace and harmony in the country.
She condemned the killings of civilians in Jonglei state at the hands of the rebels, adding that many people were still missing or homeless due to the conflict.
Machar has assumed control of various factions of the army which defected in mid-December following clashes between members of the presidential guards on December 15 and violence against civilians in Juba in the following days.
While Nuer civilians were worst affected in the capital with some targeted and killed on the basis of their ethnicity, revenge attacks against Dinka civilians have also been reported in places like Bor.
Nunu called upon former vice-president Machar to disengage from rebel activities.
The Church, she said, has a big role to play in bringing peace to the country, adding that the SPLM will support all effort for restoring peace and stability in the region.
“Church youth must preach for peace. Preach for peace and for leadership to have peace in their heart. We need collective effort to bring peace and God is above all,” said Nunu.
Negotiations between the SPLM loyal to president Salva Kiir, the rebels - known as the SPLM/A-in-Opposition and other senior SPLM figures aligned to neither side are currently underway in neighbouring Ethiopia.
Nunu asked why Machar had allowed the Nuer White Army - a large group of armed civilians in Jonglei - to carryout attacks during the conflict. It is unclear who much control Machar has over the White Army and the commanders who defected from the army.
"We must say no to killing ourselves" she said, while appealing to South Sudanese youth to defend the country and not become divided by the internal power struggle within the SPLM that caused the current crisis.
She urged young people to remain the back bone of the country and to support nation building with integrity referring to the late SPLM chairman Dr. John Garang.
“Defend your country and you defend your democratic constitution" Nunu said, adding that "Do not defend one man’s interest. South Sudan belongs to all tribes."