Category Archives: Africa

Hopeful not Hopeless

Hopeful not Hopeless
Posted by Br Bill Firman on 11 October 2017
La Salle District of Austrailia, New Zealand, Pakistan & Papua New Guinea

Children of South Sudan - Br. Bill Firman

I have sometimes been asked what hope is there for South Sudan? Tribal divisions have become very deep, and almost everybody has lost relatives and friends in this senseless violence.

Amnesty International quotes a staggering, horrible statistic: A survey conducted in 2015 by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) found that 72% of women living in four UNMISS Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites in Juba reported having been raped since the conflict broke out, mostly by police and soldiers.’

Has all respect and order disappeared? Certainly as one local writer, Jacob Lagu, states: ‘War is a dirty business. It inevitably degrades us all. It diminishes our humanity as steadily as we dehumanize our adversaries. We are all locked in conflicting victimhood narratives. Each side believes wholeheartedly that they are the victims of injustice. Each side believes that their adversary is the unrepentant aggressor.’

It seems to me that civil war must surely be the worst kind of war. In a civil war, your enemy is not ‘out there’ but can even be your near neighbour. South Sudanese now ask, ‘Whom can I trust in my own country?’ ‘Where can I go and be safe?’ Hundreds of thousands ask, ‘Will I ever be able to leave this Protection of Civilians camp where I feel like a prisoner?’

Yet, in spite of all this, there are people getting on with life. I have attached photos that show the reality of the poverty of many in South Sudan poor, but not maudlin. Children dressed in rags laugh and play and there are some fine young people growing up with a little help along the way.

In early 2010, a good friend in Australia raised some money to help a young, thin boy, called Augusto. Augusto’s father had died when he was only 18 months old.

He was being raised by his grandmother and the helpful families of his school friends. Augusto’s school fees were paid by overseas donations. Augusto has now just graduated from secondary school with a 73% average, a wonderful achievement giving the personal adversity he had to overcome let alone the turmoil in the country. Now he is trying to find the means to go to University.

Another of our neighbours, Naomi, is soon to graduate as a registered nurse from our Catholic Health Training Institute (CHTI). Her twin brother, Wonderful, (yes, that is his name), is well on the way to becoming a doctor.

There are 80 applicant seeking places in the CHTI for next year. There are currently 110 in the CHTI and so far 145 have graduated after successfully completing the three-year programme. So amid the tales of gloom, there are many good news stories, many lives that are progressing well.

In another photo taken in 2009, there is a small boy called Danny sitting next to Fr. Joseph. Last Saturday, I woke to find our vehicle had a flat tyre. I called Danny who quickly changed the wheel for me. He has one year to go to finish secondary school: he has grown from a happy, inquisitive young boy, into an obliging, sensible young man.

There are plenty of signs of hope as we help produce better educated people. Sadly, many South Sudanese have to learn to live with hunger and the trauma of rape, looting and deaths of loved ones, but they still get on with life. We help them when we can, as do almost 500 missionaries from many countries as well as the UN and many resourceful NGOs delivering essential services.

There is hope because children and young people are especially resilient.

Yes, the scars are deep and, in the trauma healing workshops we conduct, many older people reveal their nightmares and flashbacks. But somehow the children in South Sudan are among the happiest and least complaining I have known.

One does not feel hopeless here. Many people continue to hope and dream of a better future. A new, better-educated generation might just deliver the new South Sudan for which we all hope and pray.


Author: Br Bill Firman
About: Br Bill is the Executive Director of Solidarity with South Sudan.

As Cancer Tears Through Africa, Drug Makers Draw Up a Battle Plan

By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
New York Times

In a deal similar to the one that turned the tide against
AIDS, manufacturers and charities will make chemotherapy
drugs available in six poor countries at steep discounts.

