, 22 October, 2019 / 12:00 AM
As the clock ticks on toward the formation of a unity government in South Sudan scheduled for November 12, Catholic Bishops and heads of dioceses in the country are calling for peace and justice and demanding for a shift from “power-sharing” to “addressing the root causes of the conflicts” affecting the people in the world’s newest nation.
In a message issued by the South Sudan Catholic Bishops dated Friday, October 18, the Catholic Church leaders in South Sudan have questioned “why the focus of peace efforts is on power-sharing between two or more individuals rather than addressing the root causes of the conflicts.”
“The conflict must not be personalized between President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar, and a few other elite leaders. The people must be at the Centre,” the Bishops have stated following deliberations during their two-day meeting with the Chargé d’Affaires at the Juba-based Apostolic Nunciature, Monsignor Mark Kadima, in attendance.
“Our focus is not on politics but on the dignity of every person,” the Bishops and heads of dioceses have clarified in their message and explained, “As we look around our dioceses and see the continued suffering of the IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons), the people in POCs (Protection of Civilians) and refugees, a humanitarian tragedy which is made worse by the breakdown of the economy and the continued violence in some areas, our hearts are touched.”
The Clerics are demanding for responsible leadership in matters affecting the ordinary people of South Sudan “including issues of governance, violence, poverty, lack of basic services, corruption, national identity, and conflict within and between communities over resources, land, pasture, water and cattle.”
They have conditionally expressed support for the realization of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) saying, “We support the formation of the R-TGoNU only when essential preconditions have been met, and only when it is truly inclusive, including non-signatories to the R-ARCSS.”
“As pastors, we are concerned about the level of fear within the leadership of all our parties, a fear which has spread to many of our communities,” the Church leaders have stated.
“We are particularly concerned about the failure to agree on the number and boundaries of the states, which is already causing conflicts in some areas, and on the failure to create a new, integrated, unified, well-trained, disciplined, professional army,” they said.
“A new government will only have legitimacy if it resolves the conflict and provides peace, justice, security, basic services and good governance for the people,” the leaders have stated in their message titled “Let the cry for peace and justice of the people of South Sudan be listened to and respected.”
The heads of the dioceses in South Sudan asked the political leaders to “remember the love and humility of our Holy Father Pope Francis when he kissed their feet,” and told them that “Forgiveness is always possible.”
“Is his (Pope Francis) unprecedented gesture to be wasted?” the leaders have queried in their message.
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