Comboni Missionaries

South Sudan

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APPEAL from His Grace Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro, Catholic Metropolitan Archbishop of Juba, and The Most Reverend Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, Archbishop and Primate of Episcopal Church of the Sudan and Bishop of ECS Diocese of Juba following the agreements between Sudan and South Sudan in Addis Ababa October 2012

“The spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free...”
(Luke 4:18)

1. We, the Catholic and Episcopal (Anglican) Archbishops in South Sudan, issued an advisory message to the citizens of South Sudan during the first Independence celebrations, a few short months ago. We remain concerned by events in our new country, as well as relations with our northern neighbour, the Republic of Sudan, and we feel that once again the Church needs to advise citizens and governments. We do not enter into politics, but we read the signs of the times in the light of Gospel values, and we set out some general principles. “We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were urging you through us, and in the name of Christ we appeal to you to be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20) – and to each other. We insist on the dignity of all human beings, created in the image and likeness of God.

2. We praise the governments of Sudan and South Sudan for their perseverance in negotiations, and we thank the African Union, the United Nations and other members of the international community who have helped to facilitate the talks. We commend our two presidents for their personal role in reaching an agreement. We appreciate some of the confidence-building measures which have already taken place, such as the resumption of flights between the two capitals. It should always be remembered that negotiations are about the lives of the people, not the politics of two governments, so measures which benefit the citizens of both nations are to be welcomed.

3. We begin from the basic premise that it is not acceptable for the two nations to go back to war under any circumstances, whatever the differences and difficulties in the negotiations. For this reason we applaud the establishment of a demilitarised buffer zone along our common border. We believe that while deadlines help the parties to focus, nevertheless deadlines will not by themselves solve the problems. Indeed pressure to make unrealistic concessions to meet a deadline may even be detrimental to a just and lasting peace. What is needed is the commitment and good faith of both parties, who represent not themselves or their governments but their citizens, and the constant accompaniment by the international mediators. At times it may involve challenging one side or the other, pointing out where there is intransigence and lack of cooperation and, most importantly, being transparent and letting the citizens of the two countries know what their leaders are saying and doing on their behalf.

4. The old Sudan was a family which has found itself divided. The family assets must be shared in an equitable way, so that neither side finds itself badly disadvantaged. This is the spirit which should guide negotiations about oil and borders. We welcome the agreement to allow the oil to flow once more, to the mutual benefit of all. The current economic hardship in both countries is affecting the ordinary people, and will certainly affect the development of both nations. Borders should take into account the traditional community boundaries which are known to the chiefs and their people on the ground, and should be porous to recognise traditional grazing and migration rights. If the politicians from Sudan and South Sudan cannot agree, then both sides should accept binding international arbitration.

5. We fully support the “four freedoms” agreement on the rights of citizens of either state who find themselves in the other state. Freedom of residence, freedom of movement, freedom to undertake economic activity and freedom to acquire and dispose property are a basic minimum. Sudanese residents in South Sudan and South Sudanese residents in Sudan are not simply “foreign aliens” who have come from nowhere; they are part of the old Sudanese family with long-standing historical, geographical and kinship links which should not be broken by the new political dispensation. We would add that freedom of religion is also a prerequisite for justice, peace and human dignity. The implementation of the agreement on the four freedoms must be closely monitored. Actions taken by the government of Sudan over the past year have already impinged upon these freedoms, and concrete steps will be needed to reassure South Sudanese in Sudan that their rights will be respected.

6. We remain concerned that no agreement has been reached on the status of Abyei, and we urge the Republic of Sudan to accept the proposal presented by the AUHIP mediators, as South Sudan has already done. We are also concerned that civil war, human rights abuses and humanitarian disasters  continue in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Darfur. We repeat that war is unacceptable and  negotiated settlements must be found for all these conflicts.

7. Within our own nation of South Sudan, we are happy that the peace agreed between the six communities in Jonglei State in May 2012 under the auspices of the Presidential Committee for Peace, Reconciliation and Tolerance in Jonglei State has held for 5 months. We recognise and applaud the commitment to peace of the government and communities in Jonglei State, and we encourage them to continue to reject conflict and to find ways of resolving disputes and tensions peacefully. We appreciate the ongoing work of the Committee, and we draw attention to the Peace from the Roots initiative of our Sudan Council of Churches, which has established a network of grassroots peace mobilisers throughout the state. We are also grateful to our government and armed forces for the disarmament campaign, which visibly contributed to the peace process, and for the security provided by the police and troops now stationed in Jonglei State. People have told us that, while there are still challenges, “It is not as it was before”.

