People flee to churches with fresh fighting in South Sudan

People flee to churches with fresh fighting in South Sudan as Caritas seeks to provide aid. Credit: Mark Mitchel/Caritas

People flee to churches with fresh fighting in South Sudan as Caritas seeks to provide aid. Credit: Mark Mitchel/Caritas

When the guns started firing again in Juba on the 7th July it brought to an end the fragile ceasefire between the two factions of the Transitional Government of National Unity and forced the displacement of approximately 34,000 people from around Juba.  Many sought refuge in established UN camps or church compounds.

There is an uncertain calm as the guns fall silent yet, although some people have returned home, many are still too frightened to return.  There are regular reports of rape and assault on women and girls.  Even where people do return home to salvage what they can or tend whatever is left of gardens they return to the camps for the protection they provide.

Fr. David Tulimeli, a Salesian Priest, finds himself managing the Don Bosco church compound that already was already an uncertain home for 4400 people following the start of the conflict in December 2013.  He now has an additional 4000 people in a different area of the compound as a result of the recent fighting.  In the new camp Internally Displaced People (IDPs), mostly widows, have come from the area called “Checkpoint” on the road south of Juba and walked with whatever they could carry to Juba.

Others came to the church compound from villages surrounding Juba.  Among them was Agnes who came with her family of five.  They too had been compelled to escape the fighting and now fear that, like so many others, there is no home to go back to.  Many homes have been burnt down and their belongings looted.  She too would like to go home and, with some support, would be able to rebuild her home but is “scared of the bad men coming to the village”.

“Many of the IDPs have given up on South Sudan”, Fr David said, “and are seeking a new life across the border in Uganda”.  At it’s peak they were accommodating nearly 20,000 people now they have taken whatever transport they could, transferring from one camp to another.  The improvements won’t be much but at least they’ll have peace.

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