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Sufferings of the people of South Sudan

20 November 2015


From Sue Parks

Sir, — It was good that your last issue featured the African Union’s Inquiry into South Sudan (News, 6 November) and highlighted some of its findings. The findings of the report are of events some years ago. Sadly, to imagine that the South Sudanese citizens are presently living in a time of peace is to misjudge the situation severely.

Many of those same violent acts cited in the report are right now being perpetrated within South Sudan, as various rebel groups and the army fight for dominance within this new nation. I write here of just one such region; there are others, too.

Many will know more of the situation than I do. I can only repeat the accounts that I have heard here in Kampala from the Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan (ECS&SS) congregation that meets weekly in Namirembe Cathedral, and with whom I worship.

This congregation comes from the six MINYE dioceses in the Western Equatoria region of South Sudan. They tell of towns flattened by the South Sudanese army (cf. Sudan Tribune, 8 October, for an account of events in Maridi from the Deputy Governor of Equatoria), civilians raped and murdered, and roads cut. Those who can have fled to the bush.

Mundri, too, appears to have suffered badly. Yambio town has emptied, and army gunships are frequently overhead in search of rebels, often causing civilian casualties. There are newspaper reports of numerous villages outside Yambio destroyed.

Needless to say, people are starving. Food is almost unobtainable, and that which is available is prohibitively expensive. The price of rice in Yambio has gone up more than 200 per cent in recent times. Worse is to come, as there is no planting to ensure food for the months ahead. The World Food Programme has been unable to offer any assistance — even in the previous two years during more peaceful times, when places such as Yambio were hosting thousands of displaced people from fighting-affected areas to the east, and struggling to find food for them.

That there are rebel groups on the prowl none deny. Many feel, however, that the South Sudanese army has been somewhat over-zealous in their armed attacks and perpetration of violence in which civilians are also caught up.

The ECS&SS bishops are in the "bush" ministering to their people. Additionally, they are moving between the groups of rebels and the army in an attempt to forestall further attacks on their people and seek a solution to the present impasse. Some are in mobile-phone contact with their people here in Kampala, via which first-hand accounts come.

Sadly, many characterise this as tribal warfare between Dinka and the rest in the name of the state. Whether this is true matters less than that they think it to be the case. Here in Kampala, the clergy who lead the MINYE (Western Equatoria region) congregation and the Dinka congregations are working hard to build harmonious relationships between all the tribal groups represented.

Needless to say, they crave that you add to theirs your prayers for peace and for peacemakers and a solution to the continuing suffering of many in this newest of nations.

Kampala (address supplied)

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