The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has told his country’s parliament, in Juba, that he was shocked and shaken when the Pope kissed his feet during a Vatican special retreat for South Sudanese leaders, in April.
“I was shocked and trembled when His Holiness the Pope kissed our feet. It was a blessing and can be a curse if we play games with the lives of our people,” President Kiir told parliament.
Enhancing peace in South Sudan
On Tuesday, President Salva Kiir addressed the 2019 inaugural ceremony of the South Sudan National Legislative Assembly under the theme: “Enhancing peace in the Republic of South Sudan.”
Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban writing in africanews.com quotes President Salva Kiir Mayardit who recounted, to parliament, the unprecedented gesture of Pope Francis kneeling to kiss the feet of South Sudan’s leaders.
Kiir urges Machar to return to Juba
Pope Francis also kissed the feet of four of South Sudan’s previously warring political leaders. They are the Vice President-designates who included Riek Machar himself, James Wani Igga, Taban Deng Gai and Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior -the latter, a widow of the South Sudanese leader, John Garang.
According to africanews.com, South Sudan’s President reiterated, in the speech to parliament, his invitation to South Sudan Opposition leader, Riek Machar, to return to Juba for the transitional unity government to take place.
“I re-extend my invitation to Dr Riek Machar to return home. I have completely forgiven him, and he is no longer my opponent. I call upon all armed opposition to work with our army to continue to open corridors for freedom of movement and open up trade routes,” said President Kiir.
Riek Machar is still in Khartoum and has been reluctant to take up his Vice President position in Juba citing unresolved security concerns. He was to have returned to Juba in May to join a power-sharing government.
President Kiir’ spokesperson told media that other opposition figures were already in Juba, and this should be a sign that similarly Machar’s “security will be taken care of while the government is formed.”
Parliamentary speaker appeals to non-signatories to embrace the peace process
In the meantime, South Sudan’s Catholic Radio network reports that the Speaker of the National Transitional Legislative Assembly, Anthony Lino Makana, has called on other rebel groups who are not signatories to the September peace agreement to respect the ceasefire and embrace the peace process.
With thanks to Vatican News and Paul Samasumo, where this article originally appeared.