Southern Sudnese church leaders urge secession

By staff writers
12 Jan 2007

Two years after the signing of a peace agreement to end a 21-year-long civil war in Sudan, some church leaders in south Sudan are urging eventual secession for their region, saying Khartoum has failed to make unity attractive - writes Fredrick Nzwili for Ecumenical News International.

"The north was supposed to make unity attractive through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), but this has not happened. I can confirm that we [the south] will become autonomous," the Rev. Santino Maurino, deputy general secretary of the Sudan Catholic Bishop's Regional Conference told ENI on 10 January 2007.

He continued: "We've been suffering. We did not go to war for nothing. We want to be autonomous to shape our development and progress."

Signed on 9 January 2005 between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), the CPA ended one of Africa's longest and bloodiest conflicts, which pitted the mainly Christian and animist south against the Muslim north.

The agreement gave south Sudan a six-year period of administrative autonomy, after which the population can decide in a referendum about secession.

Salva Kiir, the president of south Sudan, clashed publicly with the Sudan's President Omar Bashir during the second anniversary on 9 January of the CPA in Juba, south Sudan's biggest town. Kiir accused the central government of backing rebel groups in the south to frustrate the implementation of the agreement.

"We agree with Kiir. But there are also all kinds of problems, tribalism, nepotism, corruption and others which we cannot ignore," said Maurino.

On 8 January 2006, Christian Aid, the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam and the International Save the Children Alliance said in a statement that the CPA implementation had slipped heavily behind schedule, with international attention focused on a separate conflict in the Darfur region in western Sudan.

"The slow progress in implementing the agreement is extremely worrying. If there isn't active support for the peace process, there's a risk of renewed fighting," said Patty Swahn, the International Rescue Committee's regional director for the Horn of Africa.

[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International (www.eni.ch) is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

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