Gulu. Clerics from Acholi Sub-region under their umbrella body Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) have said their meeting with top South Sudanese rebel commanders will shape efforts made by other partners to end the conflict in the country.
The meeting, coordinated by the UN Peace Office in Torit and Inter-religious Council of Eastern Equatoria State, was held in a rebel controlled territory in Torit county, Eastern Equatoria State last Friday.
Retired Bishop Nelson Onono Onweng of Northern Uganda, also the ARLPI chairperson, told journalists in Gulu Town on Monday that they asked the rebel commanders to think of the consequences of the war and focus on the children and women who are largely being affected.
“We asked them whether they love their country and why they should be fighting again, we told them what we think would be better to stabilise their country and that would be cessation of hostility,” Bishop Onweng said.
The prelates met the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA/IO) top commanders, including Gen Justine Taban, the Eastern Equatoria State SPLA/IO commander.
They visited the country on invitation of their counterparts, the Interreligious Council of Eastern Equatoria State on a benchmarking meeting themed “Amazing impact of unity of religious leaders.”
Bishop Onweng said they also held meetings with clerics from Eastern Equtoria State headed by Archbishop Bernard Oringa where they shared their experience in resolving wars.
Sheikh Musa Khelil, the Acholi Muslim Khadi, said they urged the rebel commanders to keep their promises.
“We are impressed with declaration made by the rebel leaders not to go back to war again and cause any harm on the civilian population. We believe if they keep up to that promise, the conflict will end and South Sudan will become a better nation,” Sheikh Khelil said.
Other officials on the Acholi team included Mr Francis Lukwiya, the ALRPI programme coordinator and Rev Patrick Lumumba from the Northern Uganda Diocese.
Last year, South Sudan President Salva Kiir signed a peace deal with Dr Riek Machar, the SPLA-IO leader in an attempt to bring an end to the civil war. In April, Pope Francis kissed the feet of the two leaders and implored them to maintain peace that exists between them. Civil unrest broke up in South Sudan in 2013, following tension between forces loyal to President Kiir and Dr Machar.