South Sudan leaders set date for truce, vow to pursue peace

South Sudan’s political leaders vow to recommit to a truce agreement, to avoid further armed conflict, and to pursue dialogue in the quest for peace in the world’s newest country. Their promise comes following a meeting hosted and mediated by the Rome-based Saint Egidio Community.

By Linda Bordoni

With a solemn promise to push forward with the country’s failing peace process, leaders of the Government and of the Opposition Movements of South Sudan on Monday committed to a “Cessation of Hostilities Agreement” which will come into effect on January 15th.

Pope’s spiritual and moral appeal

In their 10-point statement the parties involved say they are “humbled by the relentless spiritual and moral appeal for peace, reconciliation and fraternity by Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury” and by other Church leaders.

Capping a year of failed attempts to reach an accord, and a meeting hosted by Pope Francis himself in the Vatican in April, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar in December agreed to form a transitional unity government by a February deadline, even if key political disputes had not been fully resolved by that time.

Today’s declaration is an important and inclusive step forward.

In it, the parties “reaffirm their will to foster dialogue in order to facilitate further reconciliation and stabilization by addressing the root causes of the conflict in South Sudan.”

They say they are “mindful of the unprecedented suffering of the people, caused by the devastating civil war and the urgent need to cease hostilities.”

Request for mediation and support

They express their belief that the conflict requires a comprehensive political engagement and they agree dialogue shall continue under the auspices of Saint Egidio in consultation and with the support of regional organizations and the international community.

The signatories of the statement conclude asking Saint Egidio to convene a meeting with IGAD – a Horn of Africa intergovernmental authority – as soon as possible, and they reaffirm their readiness “to allow continued and uninterrupted humanitarian access to local and international organisations, including non-governmental organisations, to alleviate the suffering of the population, as consequence of years of conflict and natural disasters.”