An uncertain calm in South Sudan
When the guns started firing again in Juba, South Sudan on July 7, 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 the capital city. Many sought refuge in established UN camps or church compounds.
Today, there is an uncertain calm as the guns fall silent. 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 when people do return home to salvage what they can, or tend to whatever is left of gardens, they return to the camps for the protection they provide.
Father David Tulimeli, a Salesian Priest, has found himself managing the Don Bosco church compound that was already an uncertain home for 4,400 people following the start of the conflict in December 2013. He now has an additional 4,000 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 burned 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 and are seeking a new life across the border in Uganda,” Fr David says.
At its peak, they were accommodating nearly 20,000 people. Now they have taken whatever transport they could find, transferring from one camp to another. The improvements won’t be much, but at least they’ll have peace.
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