The general secretary of the World Council of Churches has pleaded for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for Sudan so that Africa’s biggest country can achieve stability.

The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit said he understands from visits to the country, made before the signing of the pact in 2005, how Sudan desperately needs the peace agreement that ended a decades-long civil war.

“For me, this peace agreement is such a costly gift and such an opportunity that should not be lost,” Tveit told ENInews in an interview on Sept. 21 at the beginning of a seven-day visit to Kenya and Ethiopia.

On Jan. 9, 2011, Sudan is scheduled to hold referenda in southern Sudan and the oil-rich Abyei border region between north and south Sudan. The result could see people from the south, where Christianity and traditional religions predominate, hive off from the north, where most people are Arabs, and Islam is dominant.

The Abyei region will be choosing whether to join the north or south of the existing country.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army and the government in Khartoum signed their 2005 peace agreement in Kenya to end a 21-years-long civil war that had killed nearly two million people, mainly in the south.

Tveit, a Norwegian Lutheran, told ENInews, “We [churches] have to realize that in agreements like this, not everything is straightforward, but we have to ‘keep the train on the track’ …. In the long run, that is what matters."

Tveit’s predecessor at the WCC, the Rev. Samuel Kobia, who has been appointed special ecumenical envoy to Sudan, has said he is deeply concerned that whatever the outcome of the Sudan referendum process is, it will be contested. Kobia believes that mechanisms to resolve any conflicts stemming from the referendum should be agreed to and put in place quickly.

“The lack of trust between the parties may lead to accusations of rigging. Any doubts in the south about the credibility of the referendum outcome could herald a return to war,” Kobia warned in a statement issued on Sept. 27.