Church leaders who were part of the negotiations between South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar are now urging that the peace agreement come into immediate effect, ending a five-month conflict in the world’s newest country.
The peace agreement was signed by Kiir and Machar on Saturday, May10 here. Yet the situation remains volatile until the truce actually takes effect on the ground.
Church leaders who were present at the signing of the peace agreement in Addis Ababa include Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Juba, Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and Rev. Samuel Kobia, former general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), ecumenical special envoy for South Sudan and Sudan and representative of the All Africa Conference of Churches.
In Addis Ababa, Archbishop Lukudu offered prayers for peace and observed that “all South Sudanese had been waiting for this day for the last five months.”
He said the agreement is an opportunity for peace which cannot be missed. This is the time to correct the costly mistakes of the South Sudanese leaders, restoring brotherhood and sisterhood of the South Sudanese and ending the war now, for all of which churches and the ecumenical community have been advocating for the last two months, Archbishop Lukudu said.
With the agreement having been signed, the real work starts now, said Kobia. He urged that when both parties in the conflict have agreed upon common principals, they now must commit themselves to implement the peace agreement fully.
“We believe that they meant what they said,” Kobia added.
The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, called the recent developments in South Soudan negotiations “significant and meaningful” for the churches whose leaders, he said, have been “advocating for peace in the country through various means in the past months.”
“The South Sudanese leaders must fulfill their promise,” Tveit said. “The agreement calls for an immediate cessation of conflict and formation of a transitional government, and is a rare opportunity for peace which must not be wasted.”
Tveit went on to say that churches have been working for many months to revive the South Sudanese peace process.
“Outstanding and significant contributions from ecumenical organization representatives, and church-related specialized ministries working for humanitarian aid and development in South Sudan, show how they are accompanying local churches in solidarity, while they seek justice and peace,” he added.
“The ecumenical family will continue its efforts, both at local and international levels, working together to discern implementation of the peace agreement,” Tveit said.
Faith leaders were named in the agreement among key stakeholders in the peace process, in negotiation toward a transitional government, national unity and in the process of healing and reconciliation. Among those named, with full participatory status in the peace talks, are Bishop Enock Tombe Stephen, Bishop Isaiah Dau, the Rev. Peter Tibi, Isaac Kenyi and Nigussu Legesse, the WCC’s program executive for advocacy for Africa.