Published: Sun, April 14, 2019

South Sudan frets over whether Sudan coup will derail fragile peace

South Sudan frets over whether Sudan coup will derail fragile peace

Pope Francis, in a dramatic gesture after an unprecedented retreat at the Vatican, knelt to kiss the feet of South Sudan's previously warring leaders on Thursday as he urged them to not return to a civil war.

Oil-rich South Sudan plunged into civil war in two years later after Kiir, a Dinka, fired Machar, from the Nuer ethnic group, from the vice presidency.

"I express my heartfelt hope that hostilities will finally cease, that the armistice will be respected, that political and ethnic divisions will be surmounted, and that there will be a lasting peace for the common good of all those citizens who dream of beginning to build the nation", he said. There will be many problems, but don't be afraid, go forward, resolve the problems.

Pope Francis told them how he learned last September that a peace agreement for the country had been signed and congratulated political leaders for "having chosen the path of dialogue".

To enhance his message, the pontiff directly implored the leaders present - President Salva Kiir Mayardit, Vice Presidents Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon, Taban Deng Gai and Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabio (widow of South Sudanese leader John Garange) - and knelt before each, kissing their feet.

The spiritual retreat brought together President Salva Kiir and opposition head Riek Machar.

"So we need to establish adequate security from the two forces so that our people can have confidence that this agreement will hold".


But they signed a peace agreement previous year that brought the war to an end.

More than a third have been uprooted from their homes and around 400,000 have died in the civil war, which plunged parts of the country into starvation and has been characterised by such extreme sexual violence and widespread ethnic cleansing that the United Nations warned in 2017 of a possible genocide.

The pope said, "People are wearied, exhausted by past conflicts: remember that with war, all is lost!" He also repeated his wish to visit the country along with other religious leaders to solidify the peace.

Argentine Pope Francis, whose real name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has been very vocal on the world stage on issues of inequality to lack of humble leadership among world governments.

Sudan, which is predominantly Muslim, and the mainly Christian south fought for decades before South Sudan became independent in 2011.

Others who attended the retreat were the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican community, members of the South Sudan Council of Churches, and other Catholic and Presbyterian Church leaders from Africa.

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