8. Nevertheless we fear that all this good work could be undone by the current dynamic which is unfolding. The rebel faction led by David Yau Yau appears to be gathering disaffected youth from a number of communities, and even as we write there are reports of fighting between the security forces and the rebels. As usual, civilians are suffering.

9. We appeal to David Yau Yau and all rebel leaders and their followers in South Sudan to cease fighting immediately and to join the task of building our new nation. It takes time to build a nation, and we recognise that some are unhappy with the situation in the country. Some of their grievances may be justified. But we reject absolutely the use of violence. It will bring only more violence, more death, more destruction. It will not solve any of the grievances, only exacerbate them, create a cycle of revenge, and lead to more under-development and suffering for all, not least for those communities caught up most directly in the fighting. We appeal to all the communities of South Sudan to distance themselves from violent rebellions. Whatever your grievances, this is not the way to resolve them. We call for patience and the use of democratic, constitutional and legal means to resolve differences. We pledge ourselves to help in any way we can to address such grievances through the correct channels. We caution you that joining an armed rebellion against the democratically elected government is a serious step with serious consequences far beyond cattle-raiding and inter-communal violence. We also appeal to our government and our armed forces to respond with moderation to armed rebellions. Rebels and other criminals should be pursued and dealt with according to the law, but whole communities should not be labelled as rebels. Not only is this unjust, but it exacerbates the conflict by drawing in communities who are trying to remain out of it. While recognising the difficult task of our armed forces who risk their lives for the security of the state, we also call upon them to respect the human rights of all and not to perpetrate abuses during their activities.

10. Let us be clear. We categorically reject armed rebellion. South Sudan is a democratic nation. There is a due process for dealing with grievances, and there will be elections within a few years when those who disagree with the current dispensation will have the opportunity to vote for a new government. Let us move from the culture of violence which has dominated our lives for so many decades and begin to build a culture of peace.

11. One of the key recommendations of the peace agreement was the need for development, spread equitably across the whole state. Five months on, we see little evidence that those who can bring development have made any real progress. The floods affecting most of Jonglei State have made matters worse for the ordinary people. We appeal to the government, UN, aid agencies and donors to begin relief and development work in Jonglei State urgently. The people need to see a peace dividend to reassure them that their needs have not been forgotten, and to remove some of the factors which contributed to the conflict in the first place. The window of opportunity to contribute to peace through development may not last for ever.

12. When we look at the progress our government has made since peace came in 2005 and again since Independence in 2011, we are heartened. We have a functioning government and civil service, a police force, tarmac roads in Juba and an increasing network of all-weather roads outside, an ever-growing mobile phone network, commercial flights to most major towns, a relatively free press with FM radio stations covering many areas, and much more. Few could have imagined this during the darkest years of the war. Progress may not have been as fast as some would have hoped, but a new country takes time to develop and a degree of patience is needed. It is our hope that once oil begins to flow again, the money which becomes available will be used to speed up the development of the nation.

13. Nevertheless, we wish to warn of some key challenges. Corruption within our government cannot be ignored, and is constantly on the lips of the ordinary people. “Listen to this, you who crush the needy and reduce the oppressed to nothing, you who say, 'When will the New Moon be over so that we can sell our corn, and Sabbath, so that we can market our wheat? Then we can make the bushel-measure smaller and the shekel-weight bigger, by fraudulently tampering with the scales. We can buy up the weak for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals, and even get a price for the sweepings of the wheat.' Yahweh has sworn by the pride of Jacob, 'Never will I forget what they have done.'” (Amos 8:4-7). “Seizing the fields that they covet, they take over houses as well, owner and house they seize alike, the man himself as well as his inheritance. So Yahweh says this: Look, I am now plotting a disaster for this breed from which you will not extricate your necks.” (Micah 2: 2-3) Corruption is in the heart. “It is what comes out of someone that makes that person unclean. For it is from within, from the heart, that evil intentions emerge.” (Mark 7: 20-21) Let us move from the interests of individuals to a true spirit of national interest. Let our hearts be touched and changed. Let us be transformed. We call on our government and our leaders to take heed.

