JUBA, South Sudanese on Wednesday celebrated the signing of a power-sharing deal aimed at ending a brutal five-year civil war amid calls for lasting peace in the world's youngest nation.

Regional dignitaries and South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar who signed a revitalized peace deal in September with President Salva Kiir in Ethiopia, joined thousands of South Sudanese in the capital Juba to celebrate the peace deal amid tight security.

Speaking during the celebrations, President Kiir said the five-year-old civil war in his country has come to an end with the celebrations.

President Kiir also declared he has forgiven his opponents and is ready to move forward as part of efforts to end conflict in the country.

"I want to reiterate that the war in South Sudan has come to an end and we have forgiven each other and we have decided to move forward," Kiir told thousands of people who gathered in Juba to celebrate the peace deal.

The president said he has taken personal responsibility for the suffering of South Sudanese as a result of the conflict.

"You have endured immense suffering and the weight of responsibility heavily falls on my shoulders as your president and I deeply regret the physical, psychological, and emotional wounds you have undeservedly endured. As your president, I want to apologize on behalf of all the parties to the conflict," said Kiir.

During the celebrations, Kiir ordered the release of James Gatdet Dak, a former spokesman of Machar, saying although Gatdet has been sentenced to death, his release is for the sake of peace.

Kiir also said he would release William John Endley, a South African national who was Machar's adviser on Thursday after which he will be deported to his home country.

The South African, who is a retired army colonel, was also sentenced to death early this year on charges of espionage, conspiracy to overthrow the government and supplying weapons.

"The war is over and this celebration is testimony that we are committed to the agreement and we must commit ourselves to it," Kiir added.

Machar, who returned to Juba for the first time in two years since fleeing the country in 2016, took part in the peace celebration, saying that he came to Juba to show his commitment to the latest peace deal and end the conflict in South Sudan.

"I came only to confirm to people that I am for peace. The past is gone. We have opened a new chapter for peace and unity," said Machar who had been exiled to South Africa over the years.

Yoweri Museveni, Ugandan President, told South Sudan leaders to embrace non-violent means of solving political conflicts and differences through transparent elections and dialogue.

"It is therefore ideologically incorrect to use war to solve political arguments, elections are the discussions or the right way or referendum but then the elections must be fair. If the elections are not fair they are the one which create conditions for people thinking other ways of solving problems," said Museveni.

He congratulated Kiir and Machar for allowing logic to prevail after they signed in September a final revitalized peace agreement in the Ethiopian capital to end more than four years of conflict.

The Ugandan leader urged both leaders to avoid sectarianism, tribal politics and instead create systems and institutions with national character in the army and civil service.

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, Somali president, called on South Sudan leaders to make concessions to put the country and its people first.

"Let's all remember that no deal is always perfect, no arrangement is without flaws, no negotiation is perfectly balanced. The real test of a leader is to have the ability to make concessions and put this country and its people first," said Mohamed.

Mohamed said attainment of peace in South Sudan is significant for stability of the east African region, adding his country will support South Sudan.

"You have shown the way for peace, I urge you to steer your country into the right path of peace and development," said the Somali leader.

"You have shown a great statesmanship in coming together to end the protracted conflict. I urge you to join hands to stir your country into the right path towards peace and development," he said.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who helped broker the peace deal, called on South Sudan's leaders to commit to the peace agreement and move their country forward.

Sahle-Work Zewde, newly appointed Ethiopian President, called for ceasefire and urged the leaders to fully implement the peace deal which was inked in Ethiopia by Kiir and Machar.

Under the new peace deal, Machar will serve as the first of five vice presidents under a transitional government of national unity.

Source: NAM News Network

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