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Church leaders in South Sudan plead with armed groups, after bishop is kidnapped

09 June 2023

Diocese of Morobo

The Bishop of Morobo, the Rt Revd Amosa Data Elinoma

The Bishop of Morobo, the Rt Revd Amosa Data Elinoma

THE kidnapping of a South Sudanese bishop has prompted Anglican leaders to plead with armed groups to come to the negotiating table.

The Bishop of Morobo, the Rt Revd Amosa Data Elinoma, was ambushed by an armed gang on Monday morning. Both he and his driver were kidnapped and were released a short while later, the Anglican Communion News Service reported. Local government sources have attributed the attack to members of an anti-government militia group, the National Salvation Front (NAS).

In a statement, the Morobo County Commissioner, Moses Soro, said that Bishop Amosa had been travelling by car between Bazi and Morobo when the vehicle was stopped by a soldier. The Bishop thought that the soldier was a member of the armed forces, but five armed men came out of the bush, and ordered the Bishop and the driver to leave their vehicle.

The attackers had said: “Bishop, we need to do for you something that you will not forget in your life, and we wanted to burn your car because you are the supporter of the government.” The Bishop’s car was purchased only two months ago with donations from three funders whom the secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, the Rt Revd Anthony Poggo, had put in touch with Bishop Amosa.

The Bishop of Lainya, the Most Revd Paul Yugusuk, Archbishop of the Internal Province of Central Equatoria, which includes the diocese of Morobo, said that the Bishop’s and his driver’s bags were looted. The car was burned.

“We appeal to the leadership of National Salvation Army to instruct their soldiers to stop harassing servants of God and civilians,” Archbishop Yugusuk said. “We passionately call on all armed groups in South Sudan to give peace a chance by utilising mediation and other forms of negotiations to settle political disputes.”

The Archbishop of South Sudan, the Most Revd Justin Badi Arama, called on all those who had taken up arms “to end the cycle of violence and negotiate peace” — a plea echoed by Bishop Poggo, formerly the Bishop of Kajo-Keji, in South Sudan, who urged “all those who have taken up arms [to] come to the negotiating table”.

South Sudan is currently governed by a transitional government, charged with implementing a peace agreement signed in 2018 in the wake of a bloody civil conflict (“the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan”, Comment, 9 July 2021). The deadline for implementation was extended by two years in 2022, pushing back promised elections: the nation’s first in its history. A new constitution has yet to be drafted.

In March, Nicholas Haysom, head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, warned of the urgent need to strengthen the country’s Necessary Unified Forces and tackle inter-communal violence, one of the main causes of displacement and food insecurity, alongside climate change. It has been estimated that 76 per cent of the country is likely to require aid in 2023.

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