Nine athletes from Ethiopia and Kenya have teamed up to launch the Great Run South Sudan marathon in a bid to raise funds to fight famine and poverty in the war-torn East African country where 100,000 people are facing starvation.
The event led by retired Ethiopian long-distance track and road running athlete, Haile Gabrselassie is slated to take place in the South Sudan capital Juba on Saturday.
Organizers said the 10km race would be graced by six and three professional athletes from Ethiopia and Kenya respectively, and is expected to attract about 500 local participants.
President Salva Kiir said the event would enhance peace, unity and cultural harmony in the war-ravaged country.
“I appeal to every South Sudanese citizen to show the rest of the world our concern, our local effort and commitment to help famine affected children, mothers and the elderly by making financial contributions,” Kiir said.
Kiir also called on his opponents to denounce violence and join peace initiatives to allow resumption of development in South Sudan.
“I also take this opportunity to renew my call to those who are still in the bush to denounce, give peace priority and allow us to join hands with our development partners to secure and maintain peace amongst our people,” he said.
“Our neighbors have made tremendous contributions and now it is time for us to show that we love our people and country,” the South Sudanese leader said.
South Sudan has been devastated by civil war that broke out in December 2013 after President Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup. Machar denied the accusation but then mobilized a rebel force.
A peace deal signed in August 2015 led to the formation of a transitional unity government in April, but was again shattered by fresh violence in July, 2016.
Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed, with over 2 million displaced and another 4.6 million left severely food insecure since December 2013.
Last month, the UN declared localized famine in parts of South Sudan, warning that some 100,000 people are already starving and another 7.5 million people, nearly half of the population need humanitarian assistance and protection.