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Paul Mugumya, 7, lying in the Kawempe Home Care facility for children in Kampala, Uganda, had three hernia operations before surgeons realized he had a blistering football-shaped tumor. Cancers — many of them treatable — kill about 450,000 Africans a year. Credit Charlie Shoemaker for The New York Times

OCT. 7, 2017 | NAIROBI, Kenya — In a remarkable initiative modeled on the campaign against AIDS in Africa, two major pharmaceutical companies, working with the American Cancer Society, will steeply discount the prices of cancer medicines in Africa.

Under the new agreement, the companies — Pfizer, based in New York, and Cipla, based in Mumbai — have promised to charge rock-bottom prices for 16 common chemotherapy drugs. The deal, initially offered to a half-dozen countries, is expected to bring lifesaving treatment to tens of thousands who would otherwise die.

Pfizer said its prices would be just above its own manufacturing costs. Cipla said it would sell some pills for 50 cents and some infusions for $10, a fraction of what they cost in wealthy countries.

The price-cut agreement comes with a bonus: Top American oncologists will simplify complex cancer-treatment guidelines for underequipped African hospitals, and a corps of IBM programmers will build those guidelines into an online tool available to any oncologist with an internet connection.

“Reading this gave me goose bumps,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said after seeing an outline of the deal. “I think this is a phenomenal idea, and I think it has a good chance of working.”

It reminded him, he said, of his work in 2002 helping design the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Pepfar, as it is known, has been a success: over 14 million Africans are now on H.I.V. drugs, many of them thanks to American aid.

“It’s exactly what we went through then,” Dr. Fauci said. “Finding the countries with the highest burden, figuring out how to approach treatment differently in each one, and getting the prices down.”

Cancer now kills about 450,000 Africans a year. By 2030, it will kill almost 1 million annually, the World Health Organization predicts. The most common African cancers are the most treatable, including breast, cervical and prostate tumors.

But here they are often lethal. In the United States, 90 percent of women with breast cancer survive five years. In Uganda, only 46 percent do; in Gambia, a mere 12 percent do.

The complicated deal was struck by the cancer society, along with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, founded in 2002 by former President Bill Clinton; IBM; the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of top American cancer hospitals; and the African Cancer Coalition, a network of 32 oncologists in 11 African countries.

“I have a friend back home whose daughter has cancer, and I can’t believe the outpouring of support she got, like special lacrosse games and T-shirts,” said Megan O’Brien, the cancer society’s director of global cancer treatment and the chief organizer of the deal.

“There’s nothing like that in Africa — but I can save a child with leukemia for $300. That’s a disease that has a 90 percent cure rate in America, and a 90 percent death rate in Africa.”

An Ill-Prepared Continent
As more Africans survive into middle or old age, cancer rates are climbing rapidly. But most countries here are ill-equipped for the fight.

There are few oncologists, radiotherapy machines or advanced surgical suites. Tumors are often misdiagnosed or even blamed on witchcraft, and 80 percent go undetected until they have spread to lymph nodes or distant organs.

Doctors often see cases far worse than Western doctors ever do: babies with growths half as big as their heads, women with breast tumors the size of softballs that have broken the skin, putrid and weeping blood.

On a recent day in July, Brenda Nakisuyi, 17, sat silent and despondent in a darkened room at Kawempe Home Care, a cancer hostel for children in Kampala, Uganda.

Burkitt lymphoma had torn open her left cheek, leaving a crater that looked as if a cherry bomb had exploded in her mouth.

“In our village, they know malaria, they know HIV, they know typhoid — but they don’t know cancer,” said her mother, Florence Namwase, 48. “People said Brenda was bewitched, and they began to shun her.”

Many Africans who get cancer assume they are doomed.

“I came here to see if I was condemned to death,” said a wry George Odongo Ogola, 73, a retired high school principal being treated for prostate cancer at the M.P. Shah Hospital in Nairobi.

“But the doctor says they got it in a nascent stage and gave me a 99.9 percent chance that it will be contained,” he added. “I brought all my children and their wives so they could hear this. Here, once you are diagnosed with cancer, they treat you like a dead person.”

Even doctors — especially rural ones — may be slow to recognize the disease.

