SOUTH SUDAN – “It takes unity to achieve peace” – Bishop Kussala
Bishop Barani Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio has published “An Open Letter of Hope and Peace to the Elders of Greater Bahr El Ghazal.” In it Bishop Kussala, the president of the Sudanese Catholic Bishops’ Conference, called on leaders in South Sudan’s Bahr El Ghazal region to work for peace. He stressed the importance of unity to fight segregation and division and restore peace in the violence-ridden country.
Achieving peace said Bishop Kussala “demands of all of us that we act with real respect for human life. It demands that those who still sponsor anger, hate, segregation and violence against one another end such meaningless projects or ideas.” He acknowledged that working to change the spiral of suffering, revenge killings, and hatred displacement is a difficult task that “demands new initiatives.” The bishop urged leaders of civil society, religious leaders, community organizations, business, cultural and other leaders in Greater Bahr El Ghazal to seize an opportunity for such initiatives.
Civil war in South Sudan started in December 2013, when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, of attempting a coup. Since then their supporters have fought an intermittent war largely along ethnic lines and peace agreements have been short-lived. The conflict has created more than 2.5 million refugees and up to 5 million people face severe food insecurity as a result of war.
“At the core of the crisis within South Sudan’s war-affected communities and regions is the desire to acquire power and secure resources for one group of elites or one ethno-national group at the expense of others,” Bishop Kussala said. This has created tension and division, and “has undermined the social fabric of our society or nation,” even affecting neighbouring countries as refugees seeking the escape the conflict flee to other nations.
“In all of these cases, violence has led to the breakdown of our beloved homes,” Bishop Kussala continued. “Human lives have been lost. Infrastructure has been destroyed, education and health services have suffered, and the environment has been damaged. The ties that link people together…have been broken, social solidarity has collapsed and political tension has been highly generated.”
However, Kussala believes that peace is possible, as shown by the “relative peace, development and economic growth after our national independence shortly in 2011.” He called on the elders of Greater Bahr El Ghazal to “engage all stakeholders” in seeking peace, allowing for dialogue and supporting genuine efforts aimed at reconciliation and healing.
In an effort to restore this stability, Kussala urged the elders to publically and unequivocally condemn revenge killings, violence against civilians and the use of hate speech which fosters tribal division. He added that they should “call urgently for immediate robust humanitarian intervention for the starving people in and outside Wau,” pushing for roads to be opened to aid workers delivering food for the hungry population. He also recommended an independent investigation into atrocities against the community, in order to hold perpetrators accountable.
Achieving peace in Wau State will require an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, repentance and forgiveness, the bishop said. It will also require “a way for members of these communities to ‘re-inform’ themselves of their rich history of co-existence with a cultural logic that emphasizes sharing and equitable resource distribution.”
“as one people,” He emphasized that the people of Greater Bahr El Ghazal should draw their strength from each other, saying “You have common humanity, heritage, history and you are socially interwoven. For Wau State to live and prosper, we must come together!”