ETHIOPIA (August 9, 2018) – Mathew Jock Moses, president of the Evangelical Covenant Church of South Sudan and Ethiopia, said he is cautiously optimistic about a new peace agreement to settle the nearly five-year-old civil war that has killed tens of thousands and driven millions of people from their homes in South Sudan.
The agreement among warring parties was reached on Monday in Khartoum, Sudan, calls for power-sharing. Salva Kiir will remain president. Former vice president and rebel leader Riek Machar will serve as one of five vice presidents.
There have been several previous agreements, but they were broken within months and hours of signing. Earlier this week, Machar returned from South Africa, where he had been held on house arrest. Today, Kiir granted amnesty to Machar and other opposition forces.
Mathew said that despite the positive signs, there is reason to be wary as well as hopeful.
“The President is known for violating many peace accords and there is no permanent truth on him to respect and commit to his words though he pledged to honor it,” Mathew wrote in an email. “However, the people of South Sudan in all corners are desperate to get peace NOW rather than later due to overwhelming sufferings which challenge the people of South Sudan in all corners.”
During the civil war, the ECCSSE, which had set up its offices in Malakal, South Sudan, was forced to flee to Ethiopia. Members of the church, including relatives of Mathew and Covenant missionary James Tang, have been among those killed.
The bloody civil war erupted in December 2013 after Kiir accused Machar of plotting to overthrow the government. The conflict has fallen largely along ethnic lines. Kiir is Dinka, and Machar is Nuer. Most members of the ECCSSE are Nuer.
With assistance from Covenant World Relief, The ECCSSE has implemented training programs called Peace Reconciliation and Healing. So far, more than 4,000 South Sudanese from more than 20 tribes have been trained to be ambassadors for peace. The church also has implemented job training programs, helped feed other refugees, and provided schooling as well as assistance for people with disabilities. See “Grace in a Time of Bloodshed” for more on Mathew and the work of the ECCSSE
Mathew thanked Covenanters for the support they have received “in the midst of the agony.”
South Sudan won its independence from Sudan in 2011, but the civil war has ravaged the economy of the country, already one of the world’s poorest.