In a joint statement entitled “end violence”, church leaders in Yei condemned the recent clashes between government and armed-opposition forces in Juba, which left hundreds dead and thousands discplaced.
The church leaders include Yei Catholic Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe, Bishop Hillary Luate Adeba of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan in Yei, Sudan Pentecostal Church Rev. Joseph Moro, Bishop Elias Taban of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and Rev. Peter Tibi of the Reconcile Peace Institute.
They gathered at the Yei Catholic Diocesan Secretariat on Saturday, July 16, reflecting on the ongoing insecurity and catastrophic humanitarian situation in the country.
We boldly encourage the spirit of peace, unity, protection of civil population and their properties in the quest for safety and happiness in our country.
The statement presented by Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe, urged the security organs and people with individual interests to respect the ceasefire declared by President Salva Kiir and his First Vice President Riek Machar, adding that they are concerned about the lack of safety for both, lives and property of the people, and called on the rival factions to respect the ceasefire.
“We urge the military forces in the state, the law enforcement agents, parties to the current conflict, people with individual interests to respect the Republican Order, which calls for restoration of calm and peace. We call upon all to respect the ceasefire,” the statement reads. “We boldly encourage the spirit of peace, unity, protection of civil population and their properties in the quest for safety and happiness in our country.”
The church leaders also urged South Sudan’s citizens to embrace peace and to stop spreading rumours.
The Transitional Government has to commit to implement the peace, refrain from hate speech and aggression, they stressed, adding that the protection of foreign nationals and partners in the country, and giving them a safe way to leave if they want, is important.
“I don’t know why people are prevented from moving, wherever they want to go,” Tombe said. “Let us be disciplined, law abiding and citizens of integrity who are recognised by the international community”, he added.
The statement came shortly after state authorities confirmed that four civilians were killed in Yei town, three killed by gunshots and another one was reportedly stabbed to death.
The killings created a tense situation at the time – many fled their homes in fear the incidents could trigger more fighting.
“We are deeply concerned and saddened about the recent suffering of citizens who are being washed by heavy rains, sleep hungry without food, open harassment by government soldiers, movement of soldiers without control, the revenge killings and tensions between ethnic groups and above all our children now are unable to go to school due to rampant shooting,” Tombe said.
Elder John Kumuri blamed some of his fellow elders and community leaders to instigate further violence. “We, the elders, are the ones misleading the communities sometimes. Because every elder is supposed to stay with the members and tell them good steps to follow. But we don’t encourage our children to work for peace,” he said.
Last week, community leaders, church members, chiefs and state government officials resolved to relocate indisciplined soldiers, to broadcast daily radio talk shows calling for the return of Yei’s citizens and a return to normal every day life.
State Governor David Lokonga Moses, vowed that state authorities would work hard to arrest those who still shoot and cause panic. He ordered all organised forces to ensure that the cease fire is observed and to give room for calm and stability.
“Anybody found in the market or in the residential area with gun and uniform, I direct the security organs to disarm him or else if he resists, he must be shot,” he said, adding that it is a directive from the SPLA Chief-of-Staff.
Lokonga further allowed the free movement of people, adding that check point will only be in place at night and by recognised organised forces.
On Monday, July 18, many schools remained closed and only few shops were open in Yei town and residents continued to leave the town for safety. Long queues could be witnessed at some banks, as they reopened after the weekend.