SOLIDARITY VISIT TO WESTERN EQUATORIA

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South Sudan Council of Churches, with the support of Swiss Cooperation in Juba and UNMISS through the Neural form pillar, visited Yambio, Ezo, Source Yubu, Tombura, and Nagero in solidarity with the ongoing internal conflict.

The one-week solidarity visit was led by the SSCC General Secretary Fr. James OYET LATANSIO accompanied by Bishop Isaiah Majok Dau, the General Overseer of Sudan Pentecostal Church, Emeritus Bishop of the African Inland Church Dr. Arkanjelo Wani Lemi, Bishop James Lagos Alexandar, the Presiding Bishop of African Inland Church, His Grace Dr. Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Catholic Diocese of Juba and the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Torit and delegates from the Swiss Cooperation and UNMISS.

Photo: Church leaders meeting with the Deputy Governor in Yambio. Photo Credit: Quin Viola

Colorfully received by the congregation at Yambio airstrip, the solidarity visit was to restore hope for the hopeless victims of the conflict. From May till now, hope was lost because of the ongoing tribal violence. The community of Tombura has been experiencing targeted killing between the Azanda and the Balanda community, destruction of properties, misunderstanding, mistrust, hatred, bringing division between the two communities resulting in displacement. The Azanda Community and the Balanda Community have lived together as a family for so long. General, the greater Western region (Western Equatoria) was one of the most peaceful states in South Sudan, even during the civil war that started in 2013 but all that was lost in May 2021.

The Azienda (Zande) are an ethnic group of North Central Africa. They are primarily in the northeastern part of the DRC, in the south-central and southwestern part of South Sudan and Southeastern Central African Republic. An esteem of 1,040,000 live here in South Sudan. Currently Tambura

The Balanda Bviri are an ethnic group living in the South Sudan state Western Bahr el Ghazal and Western Equatoria They number about 1,350,000 and speak Bviri, one of theUbangian languages. The Balanda Bviri live in both Western Equatoria (Tambura, Nagero, Namatina, Mopoi, Yangiri, Nadiangere, Kobir Bawo) and Western Bahar El Ghazal (Bazia, Bagari and Dem Zubier).

There were so many concerns raised through truthful conversation with local leaders, government officials, and the Internal Displace people. A reasonable number of IDPs complained of no access to food and fear of famine.

On his opening remark, The General Secretary Fr. James Oyet LATANSIO said, “God has heard your prayer and that is the reason we are here, we have come to cry with you, we have lean you a shoulder to lean on, we also want to pray with you and to God for the restoration of hope and peace here” He further lamented that the Visit of the SSCC should have an impact on the community. “Seeing fellow South Sudanese is troubling, especially from a peaceful area like Western Equatoria.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Arkanjelo Wani Lemi said death and killing is not the option for an ongoing problem. Problems will always be there; good things happen, and bad things happen too, but let people sit down and dialogue instead of killing ourselves. Let people find solutions, but the answers should not involve killing ourselves. “Our prayer is that people come back to their sense, leaders will begin to think of other means of providing leadership to their people such that they will continue to live together.

The Paramount Chief of Ezo County said IDPs are being killed when going back to look for food for their children or family. He furthermore added that the host community in Ezo tried as much as possible to help the IDPs, but things keep getting astray as food is not now enough for both the host community and the IDPs. “The coming of the church leaders should be a blessing as these IDPs will not risk again going to the deserted farms. I pray that your prayers get answered” He said, “Most times we send reports about the situation, the response is not positive all the time. Sometimes I feel that we should all die instead of suffering like this”. He questioned the government for not responding to the daring situation.

Archbishop Stephen Ameyu giving holy communion during a mass in Ave Maria Parish Tambura. Photo Credit: Quin Viola

The Commissioner of Tombura county said the Azande and the Balanda had lived together since 1900; God created us to stay in Peace. “God receives our prayers through you. You (Church leaders) are the bridge between God and us. I believe your presence will bring Peace. Peace has to prevail in Tombura,” he added. The 64 tribes of South Sudan fought for Peace in South Sudan, Western Equatoria doesn’t belong to the two tribes, but it is for South Sudan. “We do not want segregation.” He lamented.

In his remark, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu emphasized the need for a peaceful co-existence between Azanda and Balanda members, saying everyone has a role to play in bringing Peace to the greater western region. “The most important questions today are what must you do? what am I to do? In my society, what must I do? In Tombura, what must I do?”. He furthermost cautioned the people to answer these questions with guidance. He also said that people should not use their guns to kill people.

Below: Photos from the solidarity visit to Nagero.

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