Amid persistent worldwide spiritual and moral appeals for peace, reconciliation, and support, the government of South Sudan and holdout opposition groups recommitted to cessation of hostilities in a peace declaration brokered by the Sant’ Egidio, a Rome-based lay Catholic movement.
The agreement is yet another key step in the attempt to end the prolonged conflict in the world’s youngest nation. For decades, local and international churches have accompanied communities battered by war in the nation where many are Christians and followers of African traditional religions. Recently, local religious leaders slammed the latest round of fighting as senseless and unnecessary.
On 15 January, the declaration, titled “Rome Declaration on the Peace Process in South Sudan,” came into force.
“We (are) humbled by the relentless spiritual and moral appeal for peace, reconciliation and fraternity by Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the former moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, as well as those of the South Sudanese religious leaders,” said leaders in the declaration signed by, among others, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, from the government, Thomas Cirillo Swaka from the South Sudan Movements Alliance, and Paul Malong, the South Sudan United Front/Army leader. “We solemnly declare to commit/recommit and adhere to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement of December 2017.”
The declaration seeks to end any further armed confrontation across the country, creating an environment conducive for dialogue.
The leaders also reaffirmed their readiness to allow continued and uninterrupted humanitarian access in their areas so that the people who are suffering the consequences of the conflict and natural disasters can get assistance from both local and international organizations.
Currently, the South Sudan conflict requires comprehensive political engagement in order to achieve inclusivity and sustainable peace, the parties noted.
“We (are) mindful of the unprecedented suffering of the people of South Sudan caused by devastating civil war and the urgent need to cease hostilities,” said the leaders.
In November, president Salva Kiir Maryadit and opposition leader Riek Machar Teny postponed the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity to February, saying the conditions at that time were not conducive. The government is one requirement mandated by the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, the peace roadmap for South Sudan signed in September 2018.