, 20 December, 2019 / 3:15 AM
The December 17 announcement by South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and Vice-President designate Dr. Riek Machar that they have agreed to form a unity government by the February deadline has been described as a “positive” move by two South Sudanese clerics who have spoken to ACI Africa correspondent in Juba, the capital of the world’s youngest nation.
“I heard that they have agreed that they would form the government. Personally, I welcome it and I think it is a good step, we need to see more seriousness,” South Sudanese priest Fr. John Laboka told ACI Africa Wednesday, December 18 in an interview.
“Every step that principals take towards peace is always appreciated,” Fr. Laboka added.
The pronouncements of the two leaders came after they held three days of talks in Juba aimed at ironing out controversies that prevented the realization of a power-sharing deal.
At the end of their meeting, the two expressed their resolution to work together – even if not all their differences will have been resolved, Vatican news reported.
“We said that after 100 days we must form the government of national unity. If the arrangements are not complete, we shall form a transitional government of national unity to implement the outstanding issues,” President Kiir told journalists in Juba after the talks with Machar.
"The ceasefire will continue to hold and no one from us is willing to go back to war," the President added.
The rivals, who inked a peace deal in September 2018 under pressure from the United Nations, the United States and regional bloc IGAD have previously postponed two deadlines to form the government first in May as envisaged in the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) and then in November.
“The details of what is implied by issues like this cantonment et cetera need to be worked out and has to be implemented,” Fr. Laboka said and added, “The principals should stick to their words.”
The 50-year-old religious missionary belonging to the order of the Apostles of Jesus expressed the hope that the political leaders will honor their latest pledge so that the country does not slide back to war saying in reference to Kiir and Machar, “I think they should mean what they say. Time is going very fast than the steps should be.”
“They have to do something within the remaining days of the 100,” Fr. Laboka said and added, “We hope that things will be well.”
On his part, South Sudanese Comboni Missionary Fr. Paula Idra lauded the latest pronouncement of the two political leaders President Kiir and Dr. Machar saying, “forming the government is a positive move to bring peace; I think that is the desire of all South Sudanese.”
“People need peace, everybody cries for peace, and people are really looking forward to that peace,” Fr. Idra who is the Vocations Promoter of his religious order in South Sudan said and added, “Our leaders and each of us, within these 100 days, should contribute to the journey of peace that we need.”
“If really they are able to solve the issues, to bring peace, it is good, and if they have not done, I think they need to work harder,” Fr. Idra concluded referencing the significant role of President Kiir and Dr. Machar in restoring peace to South Sudan.
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