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Pope Francis kisses feet of South Sudan leaders in bid for peace

Friday, 12 April, 2019, 11:20
Pope Francis kisses feet of South Sudan leaders in bid for peace

Pope Francis knelt to kiss the feet of South Sudan's previously warring leaders as he urged them to stay on the path to peace.

He appealed to President Salva Kiir, his former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar, and three other vice presidents to respect an armistice they signed and commit to forming a unity government next month.

"I am asking you as a brother to stay in peace. I am asking you with my heart, let us go forward. There will be many problems but they will not overcome us. Resolve your problems," Francis said in improvised remarks.

Guardian touched upon the situation in Sudan after the military coup.

As rumours spread that their long-time ruler was finally on his way out, the atmosphere on the streets of Khartoum was victorious.

“The regime has fallen,” people chanted. Flags waved, people danced and sang, and everyone’s hands were up in victory signs. “Freedom, peace and justice,” read one banner. On Wednesday morning, it seemed that the long-fought battle for these values might be on the point of being won.

But when the army’s announcement came, stating that President Omar al-Bashir was to be replaced by a military council that would govern for two years, the mood shifted. This, protesters who have risked their lives said, was not the democratic outcome they sought.

“We are waiting for a statement by the army. We will only accept a transitional civilian government composed of the forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change. No other plan will be acceptable,” wrote Alaa Salah, the 22-year-old architecture student who became a symbol of the revolution when an image of her giving a speech to a crowd of demonstrators, dressed in traditional white toub, went viral.

When defence minister and first vice-president Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf said that a military council would take over, Salah followed with another statement: “The people do not want a transitional military council. Change will not happen with Bashir’s entire regime hoodwinking Sudanese civilians through a military coup. We want a civilian council to head the transition.”