Salva Kiir, the President of South Sudan, welcomes Pope Francis and his call for peace and reconciliation announcing the country has lifted the Suspension on the Rome Peace Talks.
By Linda Bordoni
During the Pope’s first official event in Juba, his meeting with Authorities, Civil Society and the Diplomatic Corps, President Salva Kiir reiterated an announcement made on the eve of the Holy Father’s ecumenical pilgrimage of peace to South Sudan.
“In honour of the Holy Father Pope Francis‘ historic visit to our country, and our declaration of 2023 as the year of Peace and Reconciliation, I am officially announcing the lifting of the suspension of the Rome Peace talks with the Holdout Groups.”
Mr. Kiir went on to express his hope that “his brothers from the Non-Signatories South Sudan Opposition Group will reciprocate this gesture and engage with us honestly to achieve an inclusive peace in our country.”
Suspension of Peace Talks
In November 2022, the government of South Sudan announced it was suspending its participation in the Rome peace talks, accusing the Non-Signatories South Sudanese Opposition Groups of “lacking commitment” and preparing for war.
Noting that it is the first time in the history of the nation that the head of the Catholic Church has visited South Sudan, Mr Kiir described the Pope’s presence as a “historic milestone” and expressed his deep gratitude for the visit that, he continued “will leave a positive impact on. Our national conscience and peace in our country.”
“This historic visit of these global Christian leaders must compel us to engage in deep thinking about our recent history, especially on how it relates to the noble task of peace consolidation and the important projects of reconciliation and forgiveness among our people,” he said.
Spiritual Retreat in Vatican
The President recalled the spiritual retreat in which he participated in the Vatican in 2019 during which the Pope “kissed our feet and asked us to remain in peace.”
“That rare gesture,” he said, did not go in vain: “Today, both Dr Riek (the Vice-President) and I are seated here working collectively to implement the Revitalized Peace Agreement we signed in 2018”.
He said that guided by the desire for an inclusive political process, the Roadmap-2022 extended the transitional perio by 24 months in September last year.
“We did this to give ourselves time to plan and create institutions that will permit for holding credible and transparent elections, which are the end game of the Revitalized Peace Agreement. The fact that the Roadmap was developed exclusively by the Parties to the Agreement is itself an encouraging sign in our path to political maturity,” he explained.
Mr. Kiir concluded saying that the Roadmap will be used “to fast-track the implementation of outstanding provisions in the Revitalized Peace Agreement and to build on the successes we have already achieved, such as the graduation of unified forces.”