Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala, who ministers in a remote southern corner of Sudan, is calling for international aid to protect his people from roving bands of guerilla fighters, stating that local efforts are not sufficient.
In an interview with Aid to the Church in the Need (ACN), Bishop Hiiboro of Tombura-Yambio, Sudan said that the increasingly common yet unpredictable attacks on innocent civilians cannot be stopped without help from outside Sudan.
The storming of Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in the town of Ezo prompted the bishop’s call for help. A large number of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) soldiers desecrated the building and abducted 17 young adults. Not long after, one of the missing young men was found dead, having been tied to a tree and mutilated. Three more of the abducted people returned the next day, but the other 13 are still missing.
Less than a week later, six people were ambushed in a forest near the neighboring town of Nzara, where they were nailed to pieces of wood fastened to the ground and killed. According to Aid to the Church in Need, those who found the bodies “likened it to a grotesque crucifixion scene.” And by the time the bodies were discovered, an additional 12 abductions had been reported.
Meanwhile, the head of the LRA's peace negotiating team in Nairobi, Justin Labeja, questions the source of the attacks. "It is very unfair because nobody can come up with clear concrete evidence. Who can say this is the LRA of [leader Joseph] Kony who is doing this?" he said.
In recent years, attacks by the LRA have become more scattered and independent, veering from than the group's previous aim of ousting President Yoweri Museveni and instating a government based on the 10 Commandments. The recent violence in Sudan bears the characteristic marks of the LRA: abduction, mutilation, and death.
The danger of coming under assault has led to the cessation of humanitarian aid distributions in the region.
In response to this threat to his flock, Bishop Hiiboro organized three days of prayer involving Christians of all denominations across Western Equatoria State. The culmination of the event was a 2-mile walk in which over 20,000 people participated, wearing ashes and sackcloth, in a silent protest of the government’s supposed inability to increase security in the region.
Ministers of the local government, both from the state capital, Yambio, and the provincial capital of south Sudan, Juba, took part in the prayer event and pledged to do more to boost the police presence in the region.
But the bishop is wary. “Nobody is coming to our aid,” he said. “We are asking those who are responsible in the international community to do something about it.” He also stated, “The government here cannot make a real difference to the LRA problem. They kept promising that they had the issue under control but now we see the reality.”
That reality includes an LRA attack in Ezo on hundreds of people who were taking part in a novena prayer commemorating the Feast of the Assumption. The LRA militants desecrated the host, ripped the altar cloths and chased Ezo’s parish priest, Fr. Justin, into the forest where he spent the night in hiding. “Afterwards people kept coming to me with such suffering in their eyes, begging me to do something about the situation – to get back their children and grandchildren who have disappeared,” the bishop said.
Meanwhile, Sudanese, Congalese and Ugandans who have been displaced by the LRA are still waiting for a solution.