A SPECIAL PAPAL PLEA FOR PEACE
Pope Francis in a dramatic gesture went down on his knees and kissed the feet of President Silva Kiir and of Dr Riek Machar and implored the two leaders to maintain the tenuous peace existing between them. The two leaders had visited Vatican for a two day ecumenical retreat after being invited by the pope.
The fact that President Silva Kiir and his former Deputy had at least agreed to go and meet the Pope in Vatican is a hopeful signal that the two leaders are keen on peace. It takes even a deeper angle especially now that Bashir is out of power. Presidents Bashir together with Museveni were the guarantors to the South Sudan Peace deal.
What is worrisome though is that the differences between the Dinka (Presidents Kiir Tribe) and Riek Machar’s Nuer are so deep that it is unlikely that permanent peace is possible between the two communities.
Keen observers reckon that with the fall of President Bashir, Dr. Riek Machar’s options are limited as he received tacit support from Bashir to prosecute the war, support which is now likely to dry up. Earlier on in South Sudan’s History, Riek Machar was perennially opposed to Dr John Garan’g and was blamed for the elongation of the war.
The Popes surprise action notwithstanding, Religion and humility have never been strong hallmarks of power plays at the strategic level. The action by the Pope was understandably a big surprise and hopefully will jolt their consciences not to prosecute war for least for a while