The South Sudanese Churches have welcomed the signing of a permanent ceasefire agreement by the main rivals, while cautioning that many other such pacts had also been dishonoured.
After several days of talks, first in Ethiopia and then in Sudan, President Salva Kiir and his rival, Riek Machar, have reached an agreement to end the war in South Sudan. Since 2013, the conflict in the country has caused over 100,000 victims and displaced more than 2 million people. The presidents of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, and Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, played a crucial role in the negotiations.
President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar signed the declaration agreement in Khartoum on 27 June, raising hopes for an end to the conflict. “The intention and the will is positive”, Rev. James Oyet Latansio, the general secretary of the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC), said in a telephone interview with the WCC. “Our hope and prayer is they will implement what they have signed. There are a lot of agreements that have been signed, but not implemented”. And he added: “They have stopped the shooting of the guns. This is what we have been asking for. They must also stop all kinds of confrontations”.
As reported by the WCC, “the ceasefire starts on 30 June”. Immediately after gaining independence in 2011, five years of civil war have left the South Sudanese Government bankrupt.
By 2016, inflation reached 500 percent. The conflict has affected all sectors, particularly agricultural production, causing a serious food crisis. In 2017, famine affected the population. And according to the UN, seven million people will need food aid this year. Church leaders say they “welcome the talks and any agreement, but caution the conflict had moved beyond two personalities, with many new groups and actors getting involved”. They reiterate what was said at a meeting with the United Nations, namely that “a political agreement between two leaders will not resolve the conflict without addressing the root causes”. “We reiterate – the Churches wrote – our offer to convene Neutral Forum dialogues based on our Statement of Intent of June 2015”. The Churches are at the forefront in helping war-affected communities with aid and pastoral support. They ask for the downing of arms and access to humanitarian corridors.
The document, co-signed by both leaders, says that “security arrangements shall be adopted” with a view to “building a national army of an all-inclusive character that shall be free from tribalism and ethnic affiliation”. Other key points include the disarming of civilians, and rebuilding infrastructure destroyed by the war. “The parties will also work to rehabilitate oilfields” to resume and restore oil production to previous levels.