Paul Mugumya, a lively 7-year-old in the Kawempe hostel, had three hernia operations before surgeons realized that something else was swelling his abdomen, which now has a football-shaped tumor with tangerine-sized blisters on it.

And Flavia Anyesi, 4, who stood in her crib at the Uganda Cancer Institute in pink and white hair beads matching her pink nightgown, was first sent to a dentist to have a tooth pulled, said her mother, Teopista Nafuna.

Only when Flavia’s jaw kept swelling did doctors realize something else was amiss. She, too, has Burkitt lymphoma.

Even when in agony, victims may be too poor to travel for treatment. Patients who find the money to reach urban hospitals often sleep on mats on the verandas or in parks between their daily infusions, or while waiting for biopsy results, which can take weeks.

Read the full NYTimes Article and view more photos.
[ https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/07/health/africa-cancer-drugs.html?emc=eta1&_r=0 ]

Foundation Stone Laid For Expansion And Modernization Of Juba Teaching Hospital

By Jale Richard
Gurtong

foundation stone so sudan
President Kiir (C), Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan, He Xiangdong(R) and the Minister of Health Dr. Riak Gai Kok (L) laying the foundation stone on Saturday. [Photo by Jale Richard]
JUBA, 02 October 2017 [Gurtong]-The project worth 33 million U.S. dollars grant from the Chinese government will cover establishment of three departments, including the Out-patient and Emergency Block, Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, and China Medical Team Dormitory.

Part of the grant will be used for Kiir Mayardit hospital in Rumbek and the construction will commence in November this year.

President Salva Kjiir Mayardit after laying the foundation stone said despite the country having the worst health care indicators in the world, the situation is gradually improving.

“We will ultimately improve with tremendous support for the health sector,” Kiir said. The president said efforts exerted by the Ministry of health with consistent backing by all the partners in the health sector and “sisterly countries with China on top” will improve the situation of health care in the country.

Kiir said the Ministry of Health which has been training adequate human resources for health, and developed the needed infrastructure and policies for the country will make quality health care services available, accessible and affordable for the people of South Sudan.

“With the modernization and expansion of Juba Teaching Hospital along with all the infrastructural development project in the health sector, the landscape of the health sector will completely change for those who have been deprived of accessing and enjoying quality services since time immemorial,” Kiir said.

President Kiir said with the modernization and expansion of Juba Teaching Hospital, he will be the happiest person to see that all those who go abroad for medical treatment including himself access medical services in Juba.

To achieve the plans of the Ministry of health, the president directed the Minister of Health and other health partners to scale up the training of health care cadres at all level for Juba teaching hospital and other hospitals.

“People of South Sudan have been waiting for long to enjoy basic health services that are part and parcel of the basic human rights,” he said. With the support of the health partners, he said, the health sector in the country will never be the same again.

The Chinese Ambassador, He Xiangdong said Chinese government will provide modern medical equipment and one year technical cooperation after the completion of the project.

“The project is another corner stone of China-South Sudan friendship,” Xiangdong said. Two years from now on, we are going to see a modern health facility and a new land mark in Juba,” he said.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Riak Gai Kok said it is a turning point in health care system to modernize and expand Juba Teaching Hospital.

He said his ministry is trying hard to train more health care providers in the country.


http://www.gurtong.net/ECM/Editorial/tabid/124/ctl/ArticleView/mid/519/articleId/20949/Foundation-Stone-Laid-For-Expansion-And-Modernization-Of-Juba-Teaching-Hospital.aspx

A New Normal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Priests, Doctors, and Citizens Kidnapped for Ransom or Killed

Africa Faith and Justice Network
September 22, 2017

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Archbishop Nicholas Djomo of the diocese of Tshumbe in the Kasai region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) held a briefing for the Catholic Task Force for Africa and other groups at the office of the Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN). Credit: AFJN

On September 20, 2017 Archbishop Nicholas Djomo of the diocese of Tshumbe in the Kasai region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) held a briefing for the Catholic Task Force for Africa and other groups at the office of the Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN). The event was live streamed which allowed other participants to join from different parts of the United States by phone and video conference.

