SUDAN: War in Khartoum Threatens Peace Gains in South Sudan, Says Archbishop Bert van Megen

By Arnold Neliba

NAKURU, MAY 9, 2023 (CISA)-The Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya and South Sudan, His Excellency Archbishop Hubertus Maria van Megen has warned that continued political instability, conflict and elusive room for dialogue in Sudan risks eroding the peace gains made in the neighbouring country of South Sudan.

“The danger is that if North Sudan becomes unstable, then of course nearly you’d say naturally even South Sudan will become more unstable than it is already. In fact, even United Nations has already warned of instability in the whole region,” said the papal nuncio on May 6.

In his homily at the episcopal ordination and installation of Rt. Rev Cleophas Oseso Tuka as bishop of Nakuru, Archbishop van Megen disclosed how people of all races; Southerners, north Sudanese, Indians, Somalis, and Ethiopians. Men, women, children among them priests, religious men and women and a cardinal have unwillingly left Khartoum for safety.

“Priests and religious who had to flee could not stay because they were old or sickly and some religious sisters that were escaping abuse and rape and others stayed behind. Some missionaries, local priests and sisters of Mother Teresa, are in the surrounding towns and villages because as they say they want to remain with their people, they want to stay with them, to defend them; Muslims and Christians alike and they want to protect their churches and their schools, clinics and hospitals defending them from looters and plunderers,” he elucidated.

For those that flee, the nuncio disclosed that it would take them four to seven days of travel to find the place of “some kind of quiet and peace,  no fear, and there is water, food and a bed to sleep and listening ear.”

“But also some questions come up immediately when you arrive. Some priests and religious are torn apart by doubts; Was this really the right decision? Was I not maybe taken over by panic? Should I have stayed? What about the people I left behind? While desperate phone calls are still coming in from people who did stay behind, the bombing, the shooting, the rape?” He quipped.

According to the nuncio, the war is happening because two leaders cannot agree with one another and the suffering is channelled to the whole population. In relation to the events in Kenya, the nuncio advised leaders to embrace dialogue because politics only happen when people are ready to listen to one another.

“What is happening to Khartoum let it also be a sense of warning for Kenya and for our political situation as the archbishop (Archbishop Martine Kivuva) mentioned already. There is a lot of tension at the moment, a lot of accusations to and fro, and suspicion. As politicians, I call about politicians also here present to sit around the table and come up with solutions for the good of the country,” the nuncio said.

“Politics can only happen when there is dialogue when people are ready to listen to one another. It is a question of give and take. You negotiate, and you sit around the table. But if you go into your own bastions and start to throw stones at each other, soon or later you will hit somebody on the head and ‘pole’ doesn’t work anymore,” he warned.

During the occasion, he described Kenya as a “country really on top”. He said the country is among the most developed in Africa and that it was something that Kenyans should be proud of and should strive to protect.

“I still remember the first time I came here some four years ago. I came from Khartoum, but I had before lived in other countries and once or twice had been in Nairobi through the airport to change planes, flights into Europe or back to Malawi, Zambia or Eritrea later on. And so I came to Nairobi and found this very developed city and I was amazed. I had never seen that in Africa before. And that is something which we as Kenyans should be proud of,” said the nuncio in the presence of the Deputy President of Kenya, Rigathi Gachagua.