PRETORIA, South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has congratulated the government and people of South Sudan on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the country's independence on Sunday, saying the nation needs to reflect on unity and their vision for a peaceful future.

The world's youngest nation won independence from Sudan in July 2011, but civil conflict broke out in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup. The war since then has been characterised by ethnic fighting, sexual violence and extreme brutality with civilians the main victims.

The country skipped this year's festivities to mark the anniversary for lack of funds and the ongoing civil conflict in the country.

Ramaphosa, who was appointed by President Jacob Zuma as a Special Envoy to South Sudan to assist in the re-unification of the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and bring to an end the conflict, said Monday that South Sudan's national day presented an opportunity to the country's leadership and citizens to reflect on the unity and vision for a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan which led to the achievement of independence six years ago.

Deputy President Ramaphosa has commended President Kiir and the people of South Sudan on the launch of the National Dialogue which is aimed at uniting and reconciling the people of South Sudan following the devastating conflict they have experienced and continue to go through, the Presidency said in a statement here.

Ramaphosa said he appreciated the strategic intention of the National Dialogue Steering Committee, which met in Johannesburg on 1 July, to ensure the inclusivity of the dialogue and assured the committee members of South Africa's support by sharing experiences from South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

A total of four million people have been forced to flee their homes in South Sudan, while six million, or half of the country's population, do not have food to eat. The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) has noted that 2.2 million children are out of school in South Sudan. In addition, one-third of all schools are believed to have been attacked by armed groups.

An estimated 1.1 million children in the country are also acutely malnourished, lack clean water, which has led to the ongoing outbreak of cholera which is the longest and most widespread in the country's history with 10 000 cases reported, the majority of them children.


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