July 30, 2014 (WAU) – South Sudan’s Western Bahr el Ghazal state marked Martyrs’ Day on Wednesday, held annually to honour the heroes and heroines who lost their lives in the country’s long struggle for independence.
This year also marks the ninth anniversary of the death of John Garang De Mabior, the founding leader of the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), who died in a helicopter crash in 2005.
Wednesday’s celebration, which ended with the lighting of candles at Wau’s cultural theatre, began with jubilant prayers at the Saint Mary parish led by Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak and attended by state government officials and other dignitaries.
Addressing the mass congregation, Majak called on South Sudan’s leaders to commit to peaceful dialogue to end the current conflict in the country and to keep the themes of reconciliation and forgiveness in their daily prayers.
“[The] use of weapons against innocents South Sudanese should not be a
solution toward problems facing the nation,” he said. “[There is] no need for [the] people of south Sudan to continue dying day and night without reason.”
State information minister Alfred Oya, who was representing the state governor, paid tribute to the more than 2.5 million martyrs that fought for independence in both the Anyanya war and the north-south civil war, which ended with the signing of a 2005 peace agreement that ultimately paved the way for South Sudan’s secession from Sudan in 2011.
Meanwhile, SPLM state deputy chairperson Anthony Wadrif urged churches to continue offering prayers for the welfare of South Sudanese and the resumption of peace talks between the government and its rebel faction led by former vice-president, Riek Machar.
South Sudan has been embroiled in conflict since mid-December last year when a political split emerged within the SPLM, in what is the country’s worst post-secession violence.
The fighting has pitted troops loyal to Salva Kiir against pro-Machar rebels, with a January peace deal failing to halt the violence.
Martyrs’ Day is celebrated annually across South Sudan as a public holiday. This year’s memorial was held under the theme of ‘Martyrs are the symbol of redemption and loyalty’.