Time to “leave the scene”, Warring South Sudanese Politicians Told after Ecumenical Visit

Fr. Stan Chu Ilo, a Research Professor in the Department of Catholic Studies at DePaul University. Credit: PACTPAN

A Catholic Theologian has called on political rivals in South Sudan to either commit to working with Pope Francis in ending the conflict in the East-Central African nation or to leave politics altogether for better leaders committed to working towards peace in the country.

In his review of the recent papal trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Ecumenical visit to South Sudan, Fr. Stan Chu Ilo, a Research Professor in the Department of Catholic Studies at DePaul University, noted that while the Holy Father's visit to the two African countries had been successful, its impact would only be seen if leaders in the embattled countries committed to ending the conflicts they experience.

“The Holy Father’s message was a message of peace, both in DRC and in South Sudan. It was largely a successful trip. But its impact will largely be measured by what happens after,” Fr. Stan said on African Catholic Voices, a podcast service of the Pan African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN).

He added, in the February 10 episode, “Peace will not come to South Sudan unless (President) Salva Kiir and Riek Machar (First Vice President) commit themselves to peace. I would dare to say that after over 10 years of these two fighting, stewing in the blood of the people, maybe it is time for them to leave the scene. This way, maybe, all the ethnic groups of South Sudan can live in peace.”

According to the widely published Theologian who recently edited “The Handbook of African Catholicism”, political rivals in South Sudan “have held the country in bondage for a long time.”


Fr. Stan recalled the 11 April 2019 dramatic gesture when Pope Francis knelt and kissed the feet of President Kiir and opposition leader Dr. Machar among others, and said he finds baffling that the Holy Father’s gesture hardly moved the South Sudanese political leaders to walk the journey of peace. “They still went back and those feet did not walk the path of peace.”

“The Pope has come with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland. They all came appealing for peace. The President says that we will start the peace negotiation process again, but that there has to be a commitment,” Fr. Stan said.

The Nigerian-born Catholic Priest added, “I hope that these two individuals, after a decade of failing the people of South Sudan, it is time for them to give chance to other leaders if they cannot commit to making peace.” 

He calls on political leaders in South Sudan to embrace the leadership style of leaders of people such as Bishop Paride Taban, the Bishop emeritus of South Sudan’s Torit Diocese and founder of Kuron Peace Village.

Bishop Taban, Fr. Stan said in the February 10 episode of African Catholic Voices, “created an oasis of peace where everyone is welcome.”

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“It is possible to have peace in this world if people can commit to seeing God in everyone,” he said, adding, “The problem in South Sudan is not even the ethnic diversity of the country. It is the dirty politics, the lies, the greed, the corruption, and the lack of vision and sacrifice that is ailing South Sudan.”

Meanwhile, the Theologian has weighed in on Pope Francis’ visit to South Sudan and DRC, noting that it was “largely a successful Apostolic visit”.

“As a Catholic, and an African, I was deeply moved to see many people who came to see the Pope. Despite the difficulties that people are going through in Congo, for instance, over a million gathered for that unforgettable moment of transformation at the Altar of God,” Fr. Stan recalled the February 1 Papal Mass celebrated on the airfield of the N’Dolo Airport.

He added, also referencing the February 5 Papal Mass held at Dr. John Garang Mausoleum “I believe our calling as Priests is to bring people together at the altar of God in communion, sharing, participation, and love. What a joy it was to see this Mass in Congo, and to see the Mass celebrated in Juba.”

The U.S.-based Catholic Priest noted that the message of Pope Francis, at every point during his visit, was spot on.


He added, “At some point, he was speaking to the world saying, ‘Hands off Africa’, ‘Stop the manipulation’ and ‘Stop the ideological warfare in Africa’. At another point, Pope Francis implored the Africans themselves, especially the leaders, telling them to free their people from bondage.”

Also notable, Fr. Stan said, was the Holy Father’s message of encouragement to vulnerable groups including the refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in both DRC and South Sudan.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.