A Letter to His Holiness Pope Francis on behalf of the ordinary people of South Sudan

Pope Francis with South Sudanese leaders at the Vatican during a “spiritual retreat.” Photo: National Catholic Reporter

The Holy See, Pope Francis

Apostolic Palace, Vatican City

Vatican City State, 00120

Your Holiness Father,

Re: President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar unfit to lead peace in South Sudan

April 15, 2019 (SSNA) — Appreciating the interest of Your Holy Father in the suffering of our people who immensely endured gross violations of their natural and human rights under President Salva Kiir’s autocratic regime,

Recalling the pastoral letter issued by your Catholic Bishops of South Sudan on 28th February 2019, urging engagement of the non-signatories in negotiation on a new agreement,

Recognizing the Bishop’s pastoral letter in stressing that peace cannot be made by killing people, and fearing that the current peace mediated by IGAD is fatally flawed,

And therefore urging all stakeholders and friends of South Sudan to collaborate to seek a new peace model, for a change of narrative, for achieving true peace which goes beyond the R-ARCSS,

Remembering the past sacrifice for South Sudan of the Catholic priest, Fr. Saturnino Lohure,

Echoing the Christian cry in the wilderness and voice of the people in Bishop Santo Laku, carrying the cross for the people in our country in true witness to Christ without fear or favour,

Acknowledging the role of the Church in its entirety throughout history, and in liberating Poland and countries in Central America in contemporary times, given nature of the sins committed against God’s people on earth,

Here therefore implore your moral authority Holiness Father to support new negotiations and mediation of the conflict and crisis of governance in South Sudan for the sake of future posterity and sustainable peace in our battered country,

And alerting your Holy See about illegitimacy and the perfidy of the incumbent President Salva Kiir together with the serial First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny, which makes the intervention of your Holiness Father the more imperative to save the people and the country from certain disintegration.

National Alliance for Democracy And Freedom Action (NADAFA[1]), an alliance advocating on behalf of the ordinary people of South Sudan wishes to appeal directly to your Holy See, to stand up for the oppressed people of the Republic of South Sudan, and not confer legitimacy to President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar to lead South Sudan again, by giving them a free hand and unconditional audience, during an upcoming retreat scheduled with them in the Vatican State.

The Alliance (NADAFA) is imploring Your Holiness to withhold giving credibility and undeserved recognition to failed SPLM leaders to rule again for another three years under the terms of the flawed R-ARCSS. This measure would be in solidarity with and respect for the wishes of ordinary people of the Republic of South Sudan who are victims of SPLM leaders warring. The impunity and corruption with which they ruled the country are in contravention of Christian ethos and principles of justice for which Your Holiness Father have committed your life to humbly serve.

These very leaders you have invited to the Vatican have confessed that they and the ruling SPLM party have lost direction and vision and the ordinary people of the Republic of South Sudan deem them unfit to govern the country, unfit and unworthy to entrust them to lead the peace. President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar are responsible for corruption in South Sudan.

They are un-Christian in their deeds in public office, and have destroyed livelihoods of thousands of families in South Sudan, and have lost legitimacy. These leaders have not served the country with humility and accountability demanded of those in public office.

The ordinary people are deeply concerned that the warring by them, signing and violating serial peace agreements have become the modus operandi for overstaying in power through sham serial peace agreements with the most recent agreement signed on September 12, 2018, dubbed the R-ARCSS[2]. This agreement is flawed and it was imposed by regional powers to confer legitimacy and another lease of life to the current dictatorial and oppressive tribal government of President Salva Kiir, who has been responsible for a string of massacres of thousands of innocent civilians beginning on 15th December 2013 and ongoing. President Salva Kiir is responsible for covering the country with blood and violence in a genocidal war against the people, forcing nearly 3 million of them into refuge, over 200,000 living in Protection of Civilian sites (POCs), over 2 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), an estimated 400,000 deaths from civil war-related causes. This is a monumental and unprecedented failure of leadership that has ripped apart our social fabric and Christian faith. The world cannot remain blind to the collapsed state in South Sudan as the country is now crippled and faced with certain disintegration if Lt. Gen. Salva Kiir remains president deputised by Dr. Riek Machar for another three years.

