WAU, SOUTH SUDAN - South Sudan's president is calling on his people to refrain from revenge attacks, as the country tries to move on from a brutal civil war.
Speaking Tuesday in the town of Wau, Salva Kiir said that with a peace deal in place, people must try to reconcile and peacefully co-exist.
"I need you to forget about what happened in the past and hold your hands together. I need my people to live peacefully with one another. I am aware that many of you have lost many of your relatives during the conflict. Please don't [seek] revenge," Kiir told hundreds of residents.
Wau state, in western South Sudan, has been the scene of numerous clashes since the war began in December 2013.
Rivalries to blame for conflict
Kiir also said the conflict was caused by rivalries in the ruling SPLM party, though he declined to take personal responsibility.
"What happened among the SPLM leaders is the main cause of your suffering and it is the same SPLM which fought for so long to liberate this country," he said. "They fought among themselves as they struggled for power. As a leader, I accept that this thing happened even though I did not do anything myself. I see that I am also on the wrong side if my party is the main cause of the suffering of my own people."
The civil war killed tens of thousands of people forced more than 4.5 million South Sudanese from their homes, with two million fleeing to neighboring countries.
Kiir appealed to the rebel groups that did not sign last year's revitalized peace agreement to lay down their arms and join the peace process.
He also called on the internally displaced sheltering in United Nations protection-of-civilians sites, churches, and schools compounds to return home.
Peace deal will take time
The president acknowledged that implementation of the peace deal is moving at a slow pace, which he said is largely due to a lack of money.
Despite funding and other challenges though, Kiir said the former warring parties will soon form a transitional government of national unity.
"If everything goes well we are going to form a government of national unity in May which will include all the political parties. This government will last for three years and will be followed by a national election. So, I call upon you to prepare yourselves for that election," Kiir said.
Kiir also is expected to visit the capitals of Gogrial and Lol states as part of a regional tour.