Speech of his Excellency the president announcing the commencement of national dialogue.
I wish to extend my warm greetings to all of you during this festive season. I want to pour special greetings and sympathies to our people in the internally displaced and refugee camps and to all South Sudanese living across the world.
Like all of you, I am deeply concerned about the current direction our country is taking. I am particularly concerned about the recent reports of rising hatred, divisions and tensions, all of which are rapidly eating our social fabrics away.
I am deeply concerned about the parents who can no longer feed their children because of our shrinking economy.
I am also concerned about the growing number of street children and women who have lost everything due to the ongoing political situation. I am deeply concerned that all our citizens are distraught over the current political conflict and drastically declining economy.
At this festive season, I have come before you to share your government’s efforts to end the conflict and to consolidate peace in the country.
As your leaders, we have both moral and constitutional responsibility to protect and preserve the unity of our people, end the suffering, restore the economy, and refocus on the State and the Nation building.
As you are all aware, our country descended into political crisis in 2013 as a result of unconventional struggle for power.
The political crisis was immediately followed by an extreme violence that shook the foundation of the young Republic. As a result of these developments, our country is deeply divided and the continuing conflict is threatening to tear it apart.
As long as I am your President, I will not allow the suffering of our people to continue and I will not also allow this country to fall apart.
All my comrades and I fought for this country not to tear it apart, but to preserve its unity, guarantee its economic viability, and ensure enduring freedom and equality for its people. And so on this special day, I am calling upon all of you to embrace unity by addressing national unity.
National unity is the mean through which we can preserve, protect and restore the integrity of our country. In my view, national unity is a function of dialogue and consensus building. Unity is the coming together of all our people to work together to develop a vision to guide our country for generations to come.
In pursuit of national unity and reconciliation, your government has undertaken many efforts in an attempt to bring the conflict to an end and to create favorable environment to reconstitute national consensus. These efforts resulted in the signing of the Agreement on the Reunification of the SPLM, which essentially addressed the issues that created discord within the party.
We have also signed the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCISS), which settled political and military aspects of the conflict. While these agreements have to a larger extent addressed many political issues, there remain a number of fundamental issues that require a much broader South Sudanese forum. In particular, our political settlements have often ignored longstanding grassroots grievances. For example the SPLM Reunification Agreement and the ARCISS have narrowly addressed power and military aspect of the conflict.
To link political settlements with grassroots grievances, the next stage; therefore, requires the participation of a broader South Sudanese people in order to fully restore peace and tranquility in the country.
As a measure to consolidate peace in our country and to bring our people together, I am initiating the process of National Dialogue.
Remember, Dialogue has been a hallmark of our liberation struggle. We had always used dialogue as a mechanism to manage our differences and to recommit ourselves to our unity of purpose and resolve to set our people free. The SPLM first entered dialogue with the members of the Anyanya 2, a process that consolidated the unity of the South Sudanese in their struggle. When the movement was split in 1991, we held the first National Convention in Chukudum in 1994 where we recommitted ourselves to our unity as a measure to achieve our liberation objectives.
In 1999, we supported the Wunlit Peace Initiative between the Nuer and the Jieng communities, a process that served as a forerunner for the SPLM unity in 2002 and 2003 when Dr. Riek Machar and Dr. Lam Akol, respectively, rejoined and got reintegrated into the SPLM.
When the movement experienced turbulence in 2004, we convened a high level dialogue in Rumbek, paving the way for the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005. In 2005, we initiated the South-South Dialogue that culminated in the Juba Declaration during which the Southern Sudan Defense Forces (SSDF), under the leadership of the Late Gen. Paulino Matip Nhial, got successfully integrated into the SPLA.
Lastly, in 2010, just before the referendum, we held an All South Sudanese Political Parties Conference where we agreed to unite our people to end all violence so as to give them the golden opportunity to vote to determine their destiny.
Evidently, the people of South Sudan have quite an impressive record when it comes to dialoguing, dating as far back as 1940s. Guided by this rich history, I have no doubt in my mind that when the people of South Sudan come together to discuss the state of the affairs in their country, they can come out united and stronger together. I strongly believe that the current situation in our country calls for a national dialogue. It calls for unity and an end to the cycle of violence and atrocities.
National Dialogue in my view is both a forum and process through which the people of South Sudan can gather to redefine the basis of their unity as it relates to nationhood, citizenship, and a sense of belonging.
This opportunity allows the people of South Sudan to discuss issues related to the structure of the State, renegotiate social contract, and revitalize their aspirations for development and responsibility in the world of nations.
I take the view that a successful national dialogue can only be realized if and when all the people of South Sudan have broadly participated, agreed, and accepted its agenda and outcomes.
For this to be realized the process of national dialogue must be seen as credible, genuine, and open to all the people of South Sudan and it should have reliable guarantees for its outcomes to be accepted and implemented.
To achieve this, I am throwing the full weight of your government behind it, but the government will not lead or control the process.
The government shall be a stakeholder in the national dialogue. I strongly believe in a South Sudanese-led process and so we have identified our fellow citizens, who are persons of consensus with stature and integrity to steer this process.
