A bishop from one of Sudan’s worst trouble spots has called for the international community to prevent the region from “descending into violence.”
Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala’s comments come barely three months ahead of Sudan’s all-important referendum on possible secession of South Sudan to form a separate country in its own right.
In a statement to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Hiiboro described how South Sudan is under threat of renewed violence amid signs of a breakdown in preparations for the vote, due in early January.
The Bishop of Tombura-Yambio, on South Sudan’s border with the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, wrote that he would like to “ring the alarm bell regarding the situation in the Sudan.”
Writing amid reports of his diocese being terrorized by Uganda-based rebels the Lord’s Resistance Army, the bishop added: “There is a real and imminent threat to the security of the people of Sudan and indeed the whole region.”
Bishop Hiiboro outlined concerns that the referendum may prompt disaster.
He stressed that as ‘guarantors’ of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended Sudan’s 20-year civil war, the international community was duty-bound to intervene to prevent renewed violence.
The bishop wrote: “If it goes well, the referendum will bring peace to a country which has suffered almost five decades of brutal civil war… but if not then Sudan will descend into violence and instability which will affect the whole region.”
He added: “The CPA guarantors – especially the UK, EU, USA, UN and the whole international community – need to demonstrate a renewed political will and commitment to enhance their engagement not just until the referendum but throughout the coming months and years of transition.”
Bishop Hiiboro and other bishops have repeatedly warned of Sudanese politicians’ lack of commitment to agreed CPA pre-referendum guidelines – especially voter registration, involvement of diverse political factions and groups and raising awareness among the people about the vote and its implications.
It comes amid fears that, rather than working towards a long-term peace accord, some political groups and factions are preparing for war, thereby risking a return to the civil war that killed more than 2.5 million people.
Bishop Hiiboro writes: “Opportunities to encourage success or prepare adequately for failure are rapidly dwindling. There is no time to waste.”
The bishop is expected to spell out his concerns to a number of Catholic charities, government officials and Church leaders in the months ahead.
In his message to ACN, Bishop Hiiboro also re-iterated long-held fears of his fellow Christians that a continuation of a united Sudan – with continuing political direction from President Omar al Bashir’s Khartoum-based Islamist regime – would herald a return to intimidation and persecution of non-Muslims.
He wrote: “We have been witnesses of acts of unimaginable violence and contempt for mankind.”
“How can we talk about a peaceful referendum without recalling with concern the persistent persecution of Christians which the Sudan has experienced? Have not the brutal facts not crushed any commitment to voting for a united Sudan.”
The bishop went on to praise the benefactors of Catholic charities, including Aid to the Church in Need, saying he would like thank “Aid to the Church in Need and all her kind benefactors for the enormous support you have ever offered to the suffering masses of the Sudan. “
“Thank you and God bless each and every one of you.”