|We are approaching the 11th anniversary of the referendum held on the 9th January 2011 to decide the future direction of South Sudan.
The question then was to decide, whether the people of Southern Sudan wanted to remain part of Sudan or to become an independent country.
The lead up to this referendum was a time of great excitement and uncertainty in a country that knew only decades of civil war.
Today, 11 years later, the uncertainty and the violence are widespread, while people hope for the Pope’s visit.
The situation in the world’s youngest country (only formed as such in 2011, after independence from Sudan) remains very uncertain. In addition to the open challenges of the “Revitalised Agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan” of September 2018, there are new problems to be faced, such as continuing tensions in many places in the country, where the population lives in constant fear for their lives and those of their loved ones. “In some areas – reports the Comboni missionary Elena Balatti, in a note received by Fides Agency – there are situations of widespread violence that lead to the death of civilians, livestock and the continued use of abuse and disregard for human rights. There are episodes of intercommunal violence with attacks between neighbouring populations that become enemies. South Sudan needs to solve its old problems, the accumulation of hatred and resentment. South Sudan needs peace’.
In this context, it comes with some relief that the leadership of the Pibor administrative area has decided to return hundreds of cattle previously stolen from the people of Akobo, in a gesture of goodwill and de-escalation of tensions. The news comes as a sign of peace after months of serious clashes between the Nuer ethnic groups of Akobo and Murle of Pibor. “The restitution,” explains Sister Elena Balatti, “is an act of restorative justice that we hope will put an end to a cycle of violence, and a great way to wish everyone a Happy New Year”.
In this context, on the sidelines of his visit to Juba, capital of South Sudan, which took place from 21 to 23 December, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Msgr. Paul Richard Gallagher, underlined the “great support for a visit by the Holy Father” to South Sudan and did not rule out the possibility of his travel during 2022. “There is certainly no such thing as a perfect time,” he added, given the situation of uncertainty and instability that the country has been experiencing for many years now, “but we must move forward in the whole process of discernment”.
During the visit, Mgr Gallagher met the country’s political and religious authorities and had talks with the President of the Republic, Salva Kiir, to whom he confided the Holy Father’s continued interest and closeness to the Sudanese people so that peace and stability may soon arrive. For his part, the President assured that “I will never take the country to war again”.
It should be noted that the general picture in South Sudan is aggravated by a series of unprecedented floods. For the third consecutive year since 2019, the country has experienced recurring floods since last May that have affected over 620,000 people in ten different states. The floods have caused the destruction of farms and livestock, submerged school buildings and health centres, and forced many families to flee. The population’s food insecurity is exacerbated by the fact that the delivery of aid has been seriously delayed due to the infrastructure being severely damaged by the floods.
Missionary Sister Elena Balatti reports that, following the serious attack, Father Christian Carlassare, MCCJ, Bishop-elect of Rumbek, is awaiting his official consecration later this year, although no date has yet been announced.
05 Jan 2022
Claudia, Office Manager
Latest News, South Sudan, Referendum, Peace, Independence