THE Archbishop of Sudan and South Sudan, the Dr Daniel Deng, has
called on the Archbishop of Canterbury and the wider Anglican
Communion to pray for the victims of the conflict in South Sudan,
and to lobby their governments to help stop the violence.
In a letter to Archbishop Welby on Monday, Dr Deng said that at
least 500 people had died in the capital, Juba, and hundreds more
elsewhere; and that some 75,000 had fled the town of Bor.
"We, as the Church, are deeply concerned and worried that if the
situation is not contained it will lead into chaos which will be
uncontrollable," Dr Deng wrote. "Also, we are worried that the
fighting may turn into genocide, or ethnic cleansing. The situation
is more desperate, as there is no clean water to drink, little food
to eat, no good sanitation, and a lack of health facilities."
The latest fighting began in December, when rebels loyal tothe
former Vice-President, Riek Machar, reportedly tried to seize power
in Juba. Mr Machar denies attempting a coup. Government forces have
now retaken Juba, but control of Bor, in Jonglei State, has swung
between the army and various rebels. President Salva Kiir is from
the Dinka tribe, while Mr Machar is from the Neur group, and there
are concerns that what began as a political conflict may set one
tribe against another.
In an interview with the BBC on 2 January, the Bishop of Bor,
the Rt Revd Ruben Akurdit Ngong, explained what had happened in the
town. "We heard gunshots, and [saw] the rebels running towards Bor
town. So everyone started fleeing in different directions. The
rebels are advancing, so the civilian population becomes
"You find dead bodies everywhere - you move around closing your
nose. The government and the rebels are not in control: they are
just fighting each other."
Dr Deng told BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme that the
Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan (ECSSS) had been talking
to the government. "I think our President has listened to us," he
said. "It is simply a power struggle, but the other parties want to
use this as a tribal thing. But we deny this has anything to do
with tribes. There is no cause for people to die, because it is a
political issue which can be easily solved. We want the outside
world to pressurise the two parties to bring peace."
On Sunday, the British Government announced that a plane loaded
with water and sanitation equipment from Oxfam had landed in Juba
to help combat the humanitarian crisis. The Department for
International Development had earlier pledged £12.5 million in
The UN estimates that 194,000 people have been forced from their
homes since December. In response to Dr Deng's letter, Archbishop
Welby has written to every Anglican Primate and moderator, warning
that the crisis in South Sudan has reached "breaking point", and
asking for prayer.
The diocese of Salisbury has a 40-year connection with Sudan,
and now South Sudan. The vice-chairman of the diocese's Sudan Link,
the Revd Ian Woodward, said this week that the ECSSS's relief
agency SUDRA was in the process of assessing needs.
"We are obviously very sad about [the conflict]," he said.
"People are taking refuge within the church and cathedral
compounds. We are offering immediate help to the Archbishop
because, in his home compound, hundreds of people have taken
refuge. They need water, food, medicines, and security. It's very
much an emergency response."
Peace talks between the two sides have begun in the Ethiopian
capital Addis Ababa, and the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir,
has flown to Juba to discuss the conflict with Mr Kiir. South Sudan
fought a long civil war with Sudan before finally becoming an
independent nation in 2011. Most of the oilfields, vital for both
nations, ended up in South Sudan after the secession, but rebels
have seized Bentiu, the capital of oil-producing Unity State.
Little progress has been made at the peace talks so far,
however. The South Sudanese Foreign Minister, Barnaba Marial
Benjamin, told the Radio 4 Today programme on Monday: "We
must recognise that this was an attempted coup in order to take
power by removing a democratically chosen government."
Mr Benjamin said that the struggle between Mr Kiir and Mr Machar
was at the heart of the fighting, but, if Mr Machar wanted to rule
South Sudan, he must stand for election, and not seek power through
But he also said: "The process is not about the two leaders, but
the suffering people. First of all, [we need] the cessation of
hostilities, so the displaced populations have peace - it's not
about what jobs these two men do."