South Sudan President Salva Kiir addresses the crowds at the John Garang's Mausoleum in Juba, South Sudan Oct. 31, 2018.
FILE - South Sudan President Salva Kiir addresses the crowds at the John Garang's Mausoleum in Juba, South Sudan, Oct. 31, 2018.

JUBA - South Sudan President Salva Kiir says although the country gained its independence eight years ago, the South Sudanese have failed to live up to the liberation struggle championed by Dr. John Garang, the father of South Sudan.

On Martyrs' Day, the president called on the citizens of South Sudan to come together in peace so that future generations can flourish. 

"Unfortunately we got distracted from pursuing this path and got defused into petty politics, power struggle and the pursuit of ranks from the states," Kiir told hundreds of Juba residents Tuesday. "I owe it to my fellow comrades and to the people of South Sudan to redirect our country toward the achievement of this objective." 

FILE - Members of South Sudan's military attend a parade at the country's first anniversary celebrations, at the John Garang Mausoleum in Juba, South Sudan, July 9, 2012.

He praised the millions who fought for liberation from Sudan.

"Thanks to the millions of our martyrs, the republic of South Sudan was born eight years ago. We are extremely proud of this achievement. Many have started the quest of freedom and few have succeeded. The second stage of our freedom is to consolidate the unity of our people to liberate them from abject poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, and ultimately restore their dignity and worth," Kiir told the crowd at the Dr. John Garang Mausoleum.

The president assured citizens that brighter days are ahead but said there must be a change of attitude to win the "liberation struggle" and achieve peace, adding, "I have the duty to show you the way."

Hundreds of participants lit candles in remembrance of the sacrifices of the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who have died during South Sudan's struggle for independence.