Stop the guerrilla fighters
Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro of South Sudan: “Each day that goes by without a solution to the LRA problem is another day of terror and pain”
By John Pontifex
CALLS for a fresh drive to stop a guerrilla commander terrorising South Sudan have come from a senior bishop who fears renewed violence may derail progress in a region preparing for independence.
Reporting on an upsurge of violence by the Lords Resistance Army in Sudan’s far south-west, Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio has issued an open letter pleading for renewed political pressure to bring LRA leader Joseph Kony to the negotiating table.
And in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Hiiboro said the threat of worse violence could drag neighbouring regions into the conflict, with devastating consequences for the fledgling government of what looks set to become Africa’s youngest country.
The LRA, notorious for the brutality of its crimes, has carried out a spate of killings and abductions in recent weeks, including the murder of a 37-year-old nun.
Bishop Hiiboro fears the violence could worsen as the LRA takes advantage of people’s increased vulnerability as they go out to cultivate their fields during the approaching rainy season.
He wrote: “The LRA problem in our communities will not be solved until Joseph Kony and the other senior leaders are made to leave the forest.”
The bishop also declares: “Each day that goes by without a solution to the problem of the LRA is another day of terror and pain for those of us living under constant threat of renewed attacks.”
Speaking to ACN yesterday (Monday, 7th Feb), he said: “The threat of violence widening could stress any new government in South Sudan, ruining the resources of a young nation as it fights to protect its citizens and prevent others from being drawn into the struggle.”
(Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio, South Sudan)
Bishop Hiiboro underlined the impact of renewed violence thus far, adding: “Many of our children are still in the hands of the LRA. We do not know if they are alive or dead. Those who have managed to escape the LRA bear the physical and mental scars of what they have suffered and will never be the same again.”
The bishop stressed the fear sparked by renewed LRA activity including the killing of Sr Angelina, from the local St Augustine Institute, who was killed on 17th January.
She was ambushed while travelling in Dungo diocese, in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo where she was providing medical help to refugees from South Sudan.
Bishop Hiiboro said that from 22nd to 25th December nine people died and seven were wounded in LRA attacks in Maridi, Ibba and Yambio counties, all in his diocese. 17 people were abducted.
Since then, attacks have continued climaxing on Saturday (5th Feb) when eight people were found mutilated and tortured to death in the region of Source Yubu, a village 130 miles from the major town of Tombura.
Bishop Hiiboro has underlined the LRA threat since becoming bishop in 2008, fears realised in the summer and autumn of 2009 when guerrilla fighters abducted 17 young people praying in a Catholic church.
A further six people were found nailed to pieces of wood in a separate incident which was likened to a crucifixion scene.
Meanwhile, in North Sudan, Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok Kur of Khartoum has warned of increased threats to Christians in a region whose Islamic government is expected to be less tolerant to non-Muslims.
“The statement of President [Omar al Bashir of Sudan] some weeks ago that after the secession [of the South] the North will become Islamic in religion and Arabic in culture is a progressive plan.
“Until now, the Northern government has been lenient in enforcing this policy for fear that the South will break away but now I do not think anything can stop them since the South is going [towards secession] after all.
“In some places now [Christians and other] people are asked as to why they are still here in the North.
“People who go in search of jobs in agriculture production have reported mistreatment by the farm owners. They are not properly paid their wages and at times they are threatened with guns if they complain.”
He also reported on how large numbers of Christians and others were now leaving for the South.
He said that in his pastoral region of Kosti, Mass attendance was down from 1,000 to barely 100.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
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