March 6, 2017 (JUBA) - The Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Juba, Reverend Santo Laku Pio has urged South Sudan President Salva Kiir to ensure the national dialogue initiative extends amnesty to political prisoners and those convicted for various offenses, including the ones incarcerated without due processes of the law being followed.
- Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Juba, Reverend Santo Laku Pio (ST Photo)
Speaking during a sermon held at St. Joseph Cathedral in Juba in Sunday, Rev. Laku challenged President Kiir to show his genuine calls for forgiveness, peace and reconciliation ahead of national prayers on 10 March.
“For the last four years since 2013, people of South Sudan have undergone untold suffering because of the conflict. Now that President Kiir is calling for forgiveness from the people, let him demonstrate his sincerity, first by forgiving all political prisoners currently imprisoned or being held at various security detention facilities across the Republic of South Sudan”, said the Bishop.
The cleric wondered why the South Sudanese leader was pushing for forgiveness without first forgiving people who have been in detention for several decades.
He advised President Kiir to exercise his powers enshrined in the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan and forgive people who are still suffering in prison.
Similar amnesty, further stressed the Bishop, should be extended to all prisoners and not just those who took up arms resistance against the Juba government.
“The war must be stopped immediately and freedoms of speech, expression and assembly as enshrined in our constitution must also be guaranteed so that people are able to sit down and initiate the national dialogue, forgiveness and healing”, he emphasized.
In an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) last week, Bishop Laku openly criticized President Kiir’s calls for forgiveness ahead of national prayers, describing it as a “political gimmick” to blindfold the international community.
He vowed not to attend the prayers since the people of South Sudan are not in their homes because of fighting between the government and rebels forces.
Last year, South Sudan’s Vice President, James Wani Igga uring said President Kiir was considering amnesty for inmates convicted of various crimes in the country.
The amnesty, Igga reportedly said, would cover those unlawfully convicted, those who may have committed crimes without knowing and the ones brought to prison by some powerful forces, yet they may not have committed any crime.
But despite the optimism generated, what Igga hinted on never came to pass.
Meanwhile, the civil society task force also called on President Kiir to release political prisoners currently being held by various security organs as a good gesture for consolidating peace and stability in the world’s youngest nation.
Rajab Mohandas, a member of the taskforce, said the South Sudan leader should also guarantee safety and freedom of all the people who are going to participate in the national dialogue expected to be launched this month.
The national dialogue agenda should include national vision, identity and unity, economic reforms, historical grievances among communities, distribution of natural resources and system of governance,” Mohandas told reporters in Juba.
He further stressed that the national dialogue should be inclusive and open to allow the full participation of all the people living in and outside the young nation.