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South Sudan President, Opposition Chief Call for Peace in 2015

South Sudan President Salva Kiir (L) and opposition leader Riek Machar (R) both call for peace in messages released on New Year's Eve.

President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar on Wednesday delivered separate New Year's messages of peace to the people of South Sudan as the young country enters a second year of conflict.

"Let us move from 2014 to 2015 more united, love one another and let us all join hands in search for peace for our country," said the president's message, which was read aloud at a news conference in Juba by Health Minister Riek Gai Kok.

"Let us avoid, by all means, to go down in history as a generation that caused disunity among the people of South Sudan; as a generation that has also watered down the aspiration of our people for development and prosperity,” Mr. Kiir said.

Let us all join hands in search for peace for our country.
President Salva Kiir's New Year message

Machar said he was anxious to finally restore peace in South Sudan.

"I wish to sign a peace deal with Juba even today, or yesterday. We want to negotiate a sustainable peace, which will usher in a new government and atmosphere of good governance," he told South Sudan in Focus in a telephone interview.

Federal system of government

Machar said the opposition has come up with a plan to create 21 states in South Sudan and install a federal system of government. South Sudan currently has 10 states and a centralized, presidential system of government.

Machar said that, "Where we have control, we will administer (states) as federal systems and where we don't have control we will be preaching to the people that federalism is a better system that will unite the people of South Sudan."

President Kiir is reported to be against federalism in which power would be shared between states and the central government.

In July, media bosses in South Sudan said in a letter to Information Minister Michael Makuei that "...individuals purporting to work for security agencies... are going around and issuing verbal directives to editors not to publish any articles on the federalism debate."

Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny denied at the time that the government has banned public debate about federalism.

Address causes of conflict before choosing a new government

Machar said government negotiators at South Sudan's struggling peace talks are putting the cart before the horse by insisting that setting up a new government for South Sudan is key to restoring peace in the country.

We want to negotiate a sustainable peace, which will usher in a new government and atmosphere of good governance.
Riek Machar

"The first thing to do is address the root causes of the conflict," Machar said. "But they want us to talk about the government, talk about positions" in a transitional government, he said.

"How do you get peace... (if) the emphasis is (on) forming a government without addressing the root causes" of the crisis or human rights abuses which have been committed during the year-old conflict, Machar said.

South Sudan has been mired for more than a year in a conflict that has displaced hundreds of thousands, stalled development, and pushed the young nation to the brink of famine. Peace talks to end the fighting were adjourned indefinitely earlier this month, when the warring sides could not agree on the make-up of a transitional government.

John Tanza contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the South Sudan In Focus radio program.