South Sudan President Salva Kiir last Sunday cancelled without prior notice a planned church service for peace and reconciliation over security concerns.

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South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir shares a moment with archbishop Danie Deng Bul (Photo: Moses Lomoyat)

The administration of Emanuel Church in Juba had planned that President Kiir, a number of government officials and prominent community and religious leaders would deliver peace messages to the congregation.

Despite preparations having been completed Kiir later failed to attend the service. It was not immediately clear what caused the change of mind without prior explanation from his office.

However, Sudan Tribune learnt that the President cancelled his participation in the mess after reports that a group of aggrieved victims of recent communal feuds in Jonglei had planned to stage a protest.

Emanuel Church, located in Hai cinema in Juba town, is an Episcopal Church whose congregation is predominantly members of ethnic Dinka Bor, some of whom have seen their areas brought down to ashes, when communal and political conflicts occur, resulting in Bor town and villages changing hands between fighters. The impact of conflicts caused anger and bitterness among family members of the victims.

In May 2016, a politically oriented, influenced and self-selected group caused a commotion in the same Church after Riek Machar, then first vice president in unity government had left after responding to the invitation to deliver a message about peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and how citizens can live harmoniously together.

One of the religious pastors who were in contact with the office of the president to make preparations for the reception told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday they were surprised the president decided to cancel the plan without prior notification not only to the church administration but also other government officials were expected the attendance and had to attend to listen to the message he would deliver.

“If you had come to the church on Sunday, you would have seen for yourself. The church was full to the brim because many people, especially government ministers came. I don’t know the motive for those ministers who used not to attend but I believe they came to listen to the message the president was going to deliver. When we contacted the office of the president, they said received information that there were people planning to sabotage the message of the president and it was cancelled on the advice of the security information,” said the pastor who did not want to be identified.