Let Refugees, IDPs Find Peace When They Come Home, South Sudanese Bishop to Politicians

Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe of South Sudan’s Yei Diocese.
Credit: Public Domain

Following random murders of civilians by what authorities have referred to as “unknown gunmen” in South Sudanese villages, a Catholic Bishop has told politicians to make the country peaceful for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees after they return home.

In a Sunday, January 17 message, Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe of South Sudan’s Yei Diocese urged political and military leaders not to “politicize the situation by saying there is no war” when people are still dying almost everywhere.

“Let the IDPs and refugees come back home and find peace, not war. Let us not be saying that there is now peace in South Sudan,” Bishop Tombe said.

Clashes between government and opposition forces and intercommunal fighting usually result in loss of lives, but area commissioners have not been appointed in all 79 counties around the country, the South Sudanese Bishop noted.

While appreciating the progress in the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), the Bishop discouraged the use of propaganda which he said painted a rosy picture of the country while the reality was different.

“We cannot be propagating that there is peace in the country when people who returned to the country are either killed or displaced again,” he said.

Signed in September 2018 in Ethiopia’s capital, 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.

Chapter one of R-ARCSS provided for the formation of a Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU), which was realized on 22 February 2020, with Salva Kiir as the President and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) leader, Riek Machar, as the first Vice President. The day saw the swearing in of four other Vice Presidents.

In his January 17 message, Bishop Tombe appealed to the faithful to pray for peace and unity of the citizens in the nine-year-old country saying, “When we say there is peace, let there be peace without more killing and displacement… In most areas like Lainya County, there have been unfortunate incidents of killing.”

The Bishop who was speaking at Christ the King Cathedral of Yei Diocese urged cattle keepers not to disturb the South Sudanese peace with fighting.

“We people possess cattle and other property and I do not know why cattle want to take over human food in this country. Cattle are not human beings,” the 77-year-old South Sudanese Bishop said, and cautioned in reference to cattle, “Never let them eat crops in people’s farms.”

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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
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