English Africa Service – Vatican City
Hassan Arun of Catholic Easter Radio, reporting from Yei in South Sudan, says Bishop, Erkolano Lodu Tombe expressed hope that, with the formation of the new government, South Sudan’s political leaders would give peace a chance. The Bishop made the remarks in his homily, this week, at the Christ the King Cathedral of Yei.
Citizens hope the new government will hold
After a brutal war that started in 2013, South Sudanese are watching with bated breath and hope that the new government holds. Opposition and former rebel leader, Riek Machar has returned to Juba to take up his position as First Vice President and deputy to President Salva Kiir. He is the First Vice President among four other vice presidents. The 2018 revitalised peace agreement also made provision for 550 members of parliament. The presidency is already working towards forming a cabinet. It is a huge structure which will be costly to maintain. Many, in South Sudan, say if that is the price for peace -so be it.
President Kiir asks for forgiveness and prayers
Swearing-in Riek Machar, President Kiir declared “the official end of the war.” He said the country could now proclaim a new dawn and era. Peace was “never to be shaken ever again,” declared the South Sudanese President.
President Kiir and his vice presidents have this week held their first meeting. According to the Sudan Tribune, the revitalised presidency held its first meeting chaired by President Salva Kiir with the participation of the First Vice-President, Riek Machar and the four other vice-presidents: James Wani Igga. Taban Deng Gai, Hussein Abdelbagi Akol and Rebecca de Mabior.
“The President and all the Vice Presidents have forgiven each other and urged all the South Sudanese also to forgive them and pray for them so (that) we embark on reconciliation, forgiveness and healing of our broken social fabric,” read a statement issued by the presidency at the end of the meeting.
The fighting has mostly stopped
The call was made for the return, to their lands of origin, of displaced persons living in the UN-hosted Protection of Civilian sites and refugees. By and large, the fighting has mostly stopped though there are still pockets of rebel groups who are not signatories to the 2018 peace agreement. If no deal is forthcoming with the alliance of the non-signatory opposition groups, there is potential that the peace could be derailed. President Kiir this week appealed to the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance (SSOMA) to join the revitalised peace process.
Notwithstanding positive developments, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights cautioned that there were still reports of abuses in some parts of the country.
Other terms of the revitalised peace process foresee a permanent cease-fire; unification of the army within eight months with the view to build an ethnically balanced army.
Regional countries that helped broker the peace, in particular, Uganda and Sudan will be keen to see the rehabilitation of oil fields and the start of oil production.
Church wants the government to prioritise agriculture
There is hope, Bishop Lodu Tombe said, that people can now start to cultivate their fields in readiness for the rains. Another of the Bishop’s expectations is that the government will quickly open-up roads which would allow access to abandoned agricultural projects.
Cautious Optimism in South Sudan
Bishop Lodu Tombe further advised citizens to pray fervently so that the country does not slide back into war because people were tired of wars. His audience knew what he was referring to: A similar government of national unity collapsed in 2016 when Machar fled Juba amidst renewed fighting.
More than 400 000 persons have perished since the war began in 2013. Two million people fled the country as refugees to neighbouring countries. At the same time, another 2 million are said to have been displaced internally.