Take guns to barracks, maintain peace: Odinga tells South Sudan leadership
Peace was the key message sent out by leaders who gathered at Juba’s Lologo-Gumbo during the official commissioning of the $91 million Freedom Bridge on Thursday, May 19.
President Salva Kiir and the First Vice President, Dr Riek Machar, pledged commitment to strengthen harmony among the people of South Sudan at a public function attended by Africa Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development, Raila Odinga.
“I want to say to you that the people of South Sudan are committed to peace,” President Kiir told Odinga.
Raila is credited for saving the lives of Kenyans when he shook hands with President Uhuru Kenyatta after a protracted 2017 election where he was sworn in as the ‘‘people’s president” despite coming second.
The former Kenyan premier challenged the leadership of South Sudan to embrace peace by committing to the implementation of recently signed peace agreement. Raila also told the Kiir and Machar to shelve their personal ambitions for the sake of the people.
“We shook hands with (President) Uhuru and that brought peace in our country.
“I’ve talked to my brothers (Kiir and Machar) and told them that the solution (to a lasting peace) is here. I want you people (Kiir and Machar) to talk as brothers and let the guns go to the barracks.
“If you can do this, nothing will stop us in this region (East Africa) from achieving proper integration and realising the dreams of the founding fathers of this nation,” added Odinga.
Kiir, in his response, committed that he will do everything possible to ensure long-lasting peace in the country.
“We should take seriously the advice that he (Raila Odinga) gave us. When he (Raila) shook hands with President Uhuru Kenyatta, whatever differences that they had disappeared (sic).
“I would like to call upon you all (the people of South Sudan) to work hard and maintain peace in our country,” appealed the President.
Machar also assured his commitment to peacebuilding, adding he will work closely with Kiir administration to ensure that there is harmony in the country.
“We are committed to peace. The implementation is slow but we are committed to ensuring that the country becomes prosperous,” said Machar.
The three leaders spoke during the official commissioning of the Freedom Bridge—the longest permanent bridge in South Sudan.
Bridge now open
The bridge was constructed at a cost of over $91 million with the aid of the Japanese government.
“The construction of Freedom Bridge was done after the signing of peace, just like the Juba Bridge. This underlines the importance of peace.
‘‘We want to send a message to all our people that such projects are not only important for the government but for all of us,” said Dr Machar.
Odinga who is running for the presidency in Kenya said that he has good plans for South Sudan should he win the Kenyan presidential election in August 2022.
Odinga said that he will open up Kenya-South Sudan at Nadapal for ease of access by citizens of both countries.
“There is no excuse for killing a fellow Africans. This bridge should not be protected by the military but by the civilians. The military and guns belong to the barracks. They should defend South Sudan against external aggression,” Odinga said.
“I’m hoping to win the elections and if we win, I want us to open the border between South Sudan and Kenya. We’ve talked about funding the road from Juba to Nadapal-Nairobi so that we can be able to transport goods within hours between the two countries.
“You will come and walk to Kenya without any identification documents. That’s what I want to do.”