Kiir officially revives Rome talks as Pope Francis makes peace call

Kiir officially revives Rome talks as Pope Francis makes peace call
Pope Francis shakes hands with President Salva Kiir at the entrance of the Presidential Palace in Juba, where the leaders met on Friday evening. [Photo: PPU]

President Salva Kiir officially announced the lifting of the suspension on the peace talks with the holdout groups, saying the decision was made in honour of the “historic visit by Pope Francis.”

“In honour of the Holy Father Pope Francis’ historic visit to our country, and our declaration of 2023 as the year of peace and reconciliation, I am officially announcing the lifting of the suspension of the Rome peace talks with the Holdout Groups,” President Kiir noted.

“I hope that my brothers from the Non-Signatories South Sudan Opposition Group will reciprocate this gesture and engage with us honestly to achieve an inclusive peace in our country.”

President Kiir added that he was upbeat that the papal visit would be the game changer in sowing the seeds of peace, factoring in his recent declaration of 2023 as a year of peace and reconciliation.

“It is my sincere hope that our push for peace and reconciliation will be helped by the Ecumenical Pilgrimage to the Republic of South Sudan by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Justin Welby, and the moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Dr. Iain Greenshields,” he stated.

He added, “This historic visit of these prominent global Christian leaders must compel us to engage in deep thinking about our recent history, especially on how it relates to the noble task of peace consolidation and the important projects of reconciliation and forgiveness among our people.”

The head of state acknowledged the sluggish implementation of the revitalised peace agreement while expressing confidence at the same time that the parties to the deal are committed to staying the course despite the challenges.

“I am aware of the huge expectations regarding the implementation of this peace agreement. I know that not everyone is satisfied with the pace of the revitalised peace agreement’s implementation, but what is important is that we as the parties to the agreement are working together in the spirit of dialogue to overcome challenges before us, and we will remain committed until peace is firmly consolidated in South Sudan,” he remarked.

In his brief speech, Pope Francis appealed for peace, calling on South Sudan to unite and pursue the path of reconciliation.

The moderator of the General of Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Dr. Iain Greenshields called on the leaders to be the custodians of peace and ensure that all their actions draw people together.

“We come with humility, unity and love… the churches and the people will witness together, work together for a better future of the people of South Sudan. Blessed are the peacemakers, said Jesus, and friends of peace. A peace that ensures justice for all: families and nations. Today, we need that peace,” he said.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Justin Welby, urged the South Sudanese leaders to live to the peace promise they made when they visited Rome in 2019.

“When I remember the commitment, you made in 2019 about peace, I am sad that we still hear such tragedy (clashes),” he stated. “We hope for more, you promised more.”

The pontiff, who is visiting the country with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Justin Welby, and the moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Dr Iain Greenshields, will be in the country up until Sunday when he will leave for the Vatican. He is expected to preside over mass at the Dr John Garang Mausoleum on Saturday evening after holding high-profile meetings.