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South Sudan Churches back Kiir-Machar peace talks

South Sudan’s opposition leader Riek Machar (left), presidents Yoweri Museveni, Omar Bashir of Sudan and Salva Kiir of South Sudan at the Freedom Hall in Khartoum, Sudan for the IGAD summit. PPU Photo.

KHARTOUM – Faith leaders under their umbrella Organisation, South Sudan Council of Churches have vowed to continue to support, pray and engage South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and arch-foe Riek Machar  through the ongoing action for peace.

While addressing the opening session of the latest round of peace talks in Khartoum on Monday, President Salva Kiir asserted his willingness to work with Riek Machar, and noted that he had come to the meeting with an open mind.

“I came here with an open mind and I hope my brother Riek Machar has also come to do the same in order to stop the suffering of our people,” President Kiir said.

More than 5,000 people – primarily women and children under the age of 18 years – have fled from South Sudan to Uganda since war erupted in the country in 2011.

Reports claim the tensions began when Machar, who served as the inaugural Vice President of South Sudan, from its independence in 2011 until his dismissal in 2013, started envisioning himself as a more fitting leader in what was then the semi-autonomous region of southern Sudan

The Monday Khartoum meeting came on the heels of earlier talks in Ethiopia, which failed to reconcile the two protagonists.  Here, Faith-based leaders were tasked to moderate and lead the secretariat for the consultation process.

“Our message to all South Sudanese is that the church is ready to continue to support and engage political leaders through its action for peace; let them continue to pray so that all the parties will be able to co-operate and compromise to sign the peace agreement that the big bull of peace may be brought back to our country,” the Anglican Archbishop of South Sudan Justin Badi Arama said at that time.

On his part, President Museveni on Monday saluted Dr Machar for honoring this peace-making mission for the benefit of all people in his country, and Salva Kiir for being present too.

“My appeal to key political players in South Sudan is to have constructive deliberations as they negotiate for peace, unity and concretize the ground for the development of their country,” Museveni said.

“I used to see South Sudan developing but later it went into a standstill because of disunity. Today, we have had discussions on matters of peace in South Sudan and we have a good starting point to restore political normalcy,” he added.

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