Death toll ‘very substantially in excess’ as South Sudan’s Civil War continuescomment (0)
February 27, 2014
Despite a ceasefire that began in late January, thousands of people, including Christians, in South Sudan are withstanding attacks from all sides — even neighboring tribes.
The country’s Civil War essentially started as a political rivalry over who should rule the country between President Salva Kiir (of the Dinka tribe) and his former deputy Rieck Machar (of the Nuer tribe, who Kiir fired in July 2013). Because each leader’s constituents are mostly his tribesmen, the political battle has become a tribal battle. Tension between the Dinka and the Nuer is not a recent development. But on Dec. 15, 2013, members of the presidential guard, who are Dinka, tried to disarm members of the guard who are Nuer, reportedly because they feared the Nuer would try to stage a coup.
Now the country’s army itself has split, with both sides equipped with tanks, artillery and heavy weapons they are using against each other. The United Nations (U.N.) said fighting had spread to five of the country’s 10 states and that it had credible reports that civilians were being attacked and killed based on their ethnicity.
At press time, there was no current death toll available, but U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous estimated it was “very substantially in excess” of the 1,000 deaths the U.N. reported just after conflict erupted in December 2013. Estimates by the International Crisis Group were closer to 10,000.
John Monychol, a local Christian who planted 11 churches in the Upper Nile region, was forced to leave his home and live in a refugee camp with his family.
Monychol used to fight in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army until he had a dream about Jesus. Later an International Mission Board missionary shared the gospel with him and was able to disciple him in his new faith.
Monychol now ministers to more than 600 church members in the Upper Nile area.
“My desire is to minister to them and also do some counseling,” he said. “We need to pray together ... to see how we can promote peace and reach out to our area.”
South Sudan has only been an independent country from Sudan since July 2011, making it the world’s youngest country. But conflict over control of oil-rich regions may cause it to crumble before its third birthday.
The current violence has caused nationals to flee the country and refugee camps to again come to war-torn areas of the country. An estimated 750,000 have fled their homes in South Sudan. The U.N. reports that up to 3.7 million people now face extreme hunger or starvation because of the lack of food and hygiene in refugee camps.
Raymond Lyrene, a member of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, Birmingham, serves on the board of directors for Living Water Community Transformation, Inc. (LWCT), a multi-faceted Christian ministry based in Akot, South Sudan.
The Birmingham Baptist Association church recently entered into a five-year partnership with LWCT to support and sustain its ministries. And the church serves in Akot on two to three missions trips a year.
Lyrene, who has himself been to Akot eight times and heads the ministry’s student health and agricultural arms, said if refugees are not able to return to their homes and land soon they will miss planting season. Many nationals are primarily subsistence farmers so it is vital that they plant and harvest their food each season, he explained.
And LWCT’s schools, women’s ministry and pastoral training have all been temporarily shut down due to violent outbreaks just miles away from Akot.
“All leaders and ministers have been asked to stay home to stay safe,” Lyrene said of LWCT staff. “None of the ministries are safe enough to continue (at this time).”
But Lyrene and Dawson members are still involved with LWCT and are negotiating security guarantees with the village government to enable the ministries to re-open.
“We don’t think (an improvement) will be immediate, but we’re hoping that there will be some great breakthrough in the next six to eight weeks,” Lyrene said. “We have not given up. We’re going back (to Akot) as soon as we think it’s safe to travel.”
North River Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, also supports LWCT.
(Compiled from wire services, TAB)
Fighting is nothing new for South Sudan. It has been involved in some type of fighting for the country’s entire existence. In fact, fighting is what led to its existence. For example battles in Sudan broke out in June 2011, when the government of capital city Khartoum forcefully attempted to disarm the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army in South Kordofan by force rather than awaiting a process of disarmament as called for in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in 2005. The CPA was what ended the country’s second Civil War (the longest running conflict in Africa). In 2011, 98.8 percent of southern voters said they wanted to secede from the north and a few months later, South Sudan was “born.”