South Sudan president Salva Kiir says he was shocked and shaken when the Pope kissed his feet during a visit to the Vatican for a special retreat in April.
Pope Francis kissed the feet of Kiir, his main opponent Riek Machar, Rebecca Garang, wife of former leader John Garang and Taban Deng Gai, Kii’s first vice president.
All four of them looked visibly shocked by the gesture as the Pope knelt down to kiss their feet in turns. In his first reaction since the incident, Kiir said it could signal one of two consequences: a blessing or a curse.
I was shocked and trembled when His Holiness The Pope kissed our feet. It was a blessing and can be a curse if we play games with the lives of our people.
“I was shocked and trembled when His Holiness The Pope kissed our feet. It was a blessing and can be a curse if we play games with the lives of our people,” he said during the opening of the country’s parliament on Tuesday.
He also reiterated his peace stance and extended another invitation to Machar to return to Juba for efforts to establish a transitional government to take place.
“I re-extend my invitation to Dr. Riek Machar to return home. I have completely forgiven him and he is no longer my opponent. I call upon all armed opposition to work with our army to continue to open corridors for freedom of movement and open up trade routes.
On neighbouring Sudan, he said: “It is important to remind international and regional actors not to interfere in Sudan. The people of Sudan are perfectly capable of managing their own affairs. Let us prove the world wrong.
“We are not war mongers, we are peace loving people and we are a proud and dignified nation,” he is quoted to have said. Neighboring Sudan continues in a state of political flux since Omar Al-Bashir was ousted on April 11.
Transition deadlock between the junta and protest leaders is reportedly making headway. Protests have meanwhile broken out in the second city of Omdurman, reports said on Tuesday.