The Good, the Bad and the Dreadful
It has been a troubled time in South Sudan since violence erupted in Juba, the capital, on December 15th last year. Order was quickly restored in Juba but not before the violent genie fled the lamp of the capital and initiated death and destruction in some parts of the country. It is a very sad and scarcely imaginable ‘unfairy tale’ that has struck South Sudan.
There have been troubled times in the past but this is by far the worst development since the years of war ended in early 2005. This time there is no ‘enemy’ to fight but South Sudanese have created enemies as South Sudanese have fought against other South Sudanese. All are losers: there can be no winner. Tens of thousands of deaths, looting and destruction have been bad enough but the attacking of vulnerable civilians taking refuge in Churches and UN bases and the deliberate slaughter of innocent people seeking medical assistance in hospital has simply been dreadful. Wide divisions have been opened up, largely along ethnic lines, as former friends have been forced into enmity by the self-interested actions of some of the leaders. Unfortunately, as I heard one Bishop lament, ‘In this country, some place more value on cows than on people!’
Most of our Solidarity members have stayed right through the conflict. Those who were on leave over Christmas have returned. In teacher training we have just completed in-service programmes over three year levels in Rumbek where the attendance, in spite of the conflict, was almost 100 per cent. In Yambio, where students attend from all over South Sudan, a few students were unable to travel from the safety of their home places but attendance was more than 85 per cent of those expected. The 170 teacher trainees are hardy people, poorly paid but greatly appreciative of opportunities presented to them. Pre-service training begins in Yambio next week and we have had more applicants than there are places available.
In our Catholic Health Training Institute in Wau, there is a record enrolment of 99 students who are training to become registered nurses or mid-wives. Again there were many more applicants than we could accept. With deliberate affirmative action, we have managed to increase the number of women participants to 40. On my recent visit, I found it simply delightful to witness the emerging confidence and self-belief of students I had taught two years ago in a Foundation English programme when they were first enrolled. Some of our CHTI graduates have already returned to troubled parts of the country to help and heal those in need. The great good is that the students learn to respect each other and work together, no matter what their tribe or gender.
Unfortunately, in Malakal, a town devastated by rebel attacks, we cannot deliver programmes at present. The town is empty of civilians. Our damaged buildings can be repaired but the deep wounds of the innocent people who have suffered pointless violence forced upon them, when they return, will take a long time to heal. Senseless waste and destruction has occurred and some donors may feel duped that the resources they provided have been wasted. There is no doubt this conflict has been a great set-back economically and in terms of development. At present, all pastoral activity has been suspended by the Apostolic Administrator of that diocese but we remain ready to return as soon as it is safe to do so. Our pastoral team are planning to deliver a workshop on trauma healing for the priests and religious of that diocese
What we wish for is a healing genie to take away the dreadful anguish and pain of this suffering people. If only we could rub a lamp and return the whole country to hopeful times. There is no lamp to rub but we know our return will bring the people confidence and the hope that some day they may enjoy some of the goods many people in the rest of the world simply take for granted.
– Br Bill
South Sudan’s government sait it submitted a proposal to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to deploy 10 battalions from Burundi and Rwanda to protect its capital, Juba, and the oilfields against attacks bby reberl groups.
Ateny Wek Ateny, the press secretary to South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir, announced the gradual withdrawal of the Ugandan troops from South Sudan’s territory towards Western Equatoria to continue its mission in fighting the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
New clashes between army members have taken place on March 5, recently caused by discontent about salary payment.
A meeting was called by the Apostolic Administrator of Malakal Diocese, Monsignor Roko Taban Musa, to discuss the future of his diocese that covers the three states of Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity, the most affected by the current crisis.
The extension of human suffering and destruction in those areas is huge; for now it is impossible to resume any pastoral ministry due to high insecurity, Monsignor Roko said. So he declared a suspension of the activities in the diocese for a period of three months.
More news from South Sudan;