JUBA - South Sudan President Salva Kiir says the national dialogue he proposed in December will get underway in early March.
Speaking at a public rally in Yei Town Tuesday, the president said holding a national dialogue is the only way to end the ongoing conflict.
Kiir traveled to Yei Town on Monday to try to calm the fears of residents in the aftermath of several deadly attacks between government forces and unidentified armed groups since July. At Tuesday's public rally, the president said holding a national dialogue is the only way to resolve all grievances of the South Sudanese people and to restore their faith in government.
“The dialogue I declared recently is one of the means that might bring our people back home. When our parliamentarians return [from] their recess, that is the time we will be sitting down together so that we talk about how to restore peace," Kiir said.
Open forum proposed
The president insists the proposed national dialogue would be an open forum at which all issues affecting South Sudan would be addressed and resolved. Kiir appealed to armed groups fighting his government to lay down their arms and turn their focus toward developing South Sudan. He had a stern warning for those who fail to heed his call.
“If they don't listen to the voices which call for peace, I will declare war against them. I don't think there is anyone of you who will blame me again,” Kiir said.
The president also said he intends to “exhaust all means of getting peace back to South Sudan.”
United Nations report 'deeply disturbing'
On October 10, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said it was extremely concerned by the continuing deteriorating security situation in the town of Yei, where some 100,000 people had been trapped. UNMISS called on all warring factions to immediately end all hostilities.
UNMISS said it received "deeply disturbing reports of horrific violence perpetrated against innocent and vulnerable civilians, including women and infants," in a statement issued by the Mission's principle public information officer.
Kiir urged all Yei residents to support a national dialogue, including unidentified militia groups who have been fighting his government in the troubled town, located in the newly created Yei River State.
Canon Clement Janda, one of the founding members of the higher chamber of South Sudan's parliament, the Council of States, a former presidential advisor, and an Anglican minister, said the proposed national dialogue will have little effect because only one side of the conflict is involved in the exercise.
“If it is initiated by one person, then it becomes a monologue,” Janda said, adding, “Monologue is one person talking to himself.”
Judging from what he reads in the newspapers and in social media "is a group of people selected by the president," Janda said.
Kiir offers condolences
Kiir also offered his condolences to the many families in Yei who have lost loved ones during the fighting.
“I want to extend my sincere condolences to all to you who might have lost some family members, and people who lost their properties. I want to apologize to all of you and I am sorry for what had happened,” said Kiir.
Up until last year, Yei had been largely spared from the attacks and violence that have plagued the country since December 2013.
The president is expected to return to the capital Juba on Friday.
Eye Radio provided the quotations of President Kiir to VOA from Yei town.