March 16, 2001
volume 12, no. 75

Sudan Rebels Raze Town, Comboni Mission

    NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar. 15, 01 ( - Rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) attacked and razed to the ground the town of Nyal, in the Western Upper Nile region; 15,000 people fled and a Catholic Comboni mission and church were burned.

    The attack took place on February 22, but the Comboni Justice and Peace Commission just released the news. Three priests and 19 humanitarian workers had fled the center two days before after being informed of the plan to attack.

    The attack on Nyal was due to disputes in the rebel ranks between ethnic Nuer fighting with the SPLA and Dinka with the rival Sudan Peoples Democratic Front (SPDF). The Nuer leader, Peter Gatdet, and his allies, the Bul Nuer, have their strategic base on the edge of oil fields in western Upper Nile. Until the attack the small town was, and still is, controlled by the Nyong clan which supports the SPDF.

    The Comboni missionaries say the attack was a "classical demonstration of what has become a farce fueled by partisans and ulterior motives like revenge." Fighting in Sudan has already taken more than 2 million lives, caused 4 million internally displaced persons, and 600,000 refugees in neighboring countries.

    This is not the first time that the Comboni missionaries, serving in the Upper Nile region since 1996, have had to flee to safety. In June 1998 they had to abandon their mission in Leer, taking refuge with the townspeople in Nyal. In May 1999 one of the missionaries had to flee together with the people he was visiting in Koch after the area was attacked by Gatdet.

    The 30 Comboni missionaries in Sudan are committed not to abandon the war-torn country and suffering people. The mainly Christian and animist rebels are fighting the Islamic government in Khartoum for independence for the south of the African country.

March 16, 2001
volume 12, no. 75
News from the Universal Church
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