April 10, 2019 (JUBA) – South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his First Vice President-designate Riek Machar have launched a two-day retreat in the Vatican o discuss the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement and ways to overcome the different hindrances
Following a visit by President Kiir to the Vatican last March, it was announced that he would hold a spiritual retreat in the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church together with four designated Vice Presidents: Riek Macha, James Wani Igga, Taban Deng Gai and Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior.
The South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) is not participating in the meeting as the members of the divided-coalition failed to agree on someone to represent them at the presidency.
The South Sudanese presidency said that Kiir met with the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte before to take part in the retreat. Conte vowed to exhort European leaders to support peace in South Sudan.
The idea to hold the retreat from the 10-11 of April was proposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby who also is taking part in the retreat together with the ecclesiastical authorities of South Sudan.
The Vatican in a statement issued about the retreat said its purpose is to offer an ecumenical and diplomatic occasion for encounter and reconciliation
This event, was organized with the goal of offering “a propitious occasion for reflection and prayer, as well as an occasion for encounter and reconciliation, in a spirit of respect and trust, to those who in this moment have the mission and the responsibility to work for a future of peace and prosperity for the South Sudanese people,” said the Vatican.
The lack of money and the need to negotiate many issues that left unclear in the text of the peace pact delayed the implementation of the pre-transitional arrangements including the reunification of the government and former opposition armies.
SPLM-IO of Riek Machar further accuses some circles in Juba of hampering the implementation of the few pre-transitional arrangements they agreed to enforce during the short time they have, as the transitional period should start in May.
So, the ecclesiastical authorities fear that parties disagree on the way forward, as the incumbent government of President Kiir says the government should be formed as scheduled the SPLM-IO hits to delay it for two or three months pointing out that its leader would not return without the formation of the nucleus unified army and the protection units.
Pope Francis will give a speech at the end of the retreat on Thursday afternoon. President Kiir and Machar are also expected to speak about what they agreed before the Holy Father.
Archbishop John Baptist Odama, Archbishop of Gulu (Uganda), and the Reverend Father Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, S.J., President of the Conference of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar, will provide the preaching during the retreat.