“Spiritual retreat” for South Sudan Leaders at the Vatican
Report by Hassan John
South Sudan’s search for peace will take President Salva Kiir and his opposition leader Reik Machar to the Vatican in what the Holy See calls a “spiritual retreat”.
Alessandro Gisotti, a spokesman in the Vatican said, “I can affirm that scheduled next week in the Vatican is a spiritual retreat for the leaders of South Sudan,” which will take place on April 9 and 10.
President Salva Kiir had met with Pope Francis, in March, and the South Sudan to discuss the crises bedevilling the country and afterwards the Pope said he hoped to visit the country to “encourage the peace process.”
Manawa Peter, deputy spokesman to Riek Machar, said meeting, next week, will focus on confidence-building with the hope to bring the two rivals together.
In 2015, a peace deal brought Machar back as vice president, but it fell apart the following year and he fled the country.
Machar is planning to return next month under a peace agreement signed in Addis Ababa last September, but the process has been overshadowed by fears of insecurity and lack of preparation.
Pope Francis has repeatedly voiced concern for South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation with a predominant Christian population.
The conflict between Kiir and Machar has caused almost 400,000 “excess deaths” since 2013, and four million people have fled their homes a report funded by the U.S. State Department said
A number of signed peace agreements have been flaunted and even the current peace deal, signed last year has not met with much success either. Church leaders have called for commitments and sincerity in sustaining the peace treaty.
Feature Image: Salva Kiir and Reich Machar – Photo Credit Reuters