In his remarks, Bishop Djomo called on Catholics and all people of good will to pray for Africa in general and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in particular. Bishop Djomo’s message highlighted the work of the Church as ambassador of Jesus Christ for peace and prosperity.

He explained how the DRC is facing a serious political, security and humanitarian crisis. In fact, on the political front, the National Episcopal Conference of Catholic Bishops was called on to mediate and help political actors and civil society representatives find a compromise on the question of elections which includes the elections of a new president. The church successfully brokered an agreement between political actors which was signed on December 31st, 2016. Unfortunately, because the political actors were not willing to compromise to work on a detailed implementation plan of the agreement, the bishops handed the remaining task over to the president so that they could keep on trying on their own to find a compromise. The disagreements on the way forward remain and the political crisis has deepened.

On the security front, in the eastern and the center of the country namely in the Kasai region, there are internally displaced people in the millions and hundreds of thousands as refugees in the neighboring nation of Angola. Also there are a good number of Congolese in Uganda as well. Given the number of people in need, the humanitarian aid to the displaced is not enough.

The Security Crisis

Here are some examples to prove the case of chronic insecurity in eastern DRC that was mentioned by Bishop Djomo. On September 16, 2017 in Rutshuru in North Kivu Province, a vehicle full of passengers was ambushed by members of a militia. One person was killed, three were kidnapped and many more were wounded. The night before in the same locality in a village called Ntamugenga, a Catholic priest named Jean de Dieu Kasereka Kanefu who was on holiday with his family was also kidnapped and taken to an unknown location. The kidnapers were asking for $20,000 in ransom, but no one knows exactly how much was paid for his release less than 24 hours later. Fr. Jean de Dieu is a member of the Catholic order of Caracholini priests.

On September 15, 2017, the director of the Mabalako Healthcare System, Doctor Mumbere Kamaliro Germain, was kidnapped after an ambush by armed men near Rwindi and Mabenga towns on the Goma-Butembo road. His kidnapers are asking $10,000. One person was killed during the ambush. The car Doctor Mumbere was in was part of a long convoy which was escorted by the army at the time of his kidnapping.

On the night of September 8, 2017, Father Waswandi, a Catholic priest from the Diocese of Butembo in North Kivu province escaped a kidnapping attempt. He jumped from a vehicle they had put him in and was treated for wounds from beatings with metallic bars.

On July 16, 2017, two Catholic Priests, Frs. Charles Kipasa and Jean-Pierre Akilimali of Paroisse Notre-Dame des Anges parish in Bunyuka in Butembo Diocese were kidnapped. The kidnapers were asking for $20,000 in ransom.

On April 14, 2017, the gynecologist of the referral hospital of Uvira, Doctor Gildo Byamungu was killed at his home during the night by armed men. They took his phone, computer, and documents. On January 29, 2016 Doctor Deo Chiza Rumesha, chief surgeon at the referral Hospital of Mweso in North Kivu was kidnapped and found the next morning dead.

On October 19, 2012 Frs. Edmond Kisughu, Anselme Wasukundi, and Jean-Pierre Ndulani, three Assumptionist priests, were kidnapped from their rectory in Mbau in the Diocese of Beni, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). To this day they have not returned home. An article published by the Assumptionist priests in 2014, citing the bimonthly paper Les Coulisses and Radio Kivu 1, stated that they are believed to have been killed by the Ugandan rebel group called the Allied Democratic Forces & the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) because they refused to convert to Islam. This combination of two rebel groups is known to force its hostages to convert to Islam, according to documents seized at one of their camps two years ago during a raid and destroyed by the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC.

On a daily basis, Congolese citizens from different corners of the nation live in fear for their lives. Men, women, school children are kidnapped, killed day in and day out, and their stories are known to just a few. Congolese politicians in the meantime are fighting over political posts which are an easy way to accumulate wealth in a very short time with little effort. The stories above are just a sample of what is going on in the DRC. Each day and night is full of uncertainty in villages, towns and cities.

