Sister Veronica Rackova, the Medical Director at the church affiliated St. Bakhita Health Centre in Yei, who was shot and seriously injured Sunday night, May 15, died in a Nairobi hospital where she recieved treatment.
She was driving a well marked ambulance by the time of the incident. The nun sustained injuries in the hip and was evacuated to Kenya’s capital Nairobi on Monday, May 16 for medical attention.
Sources say the Sister Rackova was driving an expecting mother from St. Bakhita Health Centre to a nearby clinic for a cesarean delivery.
The regional superior, Sister Maria Jerly, says members of the congregation in South Sudan are tormented by the incident, adding however that despite, what she termed as “unfortunate incident”, members of the congregation do not plan to leave the country.
This nun has been very selfless, committed to her work and conducted herself in a very professional manner.
“I really feel so sad. It’s a shame our country is not showing signs of peace even after the recent formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity,” a resident in Yei, who wishes to remain anonymous, says. He describes the late Sister Rackova as a very passionate and friendly person.
“At this rate, the humanitarian agencies might desert us in fear of losing the lives of their foreign staff members. This nun has been very selfless, committed to her work and conducted herself in a very professional manner,” he adds.
He blames the army for their very unprofessional conduct, saying that the leaders should ensure they are in control of the army and other security organs.
The aid worker says he as well lives in fear, but will not give up his work.
The State Minister for Information, Stephen Lodu Onesimo, on Monday confirmed that three suspects, all members of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) were arrested and detained in connection to the shooting and that a criminal case has been instituted against the suspects.
According to Lodu, the three soldiers belong to a joint operation unit that conducts night patrols in and around Yei town. They reportedly opened fire and shot several times at the ambulance the victim was driving.
Not an isolated incident
The attack on Sister Veronica Rackova is not an isolated case. Two employees from the Danish aid organisation Danish Refugee Council have been shot and killed by unknown gunmen in April. The two were part of the organisation’s mine and bomb clearing division, Danish Demining Group (DDG), operating in Yei State.
The Danish Demining Group has since suspended its operation in the area.
Lodu says the government is still investigating the incident but suspects the gunmen were highway robbers. “We could not determine exactly [WHAT] motivated them, but what we know is that since March there are already seven killings on the Juba-Yei road and also Yei-Morobo road.”
Most of the time they ambush people who are going to […] markets in Yei and Morobo.
“Most of the time they ambush people who are going to […] markets in Yei and Morobo where most of the women who are traders go and buy food commodities to take them to Juba,” he adds.
Lodu also says that the state government is working with it’s security personnel to ensure all roads are secure. “The government managed to put a highway patrol unit which is actually patrolling the road so that there is safe passage and there are no criminal behaviours happening on the road.”
The long-awaited and recently formed Transitional Government of Nation Unity, many hoped, would bring an end to insecurity across South Sudan. But random attacks across Yei River State scatter resident’s prospects of living in peace.