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Church leaders plea for sustainable peace as South Sudan marks seven years of independence

06 July 2018

CAFOD

Women in receipt of food aid. Across South Sudan around 7.1 million people depend on humanitarian assistance 

Women in receipt of food aid. Across South Sudan around 7.1 million people depend on humanitarian assistance 

A CEASEFIRE in South Sudan was breached on the day when it was due to take effect last week, fulfilling warnings that earlier agreements had failed to stop the killing.

Church leaders have joined the UN in pleading for a sustainable peace for the country, which will mark its seventh anniversary of independence on Monday.

The President, Salva Kiir, and the leader of the opposition, Riek Machar, signed a declaration announcing a “permanent ceasefire” across the country on Wednesday of last week. It followed more than four years of fighting, in which tens of thousands of people have been killed and four million have been displaced.

On Saturday, the day when it was due to come into effect, each side accused the other of violating it. On Monday, at least 18 civilians were killed, Reuters reported.

“There are a lot of agreements that have been signed but not implemented,” the General Secretary of the South Sudan Council of Churches, Fr James Oyet Latansio, told the World Council of Churches last week.

The President of the Sudan and South Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Rt Revd Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala, a partner of CAFOD, urged the country’s leadership to “face the task of rebuilding our broken pieces: social and political relationships, the fragile economy, and the infrastructure of our states, devastated by the conflict. But this can be achieved only through a sustainable peace process.

“Many people in South Sudan are wounded in spirit. The pain of decades of war has not been addressed; our hard-won independence did not bring justice for the many who had suffered. No one has been convicted of crimes against humanity, and people have not been able to tell their stories, to relate what happened to them and their family members. Without reconciliation and forgiveness, our wounds will remain open.”

On Tuesday, the Government proposed a Bill to extend President Kiir’s term for three years: a move branded illegal by opposition forces.

The country is engulfed in a humanitarian crisis. More than a million children under the age of five are forecast to be malnourished in 2018.

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