S. Sudanese rivals' Vatican visit to build confidence

If the political process fails to bring peace, a religious approach may prove good strategy, says South Sudanese expert

Parach Mach   | 10.04.2019
S. Sudanese rivals' Vatican visit to build confidence File Photo of Riek Machar (l) ve Devlet Başkanı Salva Kiir Mayardit (r)

JUBA, SouthSudan

A visit by two warring South Sudanese rivals to Vatican City could serve as an opportunity to strengthen tolerance and build confidence to resolve chaos in the world’s youngest nation, an analyst said on Wednesday.

The Roman Catholic Church described the two-day visit on April 10-11 as a "spiritual retreat" by President Salva Kiir and rebel leader and former Vice President Riek Machar, expressing hope that it would facilitate reconciliation between the parties.

South Sudanese political analyst James Okuk told Anadolu agency in an interview that the visit was a challenge for confidence building and tolerance to implement revitalized peace agreement signed last September.

"The challenge the visit poses is historic. If the political process fails to bring peace, then a religious approach may prove a good strategy," Okuk said.

Kiir and Machar will attend the event for "encounter and reconciliation, in a spirit of respect and trust," the Vatican said in a statement on Monday, describing it as both ecumenical and diplomatic at the same time.

Ateny Wek Ateny, the presidential press secretary said the trip renews hope for peace and rebuilding.

"The president is a man of [the] people, he has affirmed this commitment by engaging Pope Francis and the religious groups in March to see peace come to South Sudan," Ateny said.

According to UN figures, South Sudan’s five-year-plus conflict has killed over 300,000 and displaced roughly 3 million people after a smoldering political rift exploded in December 2013 between Kiir and Machar, who was then the president’s deputy.

In September 2018, a peace deal was signed that will see Machar return as vice president after a 2015 peace deal collapsed within months, culminating in clashes in the capital of Juba, and Machar fleeing the country.

The two leaders are slated to form a unity government in May.

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