These are examples of what Bishop Djomo referenced when he said that there is a security crisis in the DRC. He called on the faithful to pray for the victims; the youth to work for social transformation, and African diasporas, no matter where they are, to free themselves from partisanship from their home countries and embrace a vision that will help their homeland and Africa in general.

[ http://afjn.org/a-new-normal-in-the-democratic-republic-of-the-congo-priests-doctors-and-citizens-kidnapped-for-ransom-or-killed/ ]

Nigerian Wins Prestigious Award for Aiding Victims of Boko Haram

Last Updated: August 21, 2017 12:20 PM
Lisa Schlein
Voice of America

Rebecca-Dali-and-her-husband-Samuel-Dali-at-the-award-ceremony-today-e1503340422591
Rebecca-Dali-and-her-husband-Samuel-Dali-at-the-award-ceremony on August 19, 2017. (VOA)

GENEVA  (August 21, 2017)  Nigerian activist, Rebecca Dali has won the prestigious Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation Award for her work in re-integrating women and orphans abducted by Boko Haram militants into their home communities.

The award was presented at a ceremony Monday commemorating World Humanitarian Day (August 19) at the U.N. European headquarters in Geneva.

It is given every two years in memory of Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in a terrorist attack on August 19, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq, along with 21 others. The prize aims to draw world attention to the courageous, often unnoticed, humanitarian work of an individual, group or organization in areas of conflict.

“Rebecca Dali is a very courageous woman in a corner in Africa, in northeastern Nigeria, who is doing work under very difficult circumstances,” said Anne Willem Bijleveld, the chairman of the board of the de Mello Foundation.

He told VOA that some of the women and girls who are liberated want to return to their communities, but their communities and families often do not want them back because they have been raped, have had children, and been subjected to sexual violence by Boko Haram.

“Rebecca Dali did a tremendous job in re-establishing dialogue and reconciliation to get these girls back into their communities, to get them back where they came from and that they can continue with their life again,” Bijleveld said.

Aiding widows, orphans for years
Dali was born on October 1, 1960, the same day Nigeria got its independence. She overcame extreme poverty in childhood and a rape at age six to earn a Ph.D in later years in ethics and philosophy.

She got married in 1979 to a man who, she said, “allowed me to do what I like to do.” She has six children. Her fourth, a son, was lost on August 21, 2011 in the aftermath of the Jos crisis, when clashes erupted between Muslim and Christian ethnic groups.

Dali formed her non-profit organization Center for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative in northern Nigeria in 1989 to aid widows and orphans caught in situations of violence, who often struggle to survive.

She has established three Livelihood Centers that teach women marketable skills, such as sewing, computers, and cosmetology. “When they graduate, we give them seed money so they can start their own business,” she said.

When the Boko Haram insurgency began in 2009, she turned her attention to the victims of this Islamist radical group. She told VOA tens of thousands of destitute widows and orphans were left behind when their men were killed.

“In our society, women are not dignified. Even if their husbands are killed, then the family usually will take away all the things that they own,” she said. “So, in the Boko Haram, they are double victimized. So, I train these widows in my Livelihood Centers.”

Dali’s husband, Reverend Samuel Dali, was president of the Church of the Brethren, which was attended by most of the 276 Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram in April 2014.

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A still image taken from video shows a group of girls, released by Boko Haram jihadists after kidnapping them in 2014 in the north Nigerian town of Chibok, sitting in a hall as they are welcomed by officials in Abuja, Nigeria, May 7, 2017. (Reuters)

The government has taken charge of the Chibok girls who have been released, so Dali said her group is focusing on helping the many other women and children who were abducted by Boko Haram. She said those who managed to escape have been treated as pariahs by their communities.

“They are stigmatized. People rejected them. Their husbands rejected them. The society rejected them. Their parents sometimes reject them,” she said.

Dali said her organization has provided the victims with food and shelter and paid for children’s schooling. She added that the women and girls received trauma care and were encouraged to tell their distressing stories.

