JUBA — President Salva Kiir vowed Monday that he will not allow South Sudan to be destroyed in the country's still-simmering conflict and pledged to develop the young nation and help people impacted by nearly six months of fighting.
In a speech to open the 2014 session of the National Assembly, Kiir accused anti-government forces allied to former vice president Riek Machar of violating a ceasefire agreed to in Addis Ababa last month, but insisted that he wants peace.
"I am also for the development and progress of this nation but will never stand for its destruction," the president said. "I promise to work with you to see South Sudan emerge strong economically and politically in the region and Africa at large."
Mr. Kiir also urged the different ethnic groups in South Sudan to reconcile their differences and work together so that the country can move forward.
“I humbly appeal to you all, my dear citizens, including our brothers and sisters who are now in opposition, to forgive one another and come together in the spirit of true reconciliation and join hands to work in unity and understanding," he said.
The president said he hopes to reach a political agreement and permanent ceasefire with the opposition and form an interim government in the coming months.
But he lashed out at those who he said are jockeying for position in the proposed transitional goverment, saying they have their eye only on their own betterment, not the good of the people.
"When they talk about the interim government, they see themselves in the center, that they are the ones going to lead that interim government," Mr. Kiir said, without naming names.
"I don’t think that is the right outlook because if we do that -- that you dissolve an elected government and you go for an interim government -- you will elect another government and the same thing will happen. You are setting a wrong precedent," he said.
Mr. Kiir touted the recently signed peace deal with long-time rebel leader David Yau Yau as an example of how his government can bring peace to South Sudan. He urged lawmakers to quickly endorse the agreement with Yau Yau.
Construction to begin on hydroelectricity plant
He pledged to help develop the country's infrastructure and economy, including by starting construction of the Fula Rapids Hydropower station by the end of this year. The project was supposed to begin late last year but was disrupted by the fighting that broke out in mid-December.
The Fula Rapids project is expected to take three years to complete. The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) has pledged $50 million toward the project, which is expected to cost more than $160 million to complete.
Once operational, the Fula Rapids power plant it will provide enough electricity to cover the needs of the capital, Juba, and the border town of Nimule for 10 years, said Norad officials.
"This project will make South Sudan to be among the countries that export hydropower in the region. And this will play another key role in the social economic development in our country,” Mr. Kiir said.
The president also pledged to provide more funds to help the thousands of people displaced by nearly six months of fighting, to improve water and sanitation services to prevent health crises, and to develop South Sudan's almost non-existent network of roads.
He made his promises as international media reported that South Sudan's oil revenues have fallen by around 30 percent, due to the fighting.