President Salva Kiir has reaffirmed his commitment to peace and “not return the country to war.”
He said despite obstacles that are contributing to the slow-paced implementation of the 2018 peace agreement, he will steer South Sudan toward permanent peace and stability.
The President made the remarks on Thursday in Juba during a mass presided by the Vatican Secretary of State, His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin – who is visiting South Sudan on behalf of Pope Francis.
“I have said many times that I don’t want to take the people of South Sudan back to war and I will stick to my word to keep peace in South Sudan,” Kiir said at Dr. John Garang Mausoleum.
In April 2019, Pope Francis kissed the feet of President Kiir, Dr. Riek Machar, Rebecca Nyandeng, and Taban Deng during a two-day spiritual retreat at the Vatican where the 83-year-old Pontiff asked the leaders “to stay in peace [and] go forward.”
“We want you [Cardinal Parolin] to take back the message to the Holy Father that the people who came here as those who were fighting in South Sudan are sitting together harmoniously,” Kiir said.
President Kiir further admitted that the peace deal is being implemented with difficulties.
“If the Holy Father ask you about the implementation of the peace agreement, tell him that agreement is being implemented but with difficulties because this sort of agreement has never been made before in any country in our region,” he said.
Since the signing of the revitalized peace agreement in 2018, South Sudanese leaders have struggled to accomplish important tasks of setting the country on a democratic and development trajectory. Several provisions within the agreement have not been implemented with its lifespan coming to an end in the next 6 months.
Crucial reforms envisioned in the deal have not been realized. They include institutional reforms, enactment of permanent constitution, graduation of unified forces, funding of reparation and reconciliation bodies, among others.
“We have accepted to implement it. If I was not for peace, I would have not accepted it because in the countries in Africa, there is no country with five Vice Presidents,” Kiir told Cardinal Parolin.
Upon his arrival in Juba on Tuesday, Cardinal Parolin met – in separate meetings – with President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar. He read to them the Pope’s message of reconciliation, peace and prosperity to strengthen South Sudan’s faltering peace process.
“The Holy Father said there will always be difficulties, but we have to go forward and to solve them with goodwill to achieve unity, peace and reconciliation,” Cardinal Parolin stressed. “If there is no peace, there is no possibility of developing a country, there [will] always be a development of new conflict and new violence.”
The Vatican Secretary of State carried out the visit in the Pope’s stead until July 8, 2022.
Pope Francis postponed his Apostolic Journey to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo “due to intense knee pain and at the insistence of his doctors.”