By Paschal Norbert
JUBA, FEBRUARY 6, 2024 (CISA) – “Dear brothers and sisters, this is a critical moment in the political life of your country. As you prepare for the general elections, pray and work hard to ensure that it is nonviolent, fair, transparent, credible and peaceful. To achieve this, there is groundwork to be done, putting into place needed infrastructures in the political sphere, preparing your minds and hearts for possible transition,” said Cardinal Michael Czerny SJ, who is visiting the Republic of South Sudan on an eight-day pastoral trip to mark the first anniversary of the papal visit to the country in 2023.
The Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (DPIHD), urged the political leaders to respect the dictates of the peace agreement, maintaining that a peaceful transfer of power is vital to the country dogged by political instability since 2011 when it gained independence, and that the move is also a sign of a mature democracy.
“I therefore urge you to be faithful to the peace agreement, not just you but also members of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU), and all signers of the peace agreement. It is critical that your integrity and commitment bring about the yet-unrealized remaining steps for the election process,” he stated in his homily at St. Theresa’s Kator Cathedral in Juba on February 4.
The Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), signed in September 2018 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, provides a framework for ending the country’s civil war, which erupted in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused the first Vice President, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup.
According to Cardinal Czerny, “The full implementation of these prerequisites will be a guarantee to the population of South Sudan that never again will there be bloodshed, never again will South Sudanese fear insecurity in their own Country and never again will the South Sudanese need to seek refuge in other countries due to violence.”
On February 5, Cardinal Czerny met with President Salva Kiir Mayardit and pledged the Vatican’s willingness to support the December polls.
He said the pope is looking forward to seeing peaceful, free, fair and credible elections in South Sudan and is calling on the leaders to embrace peace and stability as the country heads toward a democratic transition.
In a Facebook post by the Office of the President, the Presidential Affairs Minister, Bangasi Joseph Bakosoro said President Kiir reassured the Holy See of his administration’s commitment, to conduct free and credible elections this year.