Ahead of an important visit to the U.K., a Sudanese bishop has said he will “ring the alarm bell” regarding the situation in his country. Opportunities to prepare for the upcoming secession referendum are dwindling and there are concerns that violence will return to the ravaged land if the election does not go well.
Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala will visit London, Edinburgh and Glasgow later this month, just three months before Sudan’s referendum on the possible secession of South Sudan. The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is organizing key elements of his visit.
In a statement to ACN, Bishop Hiiboro said South Sudan faces the threat of renewed violence amid signs of a breakdown in preparations for the early January elections.
“I am coming to the great nation of the U.K. to ring the alarm bell regarding the situation in the Sudan,” commented the bishop, whose southern Diocese of Tombura-Yambio borders the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Amid reports that the Uganda-based rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are terrorizing his diocese, Bishop Hiiboro said there is a “real and imminent threat” to the security of the people of Sudan and of the whole region.
He voiced concerns that the referendum could cause a disaster.
“If it goes well, the referendum will bring peace to a country which has suffered almost five decades of brutal civil war … but if not then Sudan will descend into violence and instability which will affect the whole region,” he told ACN.
The guarantors of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), especially the U.K., the EU, the U.S. and the U.N., need to show a “renewed political will and commitment” to engage the country throughout the coming years of transition, he said.
He and other bishops have often warned of Sudanese politicians’ lack of commitment to agreed pre-referendum guidelines. Concerns involve voter registration, involvement of diverse political factions and raising voter awareness.
“Opportunities to encourage success or prepare adequately for failure are rapidly dwindling. There is no time to waste,” Bishop Hiiboro emphasized.
According to ACN, there are fears that some political factions are preparing for war rather than work towards a long-term peace accord. The Sudanese civil war killed more than 2.5 million people.
The bishop repeated to ACN the fears of his fellow Christians that a united Sudan under the Khartoum-based Islamist regime would return the country to intimidation and persecution of non-Muslims.
“We have been witnesses of acts of unimaginable violence and contempt for mankind,” he commented. “How can we talk about a peaceful referendum without recalling with concern the persistent persecution of Christians which the Sudan has experienced? Have not the brutal facts not crushed any commitment to voting for a united Sudan?”
During his visit to the U.K. and to continental Europe, the bishop is expected to outline his concerns to a number of Catholic charities, government officials and Church leaders.
The bishop will keynote ACN’s annual Westminster Event on Oct. 16 after presiding at the 10:30 a.m. Mass in Westminster Cathedral.
More information on his visit is available at the website http://www.acnuk.org/events