Church’s Intervention Needed to Fully Implement South Sudan’s 2018 Agreement: Official

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (left) and Vice-president Riek Machar (right) shake hands at the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) in September 2018.

The intervention of Church leaders in South Sudan is needed to chart the way to the full implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) signed in September 2018, a Church official engaged by the Catholic Bishops in South Sudan has told ACI Africa in an interview.

In the Friday, October 30 interview, the Parliamentary Liaison officer of the South Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat (SSCBS), Isaac Kungur Kenyi suggests that there be a meeting between Church and representatives of the main political parties in the nine-year-old nation.

“I recommended that the Church have a meeting with the two political parties to discuss why the revitalized agreement is not implemented as per the period,” Mr. Kenyi told ACI Africa.

He added, “The Church should ask (political) leaders why they are not implementing the agreement; discuss the difficulties they are facing, what help they need from the Church and all other discussions necessary to bring lasting peace to South Sudan.”

“The people of South Sudan have the greatest respect for the Church especially when things are difficult,” he said, adding that the recommendations he is making are captured in a seven-page document that he has availed to SSCBS members.

He further told ACI Africa, “Our people always expect the Church to speak out on their behalf because they are unable to speak for themselves.”

“At this moment in time, the people of South Sudan are expecting the Catholic Church to be their voice and that is why we are calling on the leadership of the Church even in the region to speak out,” the Parliamentary Liaison officer of SSCBS said.

Signed in September 2018 in Addis Ababa, R-ARCSS provides a framework for ending South Sudan’s civil war, which erupted in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his then Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar, of plotting a coup.

President Kiir and Dr. Machar, formed a coalition government on February 22 after the intervention of regional and international entities.

In the October 30 interview with ACI Africa, Mr. Kenyi outlined some of the issues in the agreement that have not been addressed by South Sudan’s unity government.

“As per the agreement, there are a number of things that have not been done; training of personnel selected for the military, police, security and other services not accomplished,” he said.

The SSCBS Parliamentary Liaison officer added that political leaders in South Sudan “did not fulfil the provision to collect heavy and medium range weapons and ammunition before laying out plans for the National Census and Election.”

In addition, he said, “Refugees have to be repatriated back to South Sudan, IDPs have to be sent back to their places so that they are reintegrated and census are taken and thereafter talks about elections begin, and so far, all these have not taken place.”

“If we are to talk of the current status of the revitalized agreement countdown, going from 2018 to 2020, exactly from 12th of October, we are left with only 11 months to the end of the transitional period with the majority of activities not implemented,” Kenyi noted.

During these 11 months, Kenyi said, there are six months that were an extension in May 2019 as a request by the opposition, plus the two months for national election at the end of the transitional period, and if subtracted, the transitional period would be virtually 5 months.

“These five months is a very worrying time for the transitional period because all the institutions of the revitalized agreement shall become illegitimate and the government shall have no legitimacy to operate,” Kenyi told ACI Africa October 30.

He further said that although the government says it will hold elections in 2022, “the preliminary issues for elections are not being implemented.”

“There are several possible scenarios to occur if gaps in the agreement are not reconciled,” Mr. Kenyi said and continued, “For instance, the opposition and government forces may undertake joint military operations against other forces, which are not part of the agreement and affect the long-term peace and unity of the country.”

Alternatively, he said, “forces not part of the agreement may continue to fight the unity government and disintegrate into smaller administrative units without any organized central control of power.”

Mr. Kenyi called on political leaders in South Sudan to “lessen division, rivalries and disputes that make it very difficult to work together with colleagues.”

In July, Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe of South Sudan’s Yei Diocese called on the political parties “to respect the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) in their bid to resolve conflicts in the country.” 

“I encourage our government and opposition leaders to respect the agreement and try to implement it,” Bishop Tombe said July 23 as he addressed a high-level delegation of Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangement Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM).

He added, “When the agreement is respected, peace will reign in the country and citizens will reconcile with each other. It would be wrong on our side as religious leaders to remain silent on matters affecting South Sudan.”

On October 14, the leadership of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOMA) announced, in a Press Release, the resumption of peace talks.

Mediated by the Rome-based lay Catholic association, Sant’Egidio, the talks seek to promote an all-inclusive peace process in the East-Central African country.

Referencing the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) in the October 12 Press Release, SSOMA leadership stated, “The South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOMA) would like to inform its members, supporters, the people of South and the international community, that SSOMA and R-TGoNU resumed the Rome Peace Process under the auspices of the community of Sant’Egidio.”

South Sudan’s R-TGoNU comprising the government and the country’s main opposition was formed on February 22 this year.

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]