July 9, 2014 (BOR) – Thousands of people across South Sudan’s Jonglei state have celebrated the third anniversary of the country’s independence from the north.
- Young boys attend celebrations marking South Sudan’s independence from the north in Jonglei state capital Bor on 9 July 2014 (ST)
The security situation in the six counties under government control reportedly remained relatively calm throughout celebrations.
These include Pibor, Pochalla, Duk, Twic East, Bor and Ayod.
Among those attending celebrations were representatives from civil societies, the national army (SPLA) and police service, with a number of Jonglei artists performing to entertain the crowd.
The people of Twic East, Pochalla and Pibor held separate celebrations in their respective counties.
“Currently, the security situation in the state in general is stable in the six counties under our control,” said caretaker governor John Kong in his speech.
“Some threats are happening here and there around the state and these continue to affect the people’s confidence and keep them from returning [to their] homes,” he added.
Then Southern Sudan fought a brutal 22-year civil war with Sudan, which ended after a 2005 peace agreement paved the way for a referendum on self-determination in January 2011.
Southerners voted overwhelmingly in favour of secession, officially declaring its independence on 9 July 2011, becoming the world’s newest nation.
However, the optimism and hope that independence brought has been severely shaken by the outbreak of violence in mid-December last year sparked by a political split in the ruling SPLM, which has reignited tribal tensions across the country.
- Jonglei state’s caretaker governor, John Kong, delivers his speech at Independence Day celebrations in Bor on 9 July 2014 (ST)
Peace talks and ongoing international pressure has failed to halt the conflict, which has pitted government troops loyal to Salva Kiir against rebel forces aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar.
Jonglei capital Bor witnessed heavy fighting at the height of the conflict, with thousands fleeing for their lives and much of the town’s infrastructure destroyed.
More than 150,000 people have been displaced by the crisis, with many taking refuge at Bor’s UN base and neighbouring countries.
“The level of destruction and displacement that had occurred during the first five months was huge and this has severely affected the well being of our people,” said Kong.
Hunger and the insecurity remain the two major problems facing people in Jonglei.
“The insecurity and the looming hunger in the state certainly requires our collective leadership in order to deliver the needed peace to our people,” said Kong.
The governor also said he feared a major hunger outbreak in Jonglei in the near future, as the recent crisis had severely interrupted crop planting.
“People are not cultivating, and this means another crisis in waiting,” said Kong.
The UN has called on both parties to the conflict to allow unhindered humanitarian access to conflict-affected areas.
A statement, delivered by the Jonglei state coordinator, Hazel De Wet, on behalf the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon urged both the government and rebels “to stop the crisis and suffering in South Sudan”.
- State prison officials listen to speeches during Independence Day celebrations in Jonglei capital Bor on 9 July 2014 (ST)
“Both sides must lay down their arms, end all hostiles and return immediately to the negotiating table. There is no military solution,” Ban said in his statement.
Humanitarian access to conflict-affected area and attacks on UN staff and facilities were the main issues the UN chief said South Sudan needed to address.
“I also call on all sides to allow humanitarian access by air, by road and by barge along the Nile. Attacks on the United Nations and the humanitarian community must cease immediately,” the statement adds.
The UN chief described the South Sudan crisis as “an entirely man-made calamity”, calling for both sides to take stronger action to resolve the conflict peacefully.
“It (the conflict) needs the engagement of all South Sudanese to restore the sense of national unity that prevailed at the time of independence,” Wet read from the statement.