South Sudan’s Catholic Church warned Thursday that a six-month-old deal to quell the country’s brutal war was falling apart and that all sides were gearing for fresh fighting.
“While the level of the conflict has reduced, the cessation of hostilities agreement is not holding,” Archbishop Paulino Lukudu said in a powerful statement endorsed by bishops after talks in the capital Juba.
“All the parties are involved either in active fighting or preparations for war.”
The war began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.
A conflict erupted that split the country along ethnic lines. Nearly 400,000 people are estimated to have died and millions have fled their homes, many of them pushed to the brink of starvation.
“The value of human life and dignity is forgotten as human rights abuses continue with impunity, including murder, rape, widespread sexual violence, looting and the occupation of civilian land and property,” Lukudu declared.
Critics of the September 2018 deal say the accord is largely a repeat of a previous failed agreement — but this time without major international funding to support it.
That deal fell apart in 2016 with Machar fleeing the capital on foot chased by tanks and helicopter gunships, and the carnage that followed sparked warnings of possible genocide.
Church leaders have a powerful voice in South Sudan, traditionally playing a key role in bringing warring sides together.