By Denis Elamu
JUBA, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan said the ongoing sports gala at the fourth national unity day (NUD) will help rally the country toward peace and unity, ending the conflicts exacerbated by the five-year civil war.
Vice President James Wani Igga said the sports marathon event supported by donors and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) will help cement peace and unity among the 64 ethnic groups in the country.
"As we talk of the need to vigorously enhance unity and peace for our people and country today, we in the (ruling) Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) shall work tirelessly toward achieving continuous adherence to the agreed cessation of hostilities and permanent cease-fire in our revitalized peace agreement," he told a huge crowd on Sunday at the Juba national stadium.
The sports teams participating have been drawn from the former 10 regions of the East African country prior to outbreak of conflict.
David Shearer, special representative of the Secretary General and head of UNMISS said he was hopeful of the unity day having positive impact on implementation of the revitalized peace agreement.
"There is something to celebrate this unity day because just a few months ago there was a peace agreement that was signed and the progress has been good. I want to acknowledge and thank the government of South Sudan for creating the space and the environment that opposition leaders have felt safe enough to come into South Sudan and talk and to negotiate things," he said.
He commended the opposition's courage to come into South Sudan to build and talk about peace.
"As I travel around the country I see the same sort of peace agreements going on at the local level. Right across the country I have counted 16 different peace agreements, peace rallies, peace meetings that have occurred from the north, south to the west and east," he added.
Shearer said that many displaced people are increasingly demanding to return home citing positive peace progress.
"In Protection of Civilians sites (PoC) what we are seeing is people telling us we want to return to our homes before the onset of the rainy season," said Shearer.
He added that he hopes next year's unity day will have a firm peace agreement and a new government to move forward South Sudan.
South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.
The UN estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.
In September last year, South Sudan's conflicting parties signed a final peace deal in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.