By Fredrick Nzwili
As South Sudan joined the world in celebrating the International Day of Peace, the country’s church leaders urged speedy implementation of a key peace pact known as the Revitalised - Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan.
The agreement—signed by the government and opposition parties on 12 September 2018 in the Sudanese capital Khartoum—has been described as crucial roadmap to peace and stability in world’s youngest nation.
“The implementation of this peace agreement… means silencing the guns, an end to sexual and gender-based violence, sleeping in peaceful communities without the fear of being killed or robbed, recovery of the economy, protection of children and women, and development of inter and intra infrastructure,” said the leaders in a South Sudan Council of Churches statement.
The leaders had marked the day under theme "End the Violence and Shape Peace Together.”
The clerics cite some key progress in the implementation of the agreement, including the formation of the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity, the agreement on the number of states, the appointment of state governors and steps towards a unified army.
At the same time, the leaders are concerned that the failure to fully implement the agreement continues to worsen the situation for the ordinary citizens. Violations of the ceasefire agreements are occurring, according to the leaders, amidst rampant inter-communal revenge attacks and cattle raiding, acts which continue to destabilise the East African nation.
Also of concern is the country’s economy—in which the South Sudanese currency has continued to lose value—making it hard for the people to barely afford basic needs.
The church leaders wants the signatories to the peace agreement to recommit to speed up its implementation, and others who have not signed another pact known as Rome Declaration mediated by the Community of Sant’Egidio to recommit to it.
The South Sudan Council of Churches “recommits as partners for peace to a amplify the voices of the voiceless South Sudanese through its flagship process of the Action Plan for Peace aimed at changing the narrative from violence to that of peace,” said the leaders.
Meanwhile, on 21 September, Christian organizations and members of the Ecumenical Network on South Sudan, on the International Day of Peace, drew to attention the need for peace in the country.
“Despite some progress in bringing peace to the country, we are gravely concerned about the continuation of violence in various areas of the country and the availability of arms which continue to fuel violence,” said the organizations including Bread for the World, Christian Aid, World Vision and Tearfund, among others.
The organizations urged the parties to put aside any competing issues and prioritise the implementation of the peace agreement’s remaining items for lasting peace to occur.
“We call on parties to regain trust in each other and act together for peace…Furthermore, we call upon all stakeholders to shape the peace together, while upholding and respecting democratic space. We also urge the international community to continue to monitor and engage in the peace process,” said the organizations.
Agencies say the conflict has left 7.5 million people needing humanitarian assistance. Over 2.26 million people have fled the country due to conflict with 1.6 being displaced inside the country.
Fredrick Nzwili is a freelance journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.