YAMBIO (3 Aug.) A high-level delegation of SPLA commanders, national politicians and Western Equatoria traditional leaders flew in on military helicopters from Juba early Saturday morning to meet with the government in Yambio as violence continued around Western Equatoria State.
The high-level delegation was tasked by President Kier with discovering the source of the conflicts and to try to restore peace and confidence to the distraught people in Western equatorial State. The delegation was meeting in the governors house for early Saturday morning after they arrived.
Western Equatoria state governor, Joseph Bakosoro and other state and national leaders are trying to restore calm and bring order to Yambio and the state.
Unexpected but welcomed help in the government’s efforts to restore peace came through the presence of Canon Dr. Ronald Clark, a church emissary from the United States who had just arrived in Yambio on official church business the day before violence erupted. Canon Dr. Clark serves as the Apostolic Representative for the Presiding Bishop, Archbishop Charles Travis of the 4 million member
Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches (CEEC). Clark goes on special assignments on behalf of the presiding bishop concerning humanitarian efforts, evangelism and revival as well as encouraging the clergy and their churches. When the violence broke out in Yambio, Clark opted to stay to assist the other clergy and the government in trying to restore calm to the terrified citizens of Yambio. All the other UN and NGO personnel from western countries evacuated in UN convoys and on UN aircraft for safety. Clark remained behind and was seen walking the streets and in the UN camps for displaced people. People were encouraged as he shared his faith with them and took the time to pray with as many hundreds of people as he could. Clark, is a former US Army Military Policeman and retired Law Enforcement Officer from the United States. When asked by this reporter if he was concerned about his safety, he replied, “I am more concerned about these precious people who are displaced finding food, shelter and medical help than I am about my own personal safety.
The Juba delegation composed of SPLA generals including Deputy Chief of Staff Lt Gen James Ajongo, Division 6 Commander Johnson Juma, King of the Zande, the Paramount Chief Wilson Hassan Peni Rikito Gbudwe, three members of parliament, Minister Jemma Nunu Kumba, and Col Police Elia Kosta.
Boutros Magaya, spokesman of the SPLM Western Equatoria Leadership Council, said that the clashes and heavy shooting that took place on Friday night and continued to Saturday appeared to be between “tribal groups from the Dinka, suspected lawless elements within SPLA and Elements of Youth from the Zande Local Community in Yambio.”
He explained in a press statement that the delegation has met with the governor, state leadership, youth and army members and “asked them to immediately stop the conflict and stop any kind of
hostilities for the sake of peace in the State.”
“The King, Wilson Rikito Gbudwe, who had left Yambio some few days earlier on short mission to Juba and Ethiopia addressed the crowd during the meeting and appealed for calm and return to peace,” said Boutros. The king reportedly urged the people of Western Equatoria not to take up arms.
The high level delegation walked from the governor’s house to meet with the people gathered at ADRA. They were accompanied by elite troops that were providing security for the general and the other delegates. The governor, on behalf of the general and the delegates asked Canon Clark to join them. At the conclusion of the meetings, the governor, general and others asked Canon Dr. Ronald Clark to address the crowd of thousands and then pray. Canon Clark in a strong and comforting voice that could be heard throughout the camp, urged both the leaders and the people to forgive each other as well as anyone else who had hurt them during the past 50 years of conflict in Sudan and the subsequent civil war in South Sudan. As Clark exhorted the people every stopped to listen intently to the preacher from the United States. Clark then led a prayer calling asking the leaders and military commanders to reach out their hands towards the people and then he asked the people to reach back towards the leaders that were there as well as in Juba. In his prayer, he had everyone forgive all that had hurt them or their families in the long war and then he led everyone to pray for peace and to give the government wisdom and that the IGAD-PLUS meetings in a few days would finally produce peace. Clark asked God to provide wisdom to the leaders and reassurance to the people of Yambio and South Sudan that peace was at hand. Clark did say that “South Sudan” was in child-birth as a nation trying to deliver peace. It is painful but soon a “baby nation” will once again be born and it will end the war and the work will begin in rebuilding South Sudan will begin! Clark, 58 years old, is a tall, blonde hair, blue-eyed man with a muscular build who skin was red and brown from the Equatorial sun. His calm demeanor and strong faith seemed to encourage both the generals, governor, paramount chief, the delegation and the thousands of people who heard his encouragement that God’s presence would be with them and as a result, a sense of calm had finally came over the UN Mission base as well as the city of Yambio.
Thousands had fled their homes in the city and were huddled around ADRA looking for safety. However, the UN Mission, along with the Sri Lanken soldiers who were peacekeepers refused sanctuary to everyone but a select few.
Gun fire and explosions could be heard in isolated incidents around Yambio but as the sun came up on Sunday morning, the delegation divided into several groups and visited various churches where they were able to continue talking peace to the population. However, Canon Clark is reported to have gone back to the UN Mission and ADRA compounds in order to hold church services with the thousands who remained there hoping to be safe. Most of the thousands of displaced people attended as Gospel songs were sung and the Canon Clark delivered a fiery sermon on faith in Jesus. A great joy was heard from the crowds at the end of his sermon as people shouted for joy. Hope was being restored to Yambio’s most vulnerable citizens. The governor is trying to work it out for Canon Clark to preach at Freedom Square the next Sunday. Clark will speak live on Yambio FM on Sunday morning for an hour.
“The delegation will also continue their meetings as well as investigate the incident,” Boutros said. Every effort is being made to apprehend those who are causing the uprising. The governor is continuing to call for the more than 100,000 that had fled Yambio when violence broke out on Friday night. Due to Juba’s quick response to send a high level delegation to Yambio so quickly and the governors efforts to restore order further chaos was averted. On Monday, people started to slowly return to their homes.
Some shooting has continued to take place in isolated incidents since Friday with explosions being heard in some confrontations. However, due to the positive response by the government to respond to the crisis, people could be heard commending them for their mostly positive response and some confidence in the government is being restored day by day.
Clark said he planned to remain in Yambio for at least another week so that he can continue to be a positive voice of faith and hope for the people. Canon Yepeta of the local CEEC congregation is Clark host during his stay.