Church leaders await ‘clearance’ to meet armed opposition

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Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe in a mass procession on new year day sunday(Left) Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe of the Roman Catholic Church, Yei diocese. He spoke on behalf of the church leaders.

Church leaders in Yei River State are waiting for clearance from the government before they can meet armed groups in the area to dialogue for peace.
The churches leaders in Yei have formed the Yei Church Leaders Ecumenical Team. The team is led by bishops Erkolano Lodu Tombe of Roman Catholic Church, Hillary Luate of Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan (ECSSS), as well as Bishop Elias Taban of Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).
Bishop Erkolano said they needed a clearance letter to help them move about and avoid disruption of the church team in passing through check points. He said the church cannot allow itself to be used by either side, but remains neutral to do its mandate of bringing peace in the country.
“Clear us because we want to talk to these boys. Why are they fighting? Nobody can tell the church to go and declare peace, it is the mission of the church,” he said.
Obtaining the clearance letter would avoid the church being viewed as “spies” or as having been “bribed” by the other side, church leaders said.
State Governor David Lokonga Moses had earlier declared church and traditional leaders as a neutral party who should find ways of meeting the armed opposition for a peaceful resolution of their grievances.
Meanwhile, State Information Minister Stephen Lado Onesimo said the state government is still waiting for go-ahead from the country’s top authority.
“Yes, indeed there is a process. In our level, when we give you a clearance we will still write up there. But still we need a national recognition,” minister Lado told church and Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) officials in a meeting at Yei Catholic secretariat on Wednesday.
“That clearance letter gives recognition to the group that is going to engage so that when that group brings something which is substantial … then definitely that should be taken seriously with the leadership at the top level,” he said.
Yei River State has been facing insecurity since the outbreak of violence last year July in Juba. Factions loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former first vice Dr. Riek Machar clashed in the country’s capital forcing his deputy into exile.
President Kiir appointed General Taban Deng Gai to replace Machar in the country’s Transitional Government of National Unity, to implement the agreement on the resolution of conflict in South Sudan.

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