Violence in southern Sudan is rife, with many women, children and elderly people among the victims, the new head of the Sudan Council of Churches, the Rev Ramadan Chan Liol, has warned - writes Fredrick Nzwili.
Chan urged those responsible for the violence to cease their actions immediately in the south of the country, where four years ago an accord known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement ended 21 years of civil war.
"The violence is getting serious," Chan, a Baptist minister, told Ecumenical News International in Nairobi this week. "The worse thing is that there are killings of children, women and elderly people."
Chan was elected General Secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches in August 2009. He spoke to ENI three days after about 100 people were killed in Duk, a county in Jonglie state in southern Sudan. The killings were blamed on fighters from the Lou Nuer ethnic group who have clashed with members of the Murle group.
Chan said church leaders in the south believed members of the central government from the north were arming militias in the region.
"They are trained, transported and attached to tribal groups," said Chan, noting that the country's council of churches was planning to work with ethnic groups, government officials and church leaders to identify the killers.
He explained that some political leaders from Sudan's north want to destabilise the southern region so that it will be unable to take part in scheduled April 2010 general elections, as well as in a 2012 referendum. The referendum will determine whether the mainly Christian and animist south would break away from the mainly Arab and Islamic north.
Chan said many in the north thought that the election and referendum will not be in their interests. "It may lead to the secession of the people in southern Sudan, southern Blue Nile and southern Kordofan," said Chan. "The central government is not in favour of secession or something like it. The longer they keep it [the south] the better [for them]."
The southern region of Sudan had enjoyed relative peace following a 2005 accord signed in Nairobi between the northern-based government and the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement. Some analysts say the recent attacks were intended to derail the peace pact.
Separately, the main governing body of the World Council of Churches (WCC), its central committee, at a meeting in Geneva on 2 September appealed to the government of Sudan, "to actively show its commitment to justice and peace by honouring the statements and agreements it has signed."
A WCC resolution "urges African nations and the international community, both individually as well as through organizations such as the African Union, the Arab League and the United Nations, to continue to support the peace process through constructive dialogue with all parties involved in the conflict."
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International 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.]