South Sudanese President Salva Kiir will meet Pope Francis in the Vatican City today for talks on South Sudan’s flagging peace agreement.
In December 2013, a civil war was sparked by a power struggle between President Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and Deputy President Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer. The warring parties signed a peace deal last September. However, the deal contains few specifics for disarming and demobilising the 18 rebel groups and addressing the ethnic-based power struggle.
With 1.5 million Sudanese at risk of starvation, the Catholic Church in South Sudan urged Kiir to constructively engage with Machar and other leaders to implement the action of peace obligations, which include an ongoing ceasefire, as required in the peace deal. Concerned that South Sudan is heading towards another violent outbreak, the Church offered to meet with leaders in order to prepare them for engaging in dialogue promoting stability.
Expect Pope Francis to encourage Kiir to focus on strengthening relations with Machar in order to meet the peace deal’s obligations. This may prolong the break-down of the peace deal in the short-term.
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Saira is an analyst in the Current Developments team, where she focuses her research on the Middle East and North Africa region.