Yei, South Sudan, Aug 11, 2016 / 01:48 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the midst of an intense humanitarian crisis gripping his country, a South Sudanese bishop has called for collaboration between local political leadership and the international community in obtaining peace.
South Sudan saw a civil war break out in 2013 as a power struggle between its president, Salva Kiir, and vice-president, Riek Machar, who are of rival ethnic groups. A peace deal was reached last year, but fighting has continued in some places, with more than 300 killed in July. Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe of Yei addressed the ongoing conflict at Christ the King Cathedral on Sunday.
According to the Catholic Radio Network, Bishop Lodu called on South Sudan's transitional government Aug. 7 to reach out to international bodies such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) and the African Union to achieve peace. However, he warned against the tendency of international partners to force peace, instead of helping the nation in resolving the crisis and giving citizens hope for peace and safety.
Bishop Lodu's comments came after an Aug. 5 report from Igad that South Sudanese leadership has finally agreed to accept the deployment of a regional intervention force. That report called the internal displacement of South Sudanese and the massive departure of refugees to neighboring countries “a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions.” Igad also stated its condemnation of “the reported widespread sexual violence, including rape of women and young girls by armed men in uniform.”
While the scope of the regional intervention force to be deployed is not stated, it is expected to help implement a peace deal signed in August 2015 by Kiir and Machar. The peace deal was ended in July when heavy fighting broke out in Juba, the capital, between the forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, loyal to Kiir, and the SPLA in Opposition, loyal to Machar. Machar fled Juba amid the relapse of conflict, and Kiir appointed Taban Deng Gai, his mining minister, as acting vice president in Machar's stead on July 23. The July fighting, according to Igad, resulted in a huge loss of lives and displacement of citizens.
South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011. In its brief history it has been marred by an ethnically motivated civil war, with the Dinka supporters of Kiir fighting against the Nuer followers of Machar.