However, there is hope to save the country, in an alternative to the flawed R-ARCSS.  The Alliance, South Sudan NADAFA has a sustainable peace plan, which meets the call of most hearts of our ordinary people. After a long struggle fighting for justice and rights to be human beings with dignity like any other as made in God’s image, the people are finding themselves living under the brutality of those who were saved by the same moral responsibility from others (of which the Vatican was not an exception). This state of existence in our new country is wrong and inexcusable. The IGAD failures were not only in failed “just and fair conduct of negotiation”, but also in treating the people of South Sudan as business for their own interests, turning blind eyes on or even siding with the regime that has committed cruel human rights abuses known to humanity, and the recent report of UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan is replete with examples and accounts of gross violations.

Your Holiness, impunity should never be rewarded and those who governed with impunity, who are morally bankrupt and are using the flawed R-ARCSS to remain in power at all cost without a new vision for the country, should neither be embraced nor entrusted with the powers of redress for the injustices they themselves have caused. How would they not be held responsible and accountable for these injustices to our people?

Your Holiness, we trust in your moral authority and responsibility. Millions of the people of South Sudan in refugee camps, POCs and IDPs will be very disappointed and dismayed to see that the perpetrators of violence and civil war in our country are rewarded to continue in power, re-installed by R-ARCSS without disruption to their impunity and tribal rule. All Christians, who are the majority of the people in the Republic of South Sudan will be dismayed for a continuation of impunity by the hegemonic elites in our country. The hegemonic and corrupt tribal elites who President Salva Kiir, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, and Rebecca Nyandeng represent, as the high priests of the failed SPLM, do not have the trust of our ordinary people in Upper Nile, Equatoria, and Bahr el Ghazal and in refugee camps. These so-called leaders represent the pain and suffering of the people of South Sudan, as such, they are not fit to represent anyone other than themselves.

The R-ARCSS in its current form of exclusive power-sharing between SPLM and SSOA[3] elites is unfit for purpose and unfit for the country and its people. It has left the people at the periphery to the total exclusion of decision-making, left in the hands of the elites, who are unelected representatives, to lead Government and occupy a bloated 550-member Parliament of appointees to keep the President and his five (5) Vice Presidents in power over the people for another three (3) years, without accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity and the people. South Sudan needs a people based peace process. One that puts the people and their constitution making process first in order to repair their social fabric, pick up the pieces of the broken country and freely elect a new leadership under a new constitution. The National Alliance for Democracy And Freedom Action (NADAFA) feels obligated to our ordinary people to plead their case with your Holy Father, to stand with the people of South Sudan.

We sincerely plead with your Holy See to not confer undeserved legitimacy to R-ARCSS, which only prolongs the suffering of our populations under the corrupt and failed leadership of President Salva Kiir, Dr Riek Machar and the conflicted interests of regional IGAD countries, who continue to deny our country and its population a just and sustainable peace, one that addresses the root causes of the civil war in our country. IGAD is not an impartial peace broker, who chooses to stand not with the people of South Sudan, but with a club member, the tribal government of President Salva Kiir.

The scheduled retreat consultations on April 10th 2019 in the Vatican with President Salva Kiir of SPLM-IG[4], Dr. Riek Machar of SPLM/A-IO[5] and others to bolster a non-existent political will to abide by and implement the R-ARCSS, in our humble view, are capable of persuading both President Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar to step aside now and peacefully from seeking stay in public office. The country and the vast majority of our ordinary people currently living in the refugee camps, the IDPs, and in POCs in Equatoria, Upper Nile, and Bahr el Ghazal have no confidence and trust left in the leadership of the country by these failed SPLM leaders, and call on them to leave and vacate office, and let the people pick up the pieces of the country’s destruction by them.

South Sudan NADAFA, the Alliance, remain profoundly concerned that the principal parties to the R-ARCSS suffer from an endemic deficit of political will and lack a vision for change and transformation of the country. The current overrun in R-ARCSS and missed key implementation benchmarks echo same failures and reservations to implement ARCSS[6] in 2015 under the same SPLM leaders. President Salva Kiir is known to be executing coerced recruitment of Dinka militia into the army in Gogrial against the will and consent of the local Dinka community elders in Bahr el Ghazal who refused forced recruitment of their sons into the army. This recruitment policy, prohibited by R-ARCSS, poses continuing threats to peace and stability in the country with President Salva Kiir still in power. The way forward within grasp of Your Holiness Father is to persuade the incumbent President, including all corrupt SPLM leaders, who are gathering at the Vatican retreat, to leave office and positions of leadership peacefully, in the interest of the country and its people. This is not an unusual demand to make on the Christian and moral authority of your Holiness Father for the people of South Sudan. It is the best option they could be persuaded to exercise, in a selfless sacrifice to the people and the country.

