AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - Father Luke and his companion were victims of violence between ethnic communities

Friday, 24 May 2024 violence   missionaries killed  

Juba (Agenzia Fides) – "The disappearance of Father Luke Yugue and his companion must be placed in the sad context of the violent clashes between the Azande and the Balanda that have broken out again after the serious conflict of 2021," says Sister Elena Balatti, a Comboni missionary in South Sudan, to Fides, referring to the young priest who disappeared with his companion Michael Gbeko on April 27 in Tombura, in the state of Western Equatoria. "The Azande are the largest ethnic group in the state of Western Equatoria, while the Balanda, a numerically significant group, live in the same region but are also present in the neighboring state of Western Bahr el Ghazal," explains Sister Elena. "After years of peaceful coexistence, political tensions emerged in 2021, also in reference to the delimitation of the territorial borders between the two tribes, which led to a bloody conflict during which thousands of people were displaced. The conflict has since calmed down, but has not completely quelled. In February/March of this year, the United Nations noted a resurgence of conflict, which unfortunately led to the murder of some people, new displacements and new violence, which was partly contained by the military," reports the missionary. “Therefore the disappearance of Fr. Luke is part of this dynamic of hatred and violence,” says Sister Elena. "Father Luke, an ethnic Azande, disappeared on April 27 in a predominantly ethnic Balanda area where he was carrying out his ministry. From the beginning it was believed that the priest and his driver were murdered. However, the Bishop of Tombura-Yambio , Edward Hiiboro Kussala, had asked the faithful to pray continually for the return of the two and apparently, now that the Bishop has announced a funeral prayer for both (see Fides 23/5/2024), he has probably confirmed what some local media had already reported, namely that it was a double murder," said the missionary. Sister Elena concludes with a request "to pray that this inter-ethnic conflict, exploited by politicians (in South Sudan we are in the pre-election period), is not reignited with the level of violence of 2021". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 24/5/2024)