By Deng Machol
Juba – South Sudan Catholic Bishops have warned that the revitalized peace deal is likely to collapse, and may not end the five – years old political violence in the country.
In the joint statement,Bishops warned that while the level of the political violence has reduced since the September 2018 deal signed, the cessation of hostilities deal is not holding.
President Kiir and key oppositions leaders, including Dr. Riek Machar, signed the revitalized peace agreement on September 2018. But both parties are now facing a time crunch and funds as the peace deal provides a new chance for power – sharing government on May 2019.
Since the warring parties inked the peace deal until today, many of the committees and commissions mandated by the peace deal have not been set up or are late in getting start.
A six months old peace deal was supposed to quell the country’s political brutal war, was falling apart and that all sides were gearing for fresh fighting, according to the Catholic Bishops.
“While people welcome the signing of a peace agreement, there is a sense of hopelessness that this agreement, like so many before it, will not succeed,” said Metropolitan Archbishop Paulino Lukudu, while addressing the press after South Sudan Catholic Bishops’ conference, lasted for three days concluded in Juba on Thursday.
“While we thank the IGAD [regional bloc] for its efforts, we note that the government of South Sudan is a member of IGAD and that other IGAD members have their own national interests. It thus becomes difficult for IGAD to act as a truly impartial mediator,” the statement said.
Archbishop said human rights abuses continues with impunity despite the peace deal, which is supposed to halt such acts.
“The value of human life and dignity is forgotten as human rights abuses continue with impunity, including murder, rape, widespread sexual violence, looting and the occupation of civilian land and property,” said Lukudu.
Lukudu said the concrete situation on the ground demonstrate that peace deal is not addressing the root causes of the political violence. “We fear that our leaders on all sides have other hidden agendas,” said Archbishop.
A man of God, said the accord encourages political leaders to bargain over positions and percentage rather than working for the stability of the country.
“If [peace agreement] propagates the power sharing model which encourages the parties to bargain over posts, positions and percentages rather than working for the good of the country,” said Archbishop. “While funds are spent on the military and corruption continues amongst the elites, ordinary people face hardships as the economy continues to collapse around them.”
Catholic Bishops fear that the peace deal is grimly blemished in itself, may not bring last peace in the country.
“We also fear that the current leadership does not have the wills to implement peace,” he further said.
He said the fighting was supposed to end with the signing of peace deal, but violence continues in many areas.
“While there is a great deal of talk about peace, actions are not marching words,” said Lukudu.
He pointed out that one of the key drivers of conflict is the number of states and boundaries between ethnic groups in the country. President Kiir redrew South Sudan’s map four years ago, increasing the number of states, from 10 to 32 states.
“The consequences of not settling the controversial issue of the 32 states before the onset of the transitional period, and of not fully consulting the people on the ground, are too grave to ignored,” said Lukudu.
Meanwhile, the government described Catholic Bishops war preparation claim as baseless and disappointing, stressing that the peace deal is paraphernalia whirling back World youngest country to it pro-war programs.
Archbishop Lukudu further advised president Kiir to constructively engage all stakeholders and parties to the peace to ensure that each party fulfills what it agreed to do.
He continues said the national dialogue can be instrumental to the implementation process and it should be genuine and inclusive.
“The value of traditional leaders and chiefs must be recognized and factored into the implementation process through various confidence – building mechanisms,” said Lukudu.
The senior cleric revealed that the Roman Catholic Church will act to prepare warring parties to the peace agreement, and reach out to non-signatory for confidence building purposes.
“We fear that the current peace mediated by IGAD is totally fraud and we urge all stakeholders and friends of South Sudan to collaborate to seek a new model, a change of narrative for true peace which goes beyond the R-ARCISS,” said Lukudu.
The Catholic church made 17 recommendations to the South Sudan, stressing the need for an inclusive approach to search for lasting peace in the East Africa country.
A political violence erupted in 2013 between president Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, over power wrangling within the ruling party, SPLM, rife split the country along ethnic lines, nearly 400,000 are estimated to have been died and 4.5 million have fled their homes, many of them pushed to the brink of starvation.