Pope Francis on Thursday last week knelt in front of political leaders of South Sudan and kissed their boots. “I express my heartfelt hope that hostilities will finally cease, that the armistice will be respected, that political and ethnic divisions will be surmounted, and that there will be a lasting peace for the common good of all those citizens who dream of beginning to build the nation,” the Pope later said.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011, ending Africa’s longest-running civil war. But that did not bring peace in the new nation. In 2012, South Sudan and Sudan fought over the control of an oil-rich region, until an agreement was signed six months later. But later, South Sudan fought among itself, after President Salva Kiir sacked the cabinet and accused Vice-President Riek Machar of planning a failed coup. That civil war has displaced over 2 million people and killed thousands. A ceasefire was declared in June 2018, but a UN report says “hostilities have persisted“.
In Sudan, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was ousted by the nation’s military on Thursday, after nearly four months of protest, dozens of deaths at the hands of the security forces and endless chants of “revolution!”. al-Bashir had ruled the impoverished nation for 30 years and is wanted by the International Criminal Court for playing “an essential role” in a genocidal purge in Darfur.
Yet, the protesters did not get the revolution they were hoping for, as Lt. Gen. Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, the defence minister, took charge. He announced the new terms: Political prisoners will be released, but Sudan will undergo a two-year “transition” under the military, during which the Constitution will be suspended. There are similarities to this in Algeria, where President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had to resign after 20 years in view of protest earlier this month, only to be succeeded by interim leader Abdelkader Bensalah, the upper house speaker.