Sudanese Archbishop Appeals for Int'l Action in Struggle for Peace

The chief archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan is calling upon the international community to urge their respective government officials to be more active in the effort to bring peace to the conflict-stricken country.

In his appeal, the Most Rev. Dr. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, archbishop and primate of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, highlighted the recent attacks on people in the Sudanese states of Western Equatoria and Jonglei, where over forty people – men, women, and children – were killed.

"Consequently in the view of the Church, this was not a tribal conflict as commonly reported, but a deliberately organized attack on civilians by those that are against the peace in Southern Sudan," Deng stated, referring to the attack last month in Jonglei that also left an archdeacon dead.

According to Deng, Archdeacon Joseph Mabior Garang of Wernyol, who served as the commissary for the archbishop in the Diocese of Twic East, was fatally shot at the altar of the church in Wernyol during a morning prayer service. Tens of others were also wounded as a result of the attack by gunmen dressed in army uniforms and armed with automatic weapons.

"I have learnt from Episcopal Church sources on the ground that the attackers … appeared well-organized and properly trained," Deng reported.

Just a couple of weeks earlier, there had been an attack in the town of Ezo by the Lord's Resistance Army – a sectarian guerrilla army based in northern Uganda – that left three people dead, including a member of the Episcopal Church. The attack also resulted in the abduction of children who were in the Episcopal church building in Ezo.

"I hear from Bishop John Zawo of the Episcopal Diocese of Ezo that the attack could have been avoided if better military security had been given to the town," Deng stated.

In light of the latest attacks, Deng said he is appealing to the Sudanese government and to the international community at large to "act swiftly in order to prevent such atrocities from occurring in the future."

"Continuing violence such as this is not only a crime against the innocent people killed and injured, it is a crime against the peace of the Sudan and if left unchecked will do great damage to the smooth implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)," the archbishop declared, making reference to the 2005 agreement signed between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Government of Sudan to end the Second Sudanese Civil War.

"This is especially the case given the strained political situation whereby the two parties to the CPA … are still not coming to an agreement regarding the laws governing the elections and referendum," Deng added.

According to the Sudanese archbishop, there is "no hope" for conducting free and fair elections in 2010 so long preventable violence continues to run rampant as it did in Jongelei.

"Unless the guarantor governments of the CPA act now the peace is in grave danger," Deng exclaimed.

South Sudan is currently grappling with the legacy of one of Africa's longest and bloodiest civil wars. The two-decade battle between ethnic African southerners and Sudan's Arab-dominated government in the northern capital, Khartoum, killed an estimated 2 million people.

The conflicts have also left tens of thousands displaced and wounded, including the 24,000 in Twic East County and the 15,000 in Ezo County, whom Deng is seeking humanitarian assistance for.

Next year, in April, Sudan will hold national and presidential elections that are required under the 2005 peace deal. Sudan is also scheduled to hold a referendum in January 2011 on whether South Sudan should become independent.

"As the Church, we look for the upholding of the rights of every Sudanese to a peaceful future," Deng concluded.