, 05 November, 2019 / 4:08 AM
With key issues of contention between the parties in South Sudan protracted conflict unresolved just a week to November 12 deadline for the formation of a unity government as stipulated in a September 2018 peace accord, the President of the world’s youngest nation, Salva Kiir Mayardit has pleaded with Church leaders to be vocal about the peace document dubbed the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS).
“I want to take this opportunity to call (on) the Catholic Church and all other churches around the country to help us in the dissemination of the peace agreement,” President Kiir appealed while addressing thousands who gathered at All Saints Parish, Rejaf, Juba for the conclusion of the yearlong centenary celebrations of the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba Friday, November 1.
“Your role in the dissemination of the peace agreement will go a long way towards political stability of South Sudan,” President Kiir said referencing the key issues in R-ARCSS.
R-ARCSS envisages a government of national unity under the Presidency of Kiir and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) leader, Dr. Riek Machar assuming the position of vice-president.
The R-ARCSS accord signed by both Kiir and Machar originally provided a May 2019 deadline for the formation of a unity government, a date that was extended by six months through the facilitation of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
With some reports indicating that Dr. Machar does not plan to return to Juba until his conditions around security arrangements and state boundaries are met and President Kiir threatening to proceed with the formation of a government without Dr. Machar, the fear that the oil-rich East African country could slide back to violence seems justifiable.
The September 2018 R-ARCSS document is significant because according to a recent International Crisis Group report, “Since the September 2018 peace deal, the parties have largely stopped fighting and people can move more freely between towns and fields near front lines.”
Aware of the Dr. Machar’s demand for yet another extension of the deadline for a unity government, President Kiir told Church leaders at the climax of Juba Archdiocesan centenary celebrations, “I am calling you again so that you can raise your voices especially now that Dr. Riek Machar is calling for another extension of the pre-transitional period.”
The President of the predominantly Christian South Sudan and himself Catholic acknowledged the efforts Church leaders in his country have been making to advocate for lasting peace and described the Church as “an effective institution with the voice that is highly honored and respected by the people.”
Catholic leaders in South Sudan have expressed preference for an inclusive government.
In their October 18 message, the Bishops and heads of dioceses in South Sudan expressed their desire for the realization of a unity government “only when essential preconditions have been met, and only when it is truly inclusive, including non-signatories to the (Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in of South Sudan) R-ARCSS.”
In his address to the congregation at the centenary celebrations, President expressed regrets over the past years of his leadership saying, “The people of South Sudan have made very serious mistakes as Christians and as leaders including myself especially after achieving their freedom and independence.”
He appealed, “Let us forget the past and forgive each other as Christians and as leaders of one country to better serve our people.”
“As the president of this country, I am ready to engage and commit to declare peace,” President Kiir emphasized amid cheers from the congregation consisting clergy and religious from Sudan and South Sudan and laity in their thousands including the current vice-president Dr. James Wani Igga, state governors, national ministers, commissioners among other senior government officials.
“Let us cooperate between the Church and the government,” President Kiir concluded, expressing his “commitment to (returning) South Sudan to peace, unity, socioeconomic, prosperity, and development.”
Gabriel Cardinal Zubeir Wako presided over the Eucharistic celebration to conclude the 12-month celebrations of the sharing of Catholic faith in Juba Archdiocese whose theme was “Renewing our faith and responding to its challenges.”
Peter Mapuor Makur, ACI Africa South Sudan Correspondent, contributed to this story.
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