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Youth led by journalist stormed Emanuel Jieng Parish in Juba

Enhanced image with Mading Ngor inserted Source: Kudior Thuch

29/05/2016 Juba: One of the South Sudan Episcopal Church’s parish at the Diocese of Juba was a subject of chaos on the morning of 29/05/2016 when a group of youth led by a journalist emerged at the morning service without notice. Dressed in black’s T-shirts and carrying the pictures of former military Generals killed during the 2013-2015 conflict, these youths were demanding the resignation of the leaders after the Church allowed Dr Riek Machar to address the congregation last week. Without a permission from the Church or clearance from the police, some of these youth were later arrested and the case is now a subject of investigation.

 

 

Sunday 29/05/2016 started as very normal day in the South Sudanese capital Juba today but no one was expecting what was about to happen during morning service at Emanuel ‘Jieng’. Emanuel Parish which is predominately known as Emanuel “Jieng” before the names were changed a year ago one of the Episcopal Church Parishes that is under Diocese of Juba. Episcopal Church is one of the largest denominations across South Sudan largely in some of the Dinka region and Equatorian areas. Every Sunday, Emanuel parish attracts thousands of worshipers that includes politicians, former and present religious leaders.

 The current building used by the Emanuel Parish was previously the Juba’s largest and the only Cinema back in the 80s to early 2000s. To give the Dinka’s congregation more space to worship, Juba Cinema was bought and the congregation was moved from mission area to the current building. In 2013 when the conflicted, many worshipers have questioned the allocation of time to politicians whose views may not be shared by many who comes in for worship, not politics.

Nyandeng in Emanuel Jieng Church

In November 2015 at Emanuel Jieng, Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior was allegedly attacked by one of the women who was not happy due to Nyandeng’s political position during the war. Nyandeng was invited in front of the Church in order to be prayed for her return from exile but everything turned to be chaotic. Nyandeng was among the group that attended the press conference on 06 Dec 2013 and a potential candidate for the chairmanship of the SPLM. The woman accused Nyandeng of siding with Dr. Riek Machar during the conflict in which the purported audio recordings and BBC’s interview were widely referenced as the link. In what was reported later by various media agencies, she was protesting on behave of those who were killed in Bor between 2013-2014. 

Dr. Riek in Emanuel Jieng Church

During the morning of 22/05/2016, Dr. Riek Machar who is now the country’s first Vice President called the pastor in charge Rev Joseph Maker Achiek. Dr. Riek told pastor Joseph Maker that ‘He needed to pray at Emanuel Jieng that morning’. After they ended their phone conversation, Joseph Maker immediately reported the request to the Diocesan Secretary Ariba because he needed clearance from the senior leadership of the Diocese of Juba. Secretary Ariba gave Joseph Maker permission to allow Dr Riek to go to the Church. At the same time, Diocesan Secretary Ariba cancelled his day’s schedules and rushed to the Emanuel Jieng’s Church. He was the one who introduced Dr. Riek to the congregation.

 Ariba convinced Joseph that; ‘Dr. Riek has been to many churches including Kator, All Saints, and Presbyterians in Juba. If he was to be rejected, then that could be wrongly interoperated by masses’. As a pastor in charge, Rev Joseph alerted all members of the Church that “Dr. Riek was coming to the Church and he pastor needed everyone inside to remain calm”. Few minutes later, Dr. Riek arrived and was able to deliver his speech which was reported to have lasted an hour. Soon after the Sunday service on 22/05/2016, social media erupted with blames and the threats of boycotts by youth and prominent members of the community. Many demanded the resignation of the Church leaders and accusing them of siding with the SPLM in Opposition. Those who were not happily referenced atrocities committed during the war especially where big numbers of civilians were killed, allegedly raped and their bodies mutilated.  Such resentment could be seen as the main reasons behind the protest which was led by members of the affected communities.    

 

In a telephone conversation with the Church’s leaders, none of the leaders at Emanuel Parish or the Diocese invited the First Vice President but they couldn’t reject his request either. Leading to the following Sunday, various groups emerged loud by condemning the decision that let Dr. Riek speaks in the Church in the first place. In one of the postings, Mading Ngor Akech Kuai a South Sudanese journalist who have worked for various international media agencies emerged as the leading activist. In one of his posting a day after on 23 May at 12:03 Mading said; “You murdered these people not once but twice and you have the audacity to go and lecture to the victims about reconciliation and peace instead of apologizing! It's time to break up that Emmanuel Church and leave it to the rebels of IO”.

 

Mading post was widely shared by supporters and condemned by many people who didn’t agree with Mading’s judgements. On the morning of 29/5/2016, Mading and other youth estimated to be between 10 and 12 emerged during the prayer’s service. In what is reported and seen by eye witnesses, Mading and the youth were dressed in black T-shirts and holding signage’s bearing the pictures of Ajak Yen, Abraham Jongroor, and Kuol Malith. Two of the generals were killed during the 2013-2015’s conflict and Kuol Malith was badly wounded.

 

Thousands of worshipers who attended the service including South Sudan Inspector General of Police were overwhelmed by the chaos caused. Soon after that security agents were called and many of these youth were arrested including their leader. This case is referred for investigation and pastor Joseph Maker who threatened to resigned was convinced to withdrew his statement. After the situation was calm, the morning prayers resumed but various religious leaders including Bishop Nathaniel Anyieth express their disappointment with the behaviour shown by the youth. More is to learn on what happen and you will be updated.

 

NB: Quotes use were taken telephone message which SBS Dinka cannot take any responsibility should any variation emerged. The various eyewitness may provide the different account of evidence.