June 15, 2013 (JUBA) – South Sudanese president Salva Kiir Mayardit on Saturday urged the population and political leaders to bury their differences and personal ambition and “put the country above everything”.
Kiir was speaking to visiting traditional leaders from his home state of Warrap, with whom he discussed the important role traditional leadership played in promoting stability during the two decades of civil war with neighbouring Sudan from which the new nation seceded in 2011.
Chief Ayii Ayii, who spoke to Sudan Tribune on Saturday, said as part of their mission they had congratulated the president for championing peace and unity in the country.
He said he had given the president a number of gifts, including a bull and ajhom, traditionally decorated headwear customarily given to a leader as a sign of love, respect and confidence in the leadership style.
He said the traditional leaders had taken away a strong and powerful message from their meeting with the president about the importance of their role in promoting peace in their communities.
“Our meeting with the president and members of his government was excellent. We shared with him what we are doing as traditional leaders, especially in managing local conflicts within clans and between communities, between neighbouring counties and as well as between states. We shared with him challenges and how we plan to resolve them”, he said, adding that cattle raiding remained one of the most pressing challenges.
He said they are particularly concerned by the issue of cattle raiding, stressing they discussed the matter at length with president Kiir. He further went to emphasis that
there are criminals who cross into Luac jang from areas under Panijar county in Unity state.
“This is becoming a serious issue because these people do not just take cows, they also kill people they find in cattle camps and burn down houses. This is a new development which we cannot handle alone. It requires government intervention to deploy more police and other armed groups”, he said.
According to Ayii, the president told leaders his government was aware of the situation and that he would ensure the minister of interior and defence, as well as concerned state governors address the issues raised.
Chief Ayii said the president had repeatedly emphasised to leaders the importance of placing national interest above everything else, quoting Kiir as saying chiefs were the eyes and ears of the government at the lower level in the country.
“Traditional leadership is itself the government. Your duties are spelled out clearly in the constitution under the local government act. You are the eyes and ears of the government at the lower level, so you have a lot of responsibilities. You must ensure that everything our people do should not be for personal interest. The national interest should be above everything we do”, Kiir was quoted as telling the chiefs.
Ayii said the president had also said there was very little his administration could do about the recent decision of the Sudanese government to shut down the flow of oil to export markets, stressing that there were things they could do on a domestic level to improve the resilience of the economy.
“There things that we can do including engaging constructively with our partners to address socio-economic issues, removing bottlenecks in infrastructure development, strengthening the role of state-owned entities, and fighting corruption. We also need you to engage our people in cultivation”, Kiir was reported to have said.