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Pope Francis with South Sudanese leaders in the Vatican (April 2019) Pope Francis with South Sudanese leaders in the Vatican (April 2019)   (ANSA)

South Sudan Bishops: Pope Francis’ gesture urging peace should not be in vain

As the 12 November deadline for the formation of the Reconstituted Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) approaches, South Sudan’s Bishops have called for the new government to be formed.

Paul Samasumo – Vatican City

The Bishops are calling upon South Sudan’s politicians to put an end to a deadly conflict that has caused much suffering.

“Let our leaders remember the love and humility of our Holy Father Pope Francis when he kissed their feet. Is his unprecedented gesture to be wasted?” the Bishops ask in their recent pastoral statement.

Formation of government is good but not an end in itself

The Bishops caution that the formation of a new Government of National Unity (GNU) will not be a panacea for all the country’s problems.

“We hope that a new transitional government will be formed soon, but we stress that the formation of a government is not an end in itself. 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. We are particularly concerned about the failure to agree on the number and boundaries of the states, which is already causing conflict in some areas, and on the failure to create a new, integrated, unified, well-trained, disciplined, professional army,” say the Bishops.

Politicians focussing too much on power-sharing

The Bishops have criticised South Sudan’s politicians for concentrating too much on power-sharing. “Focus on ending the suffering of the people of South Sudan,” the Bishops insist.

They further urge the government and opposition leaders to address the root causes of the conflicts, which affect ordinary South Sudanese. These include issues of governance, violence, poverty, lack of essential services, corruption, national identity, and conflict within and between communities over resources, land, pasture, water and cattle. The Bishops say they will only support the formation of the transitional government if it meets the essential preconditions and is genuinely inclusive. They want non-signatories to the peace agreement not to be left out.

A glimmer of hope as some refugees return

Notwithstanding delays in the implementation of South Sudan’s Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict observers point to some glimmer of hope. On 24 October, the International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) issued a report about returnees to Bentiu and Rubkona from Khartoum, Sudan during the period from April to September 2019. According to the report, the total number of arrivals from Khartoum now stands at 27,102.

Nevertheless, one needs to consider that there are 1.8 million South Sudanese internally displaced persons and 2.3 Million South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries.

26 October 2019, 18:54