South Sudan NADAFA calls on your Holiness Father to stand up in support of the masses of our ordinary people who look to you to bless their demand for new negotiation to reach a just and sustainable peace in South Sudan without Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, which addresses the root causes of conflict, and one that puts the people and constitution making process first.

There are high expectations placed on the follow-up visit to the Vatican for a retreat in Rome by President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar, in as far as there a likely opportunity for your Holiness Father to persuade them to leave power peacefully now than at any other time. However, we believe that the incumbent President and the visiting team of R-ARCSS signatories, of themselves alone, offer no new hope, other than to detract attention away from the looming crisis of R-ARCSS failure to meet key deadlines and implementation benchmarks in May 2019.

These signatories of the flawed R-ARCSS hope that the retreat, temporarily, deflects attention of the people of South Sudan from ongoing atrocities, murders, and killing on 17th March 2019 of 15 innocent citizens, women and children, and human rights abuses by armed Dinka men who are operating with impunity under Kiir’s Government lately in Kuajino county in Wau Luwo lands.

As things stand your Holiness Father, we reiterate that our country is at a crossroads, R-ARCSS has failed, and IGAD too has consistently failed as an impartial mediator for the conflict in South Sudan, siding with Salva Kiir’s Government while the conflict rages on.

The ordinary people of South Sudan, however, trust in your Holiness Father, and making no prejudgement but believe your Holiness Father will stand with them at this acute crossroads, looking to your moral authority to intervene in the interest of the people, siding with their aspirations for a just and sustainable peace in their country without President Kiir and Riek in power.

South Sudan NADAFA wishes to appeal to your support, Holiness Father, for an alternative new way forward, which we avail to you as a blueprint with this letter to lend it Your Holiness support. In this regard, for your information, South Sudan NADAFA appeals to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Security Council to:

  • Appoint a UN Special Envoy for South Sudan, whose mandate would be to take over the mediation of the conflict from IGAD and to mediate impartially to reach a just and sustainable peace which addresses the root causes of conflict in South Sudan;
  • Provide support for the establishment of an escrow account for South Sudan oil revenues under international supervision mechanisms until a new peace agreement is reached which puts the people and constitution making process first;
  • Further to the recommendation on escrow account on oil revenues, the recent report by the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan has established that oil companies, through Nile Petroleum, contribute to the perpetration of crimes against humanity and war crimes, hence the proceeds from oil sale should be sequestered into the escrow account,
  • Mobilize international support for the new peace process under a UN Envoy, together with Troika countries, international partners forum, and the Vatican.
  • Support constitution making and state-building efforts in South Sudan to encourage cohesion and minimize the risk of state disintegration under the incumbent tribal Jieng Council of Elders tribal and kleptocratic Government

In the event that President Salva Kiir fails to cooperate with the new peace processes, the UN and the international community should impose sanctions and consequences on the tribal regime in Juba, declaring it a pariah state without a legitimate government. The world community, AU and the UN should intervene to assume the responsibility to protect (R2P) the people of South Sudan from atrocious human rights abuses by the illegitimate tribal government in Juba, which to date continues to commit massacres against civilians with impunity, perpetrating crimes against humanity and war crimes.

We have attached South Sudan NADAFA Blueprint, along with a recent article by Dr. Carol Berger, an independent assessment, which describes in substantive details how President Kiir premeditated and planned the current war in South Sudan, hence cannot, therefore, be trusted with ending it. The ordinary people of the Republic of South Sudan thank your Holiness Father for your courage and empathy for them and toward humanity. Trusting in your, Holiness Father, intervention and authority to prevail over the incumbents to leave power peacefully in South Sudan.

Holy Father, please accept assurances of our highest esteem

Dr. Hakim Dario,   [email protected]

Interim Chair, The National Alliance for Democracy And Freedom Action

[1] National Alliance for Democracy And Freedom Action

[2] Revitalized – Agreement for Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan

[3] South Sudan Opposition Alliance

[4] Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – In Government

[5] Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army – In Opposition

[6] Agreement for Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan – 2015

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