NAIROBI, The African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has expressed deep concern over the on-going conflict in South Sudan, citing unspeakable suffering of civilians in Africa's youngest nation.

In a speech read on his behalf during celebrations to mark Africa Day in Nairobi Thursday, Mahamat called on leaders from both sides of the conflict to stop the killings and establish inclusive dialogue.

South Sudan has witnessed renewed fighting despite a peace agreement signed in August 2015. At least one million people have fled the country and another two million are living in camps for displaced persons in the country which gained independence from Sudan in 2011. The United Nations has declared a famine in some parts of the war-weary country.

The colourful event here Thursday recalled the gains made by the continent so far by Africa in working towards unity as envisaged by the continent's forefathers.

The Director-General of the United Nations office in Nairobi, Sahle-Work Zewde, said: We have peacekeepers under the AU who are doing the biggest job. We have the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), where they are not only keeping peace, they are enforcing peace that us as the UN cannot do at the moment. If we have peacekeepers in Mali it is because Africans have been the first to move in and fight the fight.

Of great concern to the AU is the on-going conflict in South Sudan. AU Representative in South Sudan Bruce Mukanda urged the parties in conflict to stop "these massive crimes and without delay, to establish an inclusive dialogue, to re-determine a peaceful destiny for their people.

With a population of 1.2 billion and the average age of 20 years, Africa's leaders are hard pressed to take advantage of the continent's demographic dividend.

Kenya's Youth Cabinet Secretary (Minister), Sicily Kariuki, said: We need to equip the youth with the necessary skills to work or to be self-employed. Once we have worked on the attitudes to be self-employed then the migration patterns we have witnessed lately, which includes young people risking their lives to cross seas in search of better environments, will cease.

Even as the continent stood to celebrate its diversity and freedom, it was not lost on its citizens that tragedies and atrocities still continued on the continent. In East Africa, there are conflicts in South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), even as the continent has set itself a goal of "silencing the guns" by 2020.