14. “Yahweh indicts the citizens of the country: there is no loyalty, no faithful love, no knowledge of God in the country, only perjury, lying, murder, theft, adultery and violence, bloodshed after bloodshed. This is why the country is in mourning and all its citizens pining away.” (Hosea 4:1-2) We say to our citizens, do not waste time on tribalism. While we can be proud of our tribal identity, our roots, our heritage, we must resist those who use it to divide us. We are no longer a tribe, but a nation, “One nation from every tribe, tongue and people”, as our Catholic bishops put it during the Church symposium held in Juba in October 2011. Any problems or issues must be taken at face value, not generalised as a tribe. This became evident during the Jonglei peace conference in May 2012 when the participants realised that the cattle raiders were not “the Murle” or “the Nuer”; they were criminals, not representatives of their community.

15. We say to government and citizens that the killing of innocents is unacceptable. We are all brothers and sisters, citizens of South Sudan. After Cain killed his brother Abel, God told him, “Listen! Your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10), and Cain was never able to rest: “I must hide from you, and be a restless wanderer on earth” (Genesis 4:14).

16. The Church in South Sudan stood with the people during the years of war, and continues to stand with them now in building the new nation; indeed the people are the Church. The Church is present throughout the country at grassroots level. As your Church leaders we speak with confidence and authority, firstly because we are teaching Gospel values, but secondly because we know we reflect the voice of the ordinary people. We know what is going on in our country not because we have access to intelligence or security information but because ordinary people at every level in society are part of the Church and are advising and informing us. At times we have an understanding of the situation from a broad base which nobody else has. We speak truth, and we urge citizens and leaders to listen to our words and to act appropriately. We will continue to monitor the situation and to speak out when we feel it is necessary. Therefore we make the following appeals:

17. To the governments of the Republics of Sudan and South Sudan:

  • To implement fully the agreements already reached in Addis Ababa, and to resolve the outstanding issues quickly and justly.
  • To agree finally and comprehensively that violence will not solve any problems; to withdraw their forces behind the demilitarised buffer zone and to cease military incursions whether by land or air; to reduce the number of troops in the border area.
  • To accept the AUHIP proposal on Abyei.

18. To the government of the Republic of Sudan:

•    To seek a negotiated solution to the conflicts in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Darfur; immediately to allow unrestricted independent humanitarian access to these areas.
•    To take concrete steps to demonstrate to South Sudanese citizens that the four freedoms agreement will be respected.
•    To cease supporting rebel groups in South Sudan.

19. To the government of the Republic of South Sudan:

  • To take concrete steps to deal with corruption in the government.
  • To ensure that security forces receive adequate capacity-building and monitoring to prevent human rights abuses against citizens and visitors.

20. To the rebel leaders in South Sudan:

  • To lay down their arms and resolve their grievances through peaceful and democratic means, and to contribute to building our new nation rather than destroying it.

21. To the people of Jonglei State:

  • To remain committed to the peace agreement signed by their leaders in the presence of H E President Salva Kiir Mayardiit in May 2012.

22. To the citizens of South Sudan:

  • To reject tribalism.
  • To refuse to join and support armed rebellions; to resolve grievances by peaceful and democratic means.
  • To move from the culture of violence which has dominated our lives for so many decades and begin to build a culture of peace in our new nation.

23. To the international community, including the aid agencies:

  • To continue to support the negotiations between the two countries.
  • To monitor the implementation of the agreements reached in Addis Ababa.
  • To provide relief and development aid to the people of Jonglei State immediately, in order to provide a peace dividend and help to maintain peace and stability in the state.
  • To provide aid according to the needs of the beneficiaries; to listen and respond to the South Sudanese agenda, which prioritises nation-building.
  • To recognise that we are a traumatised nation, and we continue to need your assistance.

24. We repeat the call of the prophet Micah: “To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

25. We offer you all our prayers and our solidarity. May God bless you.

Signed in Juba, South Sudan, 10th October 2012.