Your government will guarantee safety and freedom of all the actors who are going to participate in the National Dialogue, including those who are currently out of the country, some of whom are opposed to the government.
To ensure the credibility and effectiveness of the National Dialogue, your leadership will work very closely with the regional, continental, and international partners, including IGAD, JMEC, AU, Troika, and the UN.
As you might be aware, my recent visits to Ethiopia, South Africa, and Equatorial Guinea were aimed at mobilizing and seeking regional support for National Dialogue.
Similarly, I have also sent a number of the Special envoys around to mobilize our partners to support the National Dialogue.
The National Dialogue should have an acceptable agenda and a set of parameters to guide the process. One of the parameters is for all the stakeholders to accept the fact that the National Dialogue is placed within the framework of the Peace Agreement (ARCISS).
Doing this is critical, because the agreement provides the governing framework that guides our actions and this dialogue should not be seen as a new process. Rather, it should be seen as an expansion of the aforementioned peace agreements to accommodate all people of South Sudan and their grievances.
The broader objectives of the National Dialogue are to end violent conflicts in South Sudan, reconstitute national consensus, and save the country from disintegration and usher in a new era of peace, stability and prosperity.
To achieve these goals, the following are the objectives of the National Dialogue:
To ensure the integrity and credibility of its outcomes, the National Dialogue process shall go through the following steps:
The National Dialogue shall undergo three different phases.
The first phase shall largely deal with grassroots consultations. The broader aim of these consultations shall be to map out grievances that are unique to each community and ones that are regional or national in order to deal with these issues at an appropriate level.
The second step is to convene regional Peace Conferences. These conferences shall bring communities in each region together to discuss and resolve outstanding inter-communal conflicts and pass resolutions that shall be forwarded to the National Conference as necessary.
The objective of these conferences is to initiate dialogue at the grassroots level, particularly among the bordering communities, which have unique and localized disputes that should be resolved at that level. In each conference, major issues shall be identified, discussed, and resolved and those resolutions shall be locally and nationally adopted.
The third and final stage is convening the National Conference in Juba.
The National Conference shall tackle remaining issues that are not addressed in the sub-national processes, which would have direct bearing on national cohesion. At this stage, the resolutions adopted at the national conference shall go into different national processes such as the constitutional making, peace, healing and reconciliation processes.
The steering committee of the eminent persons shall also recommend additional steps for the National Dialogue.
At the end of this exercise, our people shall be more united and peace will finally return to every corner of our country.
In light of this national endeavor, I am calling upon all of you to forgive one another, enter dialogue with one another in your personal capacities, embrace one another and consider yourselves as equal citizens of this great country.
In the spirit of national unity, forgiveness and dialogue, I am asking you, the people of South Sudan to forgive me for any mistakes I might have committed.
This is the spirit that our country needs and we must act now.
I pledge to all of you fellow citizens: that, as the New Year dawns on us, I will leave no stone unturned in the search for peace, reconciliation and unity in our great country.
I call upon those still carrying arms to stop destroying their own homes and their own country and join the Process of National Dialogue.
I also call upon our national army and all the security organs to uphold their constitutional mandate and protect all the citizens and their properties.
I promise that no grievances will be left unaddressed in this process. We can achieve great things together if we talk and discuss our issues peacefully.
I also call upon those propagating hate speeches in the social media, international, and local forums to stop tearing their country and communities apart.
We are bound together as one people, one nation and we cannot allow our political and social disappointments to destroy our unity.
My government will take serious measures against those found to be broadcasting ethnic hatred and refuse to renounce violence and join peaceful dialogue.
Finally, fellow citizens, I call upon all of you to stop any propaganda against the international community, especially the American people and the United Nations.
I need to remind you that the international community always stood by us. Therefore, we cannot turn our own frustrations into any hatred against them. As friends, we must work together with them in the spirit of building our nation.
I appeal to the members of the international community as well to support the government, national dialogue efforts and the entire peace implementation process.
We are grateful for the continued humanitarian support and request for the resumption of the development assistance.
I likewise urge the international community, in the spirit of national dialogue, to also cease any negative propaganda against the people and the government of the Republic of South Sudan.
My fellow citizens, I want to conclude my call for national dialogue by directing the SPLA and the SPLA-IO to immediately cease hostilities, protect their fellow citizens, and prepare the ground for a more peaceful, secure, and joyous Christmas and a New Year.
I direct all the security forces to support a broad-based national dialogue and ensure that they provide enabling environment for this national project.
To you, members of this August House, as you go on the recess in your constituencies, I want you to sensitize our Citizens to understand and support this National Dialogue.
More importantly, my comrades, Taban Deng Gai, James Wani Igga and I will also do our part in the Process of National Dialogue.
We will hold peace rallies starting here in Juba and around the country to educate and prepare our people for peace and reconciliation.
We will provide any necessary political will needed to make this National Dialogue a reality.
I have already directed the Minister of Finance and Planning and his team to mobilize necessary resources for the National Dialogue process.
Fellow citizens, I wish all of you Merry Christmas and a peaceful, prosperous New Year.
Speech transcribed from a booklet by: Daniel Danis
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