Pray for South Sudan

by Gerry Lynch last modified 12 Apr, 2016 01:04 PM

Prayers requested as fragile peace agreement faces critical crisis

The Chair of the Salisbury-Sudans Partnership, Canon Ian Woodward, has called for people to pray especially for South Sudan over the coming days and weeks as a fragile peace agreement reached last year comes under increasing strain.

“We are at a critical moment in the South Sudanese peace process”, Ian said, “Please keep the country especially in your prayers at this time.

“We could be on the verge of ending what has been a ghastly conflict, but if this agreement unravels now and conflict resumes, it is difficult to see how it can be ended quickly.

“As well as fighting, which has been bloody at times, millions are now threatened by hunger and starvation. The war has meant that crops have not been sowed in many parts of the country, sometimes for several growing seasons in a row, and poor weather has made the situation worse.

South Sudan is the world’s youngest country, gaining independence from Sudan in 2011. In December 2013, First Vice President Riek Machar was fired as Deputy President by President Salva Kiir, triggering a rebellion against the government leading to civil war.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people while more than 2 million have fled their homes, with 1.65 million staying in the country and 650,000 people becoming refugees. Meanwhile 4.6 million people have been driven to the brink of starvation.

President Kiir is part of the largest ethnic group in the country, the Dinka, whereas Machar is from the second largest community, the Nuer, creating an ethnic element to the conflict. There have been mass killings along ethnic lines even though the two men have supporters from both communities. Both sides are accused of perpetrating atrocities as well as the forced displacement of populations.

After almost two and a half years of fighting, massive destruction of property and displacements, the protagonists in South Sudan embarked a peace process signing the South Sudan Compromise Peace Agreement in August 2015, agreeing on sharing ministerial portfolios and forming a transitional government of national unity.

As part of that agreement, ministerial positions have been shared between supporters of both men and Riek Machar has been re-appointed as First Vice-President. The peace deal was signed by the two leaders amid the threat of sanctions from the UN, although sporadic fighting has continued since then.

Machar, who fled South Sudan for Ethiopia during the conflict, was due to return to South Sudan’s capital Juba. President Kiir, however, opted to form a new transitional government in advance of Machar’s, and his forces’, arrival.

According to the Sudan Tribune, the Kiir government has consulted opposition parties in this process, though the new security arrangements are not due to be implemented in the capital Juba until April. This has drawn criticism from the Democratic Change (DC) opposition coalition, which claims the new government can only be formed after the security arrangements are in place. Machar currently insists he won’t return until the capital has been demilitarised.

Stay in touch and inform your prayer: the Sudan Tribune (Twitter) (website) and BBC Africa (Twitter) (website) carry more information, more up to date, than the UK media.

Learn about the Salisbury-Sudan link: the Diocese of Salisbury has been twinned with the Episcopal Church in South Sudan and Sudan for 43 years. More information is on the Sudans section of this website.

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