South Sudan president Salva Kiir has extended 'hand of peace' and called on the opposition leaders to denounce violence. Picture: Jok Solomun/Reuters

Johannesburg – South Sudan President Salva Kiir has called on opposition leaders to denounce violence and return to the country so that new elections will provide citizens the opportunity to choose their leaders, the Sudan Tribune reported late Thursday.

During a function to accept the credentials of new ambassadors to South Sudan in the capital Juba, the president denounced the use of violence and all forms of incitement, saying it undermined the cause of the liberation struggle.

“We continue to call on them; those are who continuing to advocate for war that peace was in the interest of the country,” said Kiir. 

"And because of this we have been extending our arms and a hand of peace, a hand of friendship, of forgiveness and for them to use national dialogue and other peaceful means and mechanisms to end this conflict,” he added.

Last month, Kiir called upon the country’s opposition groups to prepare for the country’s general elections, earmarked to take place after the end of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) period in 2018.

Juba says it has offered several amnesties to armed opposition groups but most of the groups failed to take up the offer.

Despite the poor response to the amnesty offer, Kiir said his administration would continue to support initiatives aimed at addressing peace and security, stressing that no community can establish lasting conditions for peace and tolerance unless it found ways of building mutual trust among its people.

“We know the quest for peace has never been an easy process. But we are working hard to ensure that members of society are oriented toward peace and tolerance,” said the South Sudanese leader.

“At the same time, social, economic, and political systems must be re-oriented to the same peace and tolerance."

“Inclusively, the discipline of peaceful co-existence must shape our way of life. Having common goals promotes mutual understanding, respect, tolerance and dialogue,” he added.

After ambassadors from the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of Norway, Germany and South Africa presented their credentials, Baak Valentino, the undersecretary for foreign affairs, said the Juba government and its administration were committed to working with the new arrivals.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and over two million displaced in South Sudan’s conflict triggered by political differences between Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar who is in exile in South Africa.