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Fr. Francis Naduvidelathu SVD, the Mission Superior of South Sudan, has sent the following emails to update the confreres on the current situation in South Sudan.

December 18, 2013

Dear Fr. General,

Greetings and prayerful best wishes to you from all of us here in Lainya. I believe, you are keeping fine and doing very well in this Advent season.

We are all keeping fine and trying to be good. I believe, you must have got the first hand information about what is happening in Juba, South Sudan from the news papers and T.V. However, this is what I want to share with you.

Last Sunday evening Fr. Joseph Calistus, the out going Director of Solidarity with South Sudan (SSS), Juba came along with Sr. Mary Stella SSpS who had been also part of the Solidarity with South Sudan and had been part of the Nurses Training Institute in Wau, and Bro. Placido, a Presentation Brother who is also in Wau working with the Solidarity for South Sudan. Fr. Joseph and Sr. Stella had been working with SSS for more than five years and they had come to say good bye to us. In fact they wanted to leave for Juba the same evening. However, some of us came back from the chapels after the Sunday worship only after 5 pm and when we came back we requested them to stay back and spend the night with us, which they obliged. They had planned to leave for Juba at 6.00 am the following morning. In fact, they did leave for Juba at 6.00 am. Hardly they had made 30 minutes drive they were stopped by soldiers on the road and were told not to proceed to Juba because there is trouble there and they were requested to go back to where they had come from. We were surprised to see Fr. Joseph and Company .back in our compound and we were just getting ready for the Holy Mass. They told us that there is trouble in Juba and so they were advised by the soldiers to go back.

We were thinking that the troubles would be over by 10.00 am and they would be able to travel to Juba in the evening. Fr. Joseph being the Director of SSS, he has wide range of contacts with different agencies in the State, NGOs, UN Mission and UNIMISS in South Sudan.We were able to gather a lot of information through Fr. Joseph Calistus. A few months ago, the President had sacked his Vice President, who comes from the Nuer tribe and appointed the Speaker of the Parliament as his Deputy. The President comes from the Dinka tribe. According to sources, the current President is not supposed to stand for the next elections. In the next elections, someone from the Nuer tribe should be the President and someone from the Dinka tribe should be the Vice president. However, recently the current president made known his intentions to stand for the next elections.

That could be the starting point for the confrontation between these two tribes and most of the South Sudan army called SPLA (Sudan Peoples Liberation Army, that fought the Arabs) belongs to these two tribes. The fighting is between the armies of these two tribes. According to information Fr. Joseph Calistus gathered from his friends working with UN there are heavy casualties and even now as I type this (12.30 pm) heavy shooting using machine guns and heavy artillery fire is heard from three different locations in Juba. There is curfew imposed in and around Juba. All the borders are closed. If the borders remain closed very soon there would be food shortage. Because all the vegetables and other food items and fruits for Juba and many other parts of the country used to come from Uganda. Once there is going to be food shortage and then there would be looting and lawlessness and that would lead to all kinds of troubles. We are told a lot of people are leaving Juba town on foot with their belongings to villages.

So far, we are safe here in Lainya. The road from Juba, the capital to Uganda and Congo passes infront of our hose and we do not see any movement of persons or vehicles on the road, since yeaterday. So far,the lawlessness has not speread to any other parts of the country. Thank God for that.

Sr. Mary Stella SSpS and Fr. Joseph Calistus have spent more than five years in this country trying to rebuild the hopes and aspirations of millions of South Sudanese who has gone through a war that had lasted more than two decades and they are so saddened to hear about and see for themselves what is happening in South Sudan, a county they loved and cherished so much and a country for which they worked so hard. They are going to leave this county for good with a very heavy heart. Please keep us and all the people of South Sudan in Your Prayers,

Sincerely Yours,

Fr. Francis Joseph SVD,
Mission Superior, SSD.

January 7, 2014

Dear Fr. Sony,

Greetings from all of us here in Lainya.

Though in my briefing to Fr. General I had said on 18th December'13 that the lawlessness have not spread to other parts of the country.Within a few days after my letter to Fr. General, two key towns, Bor and Jongeli were captured by the rebels and though the national army recaptured these two key towns the death toll were very heavy. Later on Malakal was also attacked by the rebels. Solidarity with South Sudan has a large compound between these two army camps, and for days they could not get out of their house because of the heavy shooting between the rebels and the national army. They were lying on the floor most of the time.

Though, there was some kind of relative calm in and around Juba towards the end of the year we began to hear that the rebels were planning to launch an attack on the capital, Juba. Last saturday (4th January'14) around 9 pm our sisters from Yei called and informed us that there is heavy shooting in and around Yei and they, the sisters were worried and they did not know what to do. In fact, they were all lying on the ground fearing the bullets. At around 2.30 am, the same night the Cathedral administrator of Yei diocese Fr. Tom Poru called Fr. Francis to inform him about the shooting in Yei and also to find out, wheather there is any lawlessness or shooting in Lainya. We did not have any problems here in Lainya.

According to Fr. Emmanuel Sebit, the Secretary General of the Catholic D\iocese of Yei, close to Yei town there are so many military camps and the Commanders of the Army in Yei County as well as in Morobo County are officers from the Nuer tribe and last satruday night they defected with soldiers belonging to the Nuer tribe. They were the ones shooting and creating panic in and around Yei town. In the night itself they left for the bush and nobody knows where they are or where they have gone or where they are heading towards?. Their disappearance to the forest have created panic and fear among the common people. Though peace talks are taking place in Addis-Ababa, we are also hearing rumors that the soldiers loyal to the former Vice-President are organising themselves to take the national capital, Juba. Though the curfew hours were relaxed a bit,  after the fresh shooting incident on 4th January'14 night, in and around Juba the present curfew hours are from 6 pm to 8 am . 5th January being a Sunday Fr. Francis had planned to go to one of the outstation chapels and when he tried to contact the catechist of the chapel where father had planned to go Fr. Francis was told not to go there for the people are afraid of the rebels.

Fr. Francis went to a chapel for mass 12 kms away from the parish centre and he  did not meet any persons or vehicles on the way. A handful of people turned out for the Mass. Though, Lainya is not affected so far, hardly anyone came for the Mass last sunday, people prefered to remain in their homes, fearing the rebels. Because of the situation, hardly any trading is taking place here in Lainya and hardly anything is available in the market or in stores and even if somethings are available, they are very expensive. We do not starve. So far, we have enough to eat and drink. We have a small vegitable garden, that is helping us greatly.

This morning (7th January'14) the Secretary General of the Diocese of Yei called us to inform that we should suspend all our visit to the chapels till further notice. He also sited an example saying yesterday evening a vehicle was ambushed just 12 kms away from our place. It could be the rebels, the govt. soldiers, or thieves, we do not know. Our Bishop was on his way to Juba to attend a meeting yesterday and the soldiers refused to allow him to continue with his journey, for security reasons.

Today too we do not see any movemnet of either persons or vehicles on the road. Though, so far we are not directly affected we can see some kind of fear and restlessness among our people.

Thanks for your prayers and concern. Please keep the people of South Sudan and all of us in your prayers.

Sincerely Yours,

Fr. Francis SVD