Rome-Based Lay Catholic Association Meets South Sudanese “dissidents”

Portrait previously used by the Rome-based lay Catholic association, Sant’Egidio Catholic community

With the countdown to the possible formation of South Sudan’s unity government into the last full month after the latest 100-day extension, a group of opposition leaders is currently in Rome for a meeting under the auspices of Sant’Egidio Catholic community, a lay Catholic association dedicated to the provision of social services and arbitrating conflicts, ACI Africa has confirmed.

Sant’Egidio community has commissioned representatives to South Sudan multiple times in the last couple of years and convened meetings in partnership with South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) both in Juba and in Rome in view of facilitating reconciliation and peace in the world’s youngest nation.

Although details of the ongoing meeting are yet to be divulged, a Vatican source in contact with Sant’Egidio Catholic community, the host of the South Sudanese politicians, told ACI Africa Wednesday, January 8, “I've contacted them; I've got the confirmation that the meeting is taking place. There is a briefing with the leaders.”

Asked about the agenda of the meeting and the identity of the South Sudanese in attendance, the source said that the contact persons at Sant’Egidio Catholic community “do not want to give information yet” and that it is still “too early.”

“They promised to keep us informed,” the Vatican-based source told ACI Africa.

One of the opposition leaders reported to have traveled early this week for the Rome meeting is the leader of the opposition group, South Sudan United Front (SSUF), Gen. Paul Malong.

“The Catholic community invited the holdout opposition groups for the purpose of engagement in dialogue,” SSUF spokesperson, Sunday de John was quoted as saying, reiterating his leader’s to the realization of lasting peace in South Sudan.

The ongoing meeting seems a follow up of last year’s conventions.

In November 2019, Sant’Egidio Catholic community convened a three-day meeting in Rome with leaders of South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA), a coalition of opposition groups in the East African country.

During the November meeting, SSOMA appealed to the influential Sant’Egidio community to engage regional and international partners in facilitating the resolution of South Sudan conflict through dialogue, Radio Tamazuj reported.

In a statement following their November 2019 meeting in Italy’s capital, Rome, SSOMA representatives also commended efforts by the 52-year-old Sant’Egidio Catholic community toward the achievement of sustainable peace as well as “the continuous and outstanding empathy and affection shown to the suffering people of South Sudan” by Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury.

In July 2019, Sant’Egidio Catholic community met members of South Sudan’s National Pre-Transitional Committee to discuss the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS).

SSOMA is a coalition of nine opposition political parties formed in February 2018. While generally supporting the implementation of R-ARCSS, the coalition brings together political parties that did not sign the 2018 peace agreement.

Toward the formation of a unity government, Catholic Bishops in South Sudan have advocated for an inclusive approach.

In their October 2019 statement, the South Sudanese Catholic Prelates did express their conditional 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.”

Alexey Gotovskiy and Magdalene Kahiu contributed to this news report

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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
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