A Sudanese archbishop says the international community must back Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement if another war is to be averted in the northeastern African country.
Archbishop Daniel Deng, leader of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, told reporters that failure to fully implement the CPA would likely to result in another war.
"There is fear that the CPA will become another agreement not fulfilled," he said.
"The CPA and the current agreements on referendum and popular consultation law are simply pieces of paper until they are actually implemented on the ground," Deng added.
"Sudanese politicians have lost the trust of the people regarding the honoring of agreements."
The CPA was signed five years ago by government officials in North Sudan and rebel leaders in South Sudan to end more than two decades of civil war.
Under the terms of the 2005 agreement, a government of national unity was to be formed for a transitional period of six years. During this time, the North and South had to iron out their differences or split amicably.
With the end of the six-year period approaching, neither conclusion appears imminent and the upcoming referendum on South Sudan's independence, as well as the approaching multi-party elections – Sudan's first in 24 years – are threatening to break the fragile peace.
In light of the current situation, a number of prominent groups and individuals have stood up to call for urgent international action to save the peace agreement that ended one of Africa's longest and deadliest wars, including ten of the world's most prominent aid agencies.
In a report released last week, the groups – which include Christian Aid, Caritas France, Tearfund and World Vision – said a lethal cocktail of rising violence, chronic poverty and political tensions has left the historic 2005 peace deal on the brink of collapse.
The agencies called on the international community to help mediate between the northern and southern parties before the elections and referendum, to reduce the likelihood of conflict, and to support the government in the south to provide security.
Some, including Save the Children in South Sudan, are also calling upon the people of the world to support relief and development efforts in southern Sudan, which remains one of the poorest regions on earth despite its rich oil reserves.
In his recent remarks, Archbishop Deng reiterated the call for the international community to play a greater role in the peace process, particularly those governments that guaranteed the CPA, among them Britain, Norway and the United States.
He called for their support in ground level monitoring of the CPA and meetings with Sudanese politicians to assess the implementation of the agreement.
The archbishop warned that unless the general elections were seen to be conducted fairly, the South would most likely vote to secede – a move he believes would be blocked by the North.
Deng stressed the Church's position was not separation but unity on the basis of the CPA, which was intended to end the marginalization of people on the peripheries, particularly people in the South and in Sudan's conflict-ridden Darfur region. He warned that without this, southerners would not find unity an attractive option.
"The Church has never talked of separation but the implementation of the CPA," he said. "We need the international community to support a document that has already been agreed. The Church is saying please help us to let these people exercise their rights."
He added: "The Church is looking for a victory of peace. There has been fighting for 22 years and they have not defeated each other. We want a victory of peace so that people can have peace for life."
Particular concern was expressed over the role of China in the conflict. The archbishop said China, a major importer of Sudanese oil, was not interested in bringing peace to the country but only "looking for economic benefit."
Deng was joined by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, who recommended a single high level figure to act as a mediator between the feuding parties and called on China to play a "positive" role in peace efforts.
The archbishops later expressed their concerns in a meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.