The South Sudan Council of Churches and other civil society groups call on the government to take steps to promote peace, security and national cohesion as the country celebrates the first anniversary of the creation of its Transitional Government of National Unity.
By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The South Sudan Council of Churches, supported by the nation’s Civil Society Forum and the South Sudan Women’s Coalition have jointly reiterated calls for the “restoration of peace, security and stability and an end to all bloodshed in the country”. The appeal comes as the northeastern African country commemorates on Monday, the first anniversary of its Transitional Period of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS).
On 22 February 2020, South Sudan formed the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU) which had been provided for under the R-ARCSS signed between the government and opposition parties in September 2018. The RTGoNU, led by president Salva Kiir Mayardit, saw the swearing in of opposition leader Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon as the nation’s first vice president. Four other vice presidents from various opposition parties were also sworn in as part of the transitional government.
The joint statement notes that “this is not the first time we have called on the same leaders to fulfill their responsibility to their country and the citizens of the nation. Unfortunately, these calls have not yet yielded any meaningful change to the ongoing crisis in the country and the living conditions of the common citizens.”
South Sudan’s challenges
The statement’s signatories said that while they acknowledge the reduction of military confrontations among parties to the peace agreement, including positive steps to hold armed forces accountable for crimes against civilians and the reconstitution of the executive of the new unity government, they remain “deeply disturbed that the overall situation has not convincingly improved.”
The joint statement highlights that the country has continued to witness “devastating intercommunal violence, displacement of civilians, sexual and gender-based violence, unnecessary roadblocks for extorting money and inflicting pain on travelers and humanitarian workers, alongside an economy that falters with soaring inflation rates.”
At the same time, reports from aid agencies indicate an increase in the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance – an indication that the peace agreement has not helped to significantly scale down the humanitarian crisis in the country. Moreover, the statement notes, parties “remain recalcitrant to implementation of the 35% affirmative action quota” which obliges them to legally uphold women representation and participation in the peace agreement implementation.
The Republic of South Sudan became the world’s newest nation in 2011. However, renewed conflicts in December 2013 and July 2016 have undermined its development gains since independence and created a dire humanitarian situation in the country. Nonetheless, the implementation of the September 2018 peace agreement and the subsequent formation of a government of national unity in February 2020 raised hopes for a positive outlook. Unfortunately, the nation has undergone several shocks including flooding in parts of the country, locust infestations and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic which has further exacerbated existing vulnerabilities.
Appeal to authorities
In light of the challenges faced by the country, the statement urged religious leaders, women, youth and civil society leaders across the country “to unite, raise their voices and call for what the people desperately need – peace, security and stability to end bloodshed and human suffering in South Sudan.”
With this growing unbearable situation of human suffering, “we are prompted to echo the people’s call for an end to violent conflicts and insecurity, displacement of civilians and insensitive creation of more orphans and widows,” the statement said, adding that it is becoming more apparent that “this is the most viable option to stability.”
In this regard, the statement encouraged political authorities to save the nation from further disintegration and human suffering, reiterating calls for “peace, justice, liberty and prosperity for all citizens” in the country.”