“Then, we go and lobby in the society among the local people, so that they will allow them to stay in the society,” she said.

The award carries a cash prize of about $5,000, which Bijleveld terms “a symbolic amount.” She may also win more support from the publicity.

Dali said she is heartened by the recognition she and her organization have received from the de Mello Foundation. “The award came to me as a miracle from God,” she said. “So, it will urge me to do more. It is really going to help me,” she said.

 

 

 

South Sudan church balances prophetic role, practical challenges

by Chris Herlinger
NCR
(August 21, 2017)

SOUTH SUDAN 3
Santo Loku Pio Doggale, the auxiliary bishop of the capital of Juba (Chris Herlinger)

(August 21, 2017)  Yuba, South Sudan — Bishop Santo Loku Pio Doggale is not a man to mince words and he didn’t mince words earlier this year when he discussed South Sudan’s descent into a worsening, seemingly never-ending civil war.

“The government is the orchestrator of the war, and the people are suffering as a result,” he told NCR from his office in the capital of Juba in late May, citing numerous examples of the afflictions South Sudanese are experiencing: rape, looting and displacement.

“They are being brutally mistreated,” the auxiliary bishop of the capital of Juba said of those who are the victims of violence — victims who have, at the moment, “no resource to justice. It’s a big mess.”

He acknowledges that his critics — in the government and even some, privately, within the church — wonder if his criticisms are fair, smart or wise.

But Doggale brushes aside those criticisms, saying, “I’m not afraid.”

“My life doesn’t matter. I’ve suffered, too. I’ve lost members of my family. But when brutality is the order of the day, someone has to speak up, especially when you see that the flock is living in fear. This makes me angry.”

Doggale’s outspoken stance represents one wing of the church — a faction that believes that the church needs to be firm in its prophetic stance not only for the larger cause of peace in South Sudan but also in calling out the current government for policies and actions some believe are the cause of the current war.

But in a predominately impoverished, Christian nation where the church has an outsized role in providing education, social services and even basic necessities like food, the church’s place in society also has a practical side.

“The Catholic Church has a strong, strong footprint here,” said Fr. Pau Vidal, a Jesuit priest and a project director for Jesuit Refugee Service in the northern city of Maban. Another humanitarian agrees. “The churches have credibility here in South Sudan,” said Jerry Farrell, the country representative in South Sudan for Catholic Relief Services. “In fact, they’re the only institutions that do have credibility, as they touch on so many parts of life: spirituality, health care, housing, education, food.”

Financial figures about the church’s role are hard to come by, but Catholic Relief Services alone has provided assistance of some sort to more than 1 million South Sudanese, the agency said, and works in partnership with local dioceses, parishes and religious congregations of both women and men.

Famine remains a serious problem and 6 million of country’s 12 million people face some kind of food insecurity — the lack of access to food — according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Church-based groups have initiated programs to improve the humanitarian situation within the country. As just one example, the Society of Daughters of Mary Immaculate, or DMI Sisters, is working on local initiatives to assist small communities in agricultural projects.

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Homes and businesses destroyed in recent clashes just outside the South Sudanese capital of Juba (Chris Herlinger)

Grave problems persist in the country and whether stated in public, like Doggale, or in private, among numerous Catholics, they revolve around the current government in power.

The criticisms center on several fronts — that the government has either not been able to control factions of the government military forces known as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, which is predominately made of members of the ethnic or tribal group known as the Dinkas, or has been purposely targeting non-Dinkas and populations the government believes oppose it.

Ethnic tensions have been put to use for political purposes, as Human Rights Watch said in its report on the ongoing conflict, noting that it began in 2013 when “soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and those loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, fought in the capital following months of growing political tensions.”

In its 2017 report, Human Rights Watch said that government troops have “killed, raped, and tortured civilians as well as destroying and pillaging civilian property during counterinsurgency operations in the southern and western parts of the country,” while acknowledging that both sides of the conflict “have committed abuses against civilians in and around Juba and other areas.” Some 2.4 million South Sudanese have been displaced, Human Rights Watch noted.

