Sunrise in Dong Boma, a Dinka village in South Sudan's Jonglei State. Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT, 2017

Sunrise in Dong Boma, a Dinka village in South Sudan's Jonglei State. Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT, 2017

*By Fredrick Nzwili

South Sudanese church leaders have welcomed a new cabinet, which the country’s president Salva Kiir Mayardit announced on 12 March.

The unveiling of the cabinet ended months of anxious waiting for a new unity government which was mandated by a 2018 peace pact, known as the Revitalised Agreement for the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. The government has 34 ministers and 10 deputies.

“Given the difficulties that we have gone through as a country in the last few years, the fact that there is a government is something we welcome,” Bishop Arkenjelo Wani Lemi, chairman of the South Sudan Council of Churches, said.

The world’s youngest nation- where many are Christians and followers of African traditional religions - has been in conflict since 2013. The war was triggered as a dispute between Kiir and his deputy, Riek Machar Teny.

By 2019, agencies estimated that the conflict had killed an estimated 400,000 and displaced millions. With the deaths and an unfolding humanitarian crisis, the faith leaders stepped up action, urging political leaders to hear the cries of the people for peace and form a government, according to the terms of the pact.

On 13 March, after weeks of negotiations, Kiir unveiled the cabinet, making people from his government side, the South Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and Army (SPLM/A-IO, the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), former detainees and other opposition parties, government ministers.

That raised the church leaders’ hopes for peace, according to Lemi, also the head of the Africa Inland Church in South Sudan. He said church leaders drew encouragement from the fact that each took a number of cabinet positions after the negotiations.

“We have been accompanying the leaders in negotiations related to the revitalised agreement. We have now arrived at a government. That gives us hope that all will be well,” said the bishop.

South Sudanese people, according to the leader, were eager for a peaceful country, where they can carry out normal activities- including farming, travelling and trading without limitations. They also wanted to see a nation where law and order functions.

Kiir has promised to work with the ministers to bring progress to the country.

At the same time, Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general hailed the development, while commenting the parties’ spirit of compromise and collaboration.

Meanwhile, according to the spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, Guterres encourages that South Sudan make additional efforts to meet the 35 percent quota for representation of women throughout the peace process.

For now, eight of the cabinet ministers are women, with two taking key offices of Foreign Affairs and Defence.


*Fredrick Nzwili is a freelance journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.

South Sudan Council of Churches