May 25, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – Religious leaders currently taking part in ongoing peace talks between South Sudan’s government and an armed opposition faction of the ruling (SPLM) led by former vice-president Riek Machar have expressed disappointment over comments by the country’s information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, in which he allegedly labelled clerics as “rebels”.
- South Sudanese president Salva Kiir (L) and rebel leader Riek Machar (R) hold the hands of two clergymen during the opening prayer of the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement on 9 May 2014, in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa (Photo: AFP/Zacharias Abubeker)
Various media outlets last week quoted minister Lueth as saying that the religious leaders taking part as mediators at the peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia were always siding with the views presented by the rebel group during their consultations with them and that the two Christian leaders were “behaving like rebels.”
Lueth made these remarks after his return to the capital, Juba from Addis Ababa. However, although he never mentioned names of the two spiritual leaders accused of taking sides with rebels, Sudan Tribune understands that Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan is one of the clerics involved in the talks.
Archbishop Bul, like minister Lueth, hails from the greater Bor county of Jonglei state. He led a prayer in which held the hands of president Salva Kiir and opposition leader Machar during the signing of a road map agreement on 9 May in Addis Ababa.
However, a spiritual leader currently in the Ethiopian capital, said the religious leaders were disappointed by the minister’s remarks, denying they had joined the opposition.
“We are disappointed by these unfounded remarks. We have not joined either side in the conflict. However, as humans and citizens of this country and in the course of bridging the gaps between the parties we have the obligation to express what we think is right to bring back peace to this beloved country of ours,” said the spiritual leader on condition of anonymity.
The rebels are demanding restructuring of the state on the basis of a new peace agreement and a federal constitution.
The two parties to the conflict agreed in the 9 May agreement to involve various South Sudanese stakeholders in the negotiations in order to find a lasting political settlement to the five-month old violent conflict, which has left tens of thousands of people dead and over a million more displaced internally and into neighbouring nations.