For its part, the South Sudanese government claims its troops are trying to battle an anti-government rebellion. It has blamed the civil war — which began in late 2013 — on anti-government rebels. And it has said it is committed to finding a peaceful solution to South Sudan’s war with those who oppose the government.

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Young boys in a camp for the displaced on the grounds of the Catholic cathedral in Wau (Chris Herlinger)

Some within the church, such as Fr. Moses Peter, a diocesan coordinator for Caritas in the city of Wau — which has faced a serious crisis, with thousands seeking refuge on the ground of the Catholic cathedral there — are, like Doggale, government critics. Peter said, “Nobody trusts the SPLA,” and notes that the government has accused the Catholic Church of being “pro-rebel,” a charge he strongly rejects. (President Kiir is a Roman Catholic.)

Yet the prophetic often mixes with the practical — Peter says in his humanitarian work, he works cordially with local officials among the thousands displaced in Wau by the conflict. And the church has a long history in Wau of involvement with peace efforts among all parties and factions to help diffuse local tensions.

Everyone in the church is tired of the conflict and is eager to resume some sense of hope and nation-building that ushered in the creation of the world’s newest nation after it gained independence from Sudan in 2011. Many relish memories from that time, their first taste of independence, coming after years of war.

“It was a beautiful moment — an independent people felt they could start afresh,” said Vidal. “But the [current] war has worsened the situation so much and there is no sense of nation unity now.”

Some say there is still enough political and humanitarian space to do needed pastoral work.

“It is certainly better now than in the 1960s when our people were under Arab rule,” Sr. Mary Faida, a member of the Sacred Heart Sisters, a South Sudanese congregation, said of life under the rule of neighboring Sudan, which is predominately Muslim. She said the work now of the church and of religious congregations — whether in education or in health care — is “giving hope to the people.”

Yet there are still deep worries about the church and its future. Interviewed in May, Doggale said even with all of its problems, he did not believe that the national government was engaging in systematic harassment of the church. But he did say some government officials were probably behind threats to individuals, including him.

“Is it government policy? No,” he said, but added he had received several threatening anonymous calls recently, including one in which a man told him, “Your days are numbered.”

There have been other troubling signs, too: a group of government troops threatened employees of a church bookstore in Juba in February of this year and took books off of the shelves they declared were written by government critics.

Since May, the bishop has become increasingly pessimistic. South Sudan-based Radio Tamazuj reported in July that Doggale called the current government’s national dialogue strategy “a waste of time.” He said, “The problem is political and it has to be solved by the political leaders,” including Kiir and Machar.

“The ordinary citizens have not yet created any problem, that’s why our faithful citizens are able to stay for three months without salaries and they don’t even demonstrate. They still go to work, you will never see this in any country in the world,” he said.

In emails earlier this month, Doggale told NCR that the current situation is “getting worse day by day. People are living in the uncertainty, rampant insecurity, hunger and diseases. In one word. It is limbo.”

In a later email, the bishop said, “The intimidation is of all South Sudanese by their own government. The ruling elite don’t care who you are, they just do what they want and when they want it.” He said there is there is no rule of law and repeated his belief that the country is in limbo.

“In South Sudan everybody is under intimidation, and so fear is instilled into people. It is the church that tries to give some voice, and so they (the government) are not comfortable about that and that is why they also get frustrated when the voice of the church continues in many ways to be aloud and strong on the suffering of the people.”

Others who agree with the bishop say privately the church has to be careful — that it is dealing now with what some call a military dictatorship and that the church is clearly in the government’s crosshairs.

“This is not a joke, what is happening now,” said one member of a religious order, who said the Kiir government has made a number of false allegations about the church, including that it has called “for regime change.”

“The stakes are now going up for the church,” the member said.

“The blood of the tribe is thicker than the water of Baptism,” Doggale said. “Our government is Catholic. They read the Bible. They go to church. But how much do they put into practice?”

Others also point out that in such an intense, confusing environment it is probably no surprise that four dioceses in the country are without bishops now.

