S. Sudan govt has lost legitimacy: Bishops

JUBA – A group of South Sudanese Catholic bishops has slammed the country's government, saying it had lost legitimacy by failing to bring peace to the young country, which has been gripped by violence for over one year.

"A legitimate government is one which is able to bring peace, development and stability to its people," Paulino Lukudu, archbishop of Juba, said at a Friday press conference flanked by several bishops and other clergymen.

"Any party that continues to fight the war against the innocent citizens of South Sudan has no legitimacy," he added. "Once you are at war amongst yourselves, you have already lost your legitimacy."

South Sudan descended into chaos in mid-December of 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his sacked vice-president, Riek Machar, of attempting to overthrow his government.

The crisis has led to the death of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of two million others, along with a dire humanitarian situation.

The epicenter of the conflict has been in the three states of Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity.

Peace talks being held under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African regional grouping, have yet to produce any breakthroughs.

The archbishop said that, despite steps to consolidate the young nation by the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) between 2005 and 2013, bad leadership had derailed the process.

"We applaud the genuine steps forward made in establishing the new nation. Yet we also saw corruption, nepotism, lack of development, mismanagement of the economy, failure to reform the army, rising tribalism and many other problems," Lukudu said.

"What are our leaders going to do differently from their past track record? And how are they going to do it if they continue fighting?" he asked.

"How will the nation move forward if money is spent on weapons of destruction instead of roads, schools, hospitals and development activities? How will we establish a civilian democracy if the nation remains so militarized?" he wondered.

He added: "We want to believe in our leaders' good intentions and to take them at their word. But so far, none of the agreements made since January 2014 have been respected."

The archbishop urged leaders of the rival wings within the SPLM to adhere to a recently-signed intra-party agreement.

"Legitimacy comes from the people," he asserted, while voicing concern as to whether credible polls could be conducted amid the current crisis.

"We recognize those who want to hold an election in June 2015 to ensure that the country retains legitimate and constitutional governance," he said.

"But we are also aware of many concerns that have been raised as to whether a credible election can really be held at such short notice amid the current insecurity, and whether the obligatory prerequisites – such as a census and the passing of a permanent constitution – can be fulfilled before the election," he added.

South Sudan's official electoral commission had set June 30 as the date for general elections. But the opposition insists that elections cannot be held in the absence of a permanent constitution.

Citing a lack of security, the electoral commission has said that no census will be carried out – as is stipulated by the transitional constitution – and that the polling would be based on voter information used in 2010 general elections.

Lukudu went on to urge all parties to reach consensus on a transitional period "until such time as a new political dispensation is agreed to by all parties."

"The future of the country must not be left in the hands of a single political party," Lukudu said. "All parties, all communities and all citizens should play a part in deciding their future."

Lukudu lamented that South Sudan – once a "God-fearing nation" – had seemingly abandoned religion amid the political crisis.

"South Sudan has always been considered a God fearing-nation, whether Christians, Muslims or followers of traditional religion," he said. "But in this senseless and inhuman war, the nation has abandoned the ways of God."

"This war is about power, not about the good of the people," he asserted. "The aspirations of individuals and factions have led to a cycle of revenge killing."

The archbishop added: "The whole nation, including the leaders and fighters, is exhausted with war and is being worn down by attrition."

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency