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Be mindful of Vatican agreement, Archbishop Odama tells South Sudan leaders

Archbishop of Gulu Archdiocese, His Grace John Baptist Odama celebrating the mass UMU Silver Jubilee Celebration recently. His Grace John Baptist Odama has urged South Sudan leaders to stick to pledges they made recently while meeting the Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome. (PHOTO/File)

GULU – The Archbishop of Gulu Archdiocese, John Baptist Odama, has asked South Sudan leaders to stick to pledges they made recently while meeting the Pope at the Vatican in Rome.

In an interview at the weekend, Archbishop Odama said the political atmosphere in South Sudan is not yet stable something that still undermines the resolution and commitments they made at the ‘Peace retreat’ at the Vatican that they would seek an urgent peaceful solution to its crisis.

Last week, President Salva Kiir warned that any attempt to forcibly seize power in the country would be met with “violent resistance”, as calls for his ouster spread on social media.

However, Bishop Odama who was also a facilitator at the Vatican retreat said leaders of South Sudan should remember what the Pope did to them and follow promises they made at the Vatican.

“The retreat brought unity, reconciliation and spirit of promoting peace in South Sudan among them, a spirit they must build stronger. The Pope kissed each of their feet and spoke exclusively with them, meaning they have got to remind themselves of the need to promote peace,” Archbishop Odama said.

Pope Francis, seated beside Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, listens to Jesuit Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar, April 11, 2019, at the conclusion of a two-day retreat at the Vatican for the political leaders of South Sudan. (PHOTO/Agencies)

Where God is the leader, the people will always be successful and that is exactly what these leaders of South Sudan promised to the Pope that they would put into practice those messages in their country, Odama said.

“They have to put what they experienced in the Vatican into practice. Please live in peace, be united, love one another and pray so that God gives peace to South Sudan,” he added.

In April, top religious and political leaders among who were President Kiir, Dr Riek Machar, Mr Deng Taban and Ms Rebecca Nyadeng met at the Vatican, Rome and held a ‘peace retreat’ that was moderated by Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury and facilitated by Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu Archdioceses

At the end of the retreat, Pope Francis kissed each of their feet of the four political leaders of South Sudan to symbolize that each of them loves and serves one another, unite to bring peace in South Sudan as well as lead them in the way of prosperity over war, according to Archbishop Odama.

Pope Francis meets South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir in March 2019. (PHOTO/Agencies)

Last month, President Kiir told opposition leader, Dr. Machar, to return home “urgently” to help form a government of national unity stating that his failure would destroy any hope for peace in the war-torn country.

A peace deal signed by the parties of the country’s six-year-old conflict calls for the formation of a government of national unity on May 12th.

However, Dr Machar a signatory of the agreement who is said to be in Khartoum had earlier on asked for a delay of six months, saying it was not safe for him to return to Juba.

Dr Machar fled Juba in 2016 under fire from Kiir’s troops after a previous peace deal fell apart, prompting clashes between the forces loyal to both of them.

South Sudan is the world’s youngest country, gaining its independence from Sudan in 2011 after 22 years of conflict.

President Kiir and Dr Machar were allies in the struggle for statehood, but their subsequent rivalry turned into war from December 2013 leaving over 380,000 people dead and forcing a third of the country’s population to flee their homes.

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