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President Salva Kiir (R) and Deputy Riek Machar at the center of South Sudan in the last ten years. File Photo

South Sudan vows to implement peace despite hitches

South Sudan’s president said on Thursday that he is more than willing to implement fully the outstanding tasks within the 2018 revitalized peace agreement despite external interferences and challenges.

President Salva Kiir revealed these remarks after attending prayers presided over by the visiting Vatican secretary of state Pietro Parolin in Juba. 

“Well, I always say that when you go forward and somebody is pulling you from behind you cannot reach, even 5 meters you cannot cross. We are implementing the agreement but there are people who are not allowing us to go smoothly they intend to derail us from the road that we have taken,” Kiir said in a veiled barb to external meddlers in the ongoing peace process. 

Kiir disclosed that soon he will meet with his five deputies, including former rebel leader Riek Machar to iron out the specific date for the graduation of the much delayed 83,000 unified forces.

Under the 2018 revitalized peace deal, these unified forces are crucial to provide security during the current transitional period that ends in February 2023.

Parolin arrived in the youngest nation on July 5 to lay preparation for coming of Pope Francis who last month called off his visit to Juba due to illness.

Parolin delivered Pope Francis’s message to the South Sudan leaders urging them to fully implement the critical pending tasks to give peace and reconciliation a chance.

“So, your eminence, if the holy father (Pope) asks you about the implementation of the agreement tell him that the agreement is being implemented but with difficulties,” Kiir said.

“This sort of (peace) agreement has never been made before in any country in our region, but we have accepted to implement it because if it was not for peace I would not have accepted,” he added.

 Kiir said no such peace agreement entailing five vice presidents has ever been implemented in the region, adding that he will not accept division of his country into smaller units.

The parties in the transitional unity government formed since February 2020, are yet to enact the permanent constitution to replace the 2011 transitional constitution, and are have not also established mechanisms for justice, accountability and healing and reconciliation under chapter five of the agreement.

Politics not tribe cause of conflict in South Sudan

President Salva Kiir on Thursday said the cause of conflicts since 2013 is mainly due to political differences and not tribal or religious allegiances.

He disclosed these remarks after attending mass prayers presided over by the visiting Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin at the Dr. John Garang Mausoleum in Juba.

“In South Sudan, we have no religious differences because you find that Christians have Muslim relatives and this has brought us together, we don’t have religious differences in South Sudan, we only want our country to be in peace,” he disclosed.

“We are not fighting a religious war, we are fighting a political war and it has been turned to be a tribal war but among us no tribe has conflict with another tribe, I believe we are going to solve whatever problems that we have in regards to your (Parolin) message to us,” Kiir added.

The main conflict that broke out in December 2013, was sparked by political differences between President Kiir and his then deputy Riek Machar who was vying to unseat the latter as Chairman of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party.

Machar and his loyalists were pushing for changes in the electoral procedures within the SPLM that involved dealing away with open voting to secret ballot.

When conflict erupted in Juba, after internal disagreements within the party, soldiers loyal to Machar mobilized along ethnic lines to oust President Salva Kiir who had prior sacked his entire cabinet.

The Vatican Secretary of State arrived in the country on Tuesday to confer Pope Francis’s message to the political leaders on the need for peace and reconciliation.

Pope Francis in June called off his anticipated visit to Juba that also included, his visit to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Kiir also called on the international community to offer humanitarian support for his country due to fears of what he described as “severe hunger” next year because of this year’s poor harvest caused by heavy flooding.

“Our problem is that rain has refused to come this year, and it means that there will be severe hunger next year, so we are calling for the international community to support the people of South Sudan. Now there will be rain but for the low lands it will be followed by the floods like last year so that will be our problem,” he said.

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