“The Catholic Church is trying to finds its way now. But in keeping quiet, and not speaking out against human rights, we are taking sides and protecting our own projects,” said one cleric who did not want to be identified.

“How much injustice will we continue to see? There is so much that the religious here are witnessing,” the cleric said. “When you speak out [it is assumed], you are speaking out against the government. How can you do that in a way that is constructive?”


[Chris Herlinger is international correspondent for Global Sisters Report. His email address is cherlinger@ncronline.org.]

Kenya’s opposition leader vows court challenge over election loss

KENYA-ELECTION-opp leader 2017
Opposition leader Raila Odinga arrives at a news conference in Nairobi on Wednesday. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

By Kevin Sieff
The Washington Post

August 16 at 10:30 AM  | NAIROBI — Kenya’s opposition leader doubled down Wednesday on his claim that this month’s presidential election was rigged in favor of President Uhuru Kenyatta, saying he would take his allegations of fraud to the country’s supreme court.

Raila Odinga, 72, lost to his longtime rival Kenyatta in the Aug. 8 vote, according to the official results, but Odinga has refused to concede after his fourth electoral loss. His followers took to the streets in the wake of the official announcement, and more than 20 people have been killed in clashes with police.

Odinga amplified his charges Wednesday, saying that the country’s election commission carried out widespread fraud bigger than in “any democratic election, anywhere in the world.” He told his supporters that he would take his case to Kenya’s supreme court.

“For the third time in a decade, the candidate who lost the election has been declared the president,” Odinga said. He has not shown any evidence of fraud.

Odinga said his supporters “won’t accept it until they have answers to the disturbing questions that have been raised.”

In a news conference, Odinga encouraged continued opposition to the election results and Kenyatta’s presidency, saying those who accept the outcome are “prepared to live under autocracy.”

Kenya is the wealthiest country in East Africa and has emerged as a pillar of stability in a fragile region, which includes war-torn neighbors Somalia and South Sudan. But Kenya remains riven by tribal rivalries that come to a head in every election cycle, largely between Kenyatta’s Kikuyu tribe and Odinga’s fellow Luos.

That rift predates the country’s independence in 1963, and some worry that Odinga’s refusal to concede will further complicate reconciliation efforts. In his reelection speech, Kenyatta urged the nation to “remember that we are brothers and sisters.”

But in the wake of the 2007 elections, the International Criminal Court accused Kenyatta of fostering the wave of ethnic violence that left more than 1,000 people dead. Those charges were later dropped for lack of evidence. In his first term, however, Kenyatta did little to assuage tribal tensions, leaving many of Odinga’s supporters feeling excluded and angry.

When Kenyatta was declared the winner last Friday, some young men set fire to tires in the streets of Nairobi slums and threw rocks at police. The Kenya National Human Rights Commission accused security forces of using “excessive force which is unlawful and unacceptable” against demonstrators.

Although international election monitors said last week that they saw no sign of rigging or manipulation, Kenya’s election commission has not published the official result forms online, fueling speculation among Odinga’s supporters that the panel is covering up some form of fraud.

On Wednesday, the European Union called for the release of those forms, saying in a statement that they “would enable all stakeholders to examine the accuracy of the announced results and point to any possible anomalies.”

Meanwhile, Kenyan tax authorities attempted to raid the office of the Africa Center for Open Governance, a nongovernment group that was critical of election preparations. Officials had said that the open governance organization and the Kenya National Human Rights Commission were being suspended for not formally registering with the government. But within hours, the Interior Ministry reversed that suspension.

In a letter, the ministry said it would give the two groups 90 days to resolve “any outstanding noncompliance issues,” without specifying what those issues were.

Michelle Kagari, deputy director of Amnesty International for the region including Kenya, called the suspensions “a cynical attempt to discredit human rights organizations.”

But after a week of paralysis, with businesses closed and streets empty, Nairobi had come back to life. On television, tourism officials said reservations were steady. Traffic jams had returned to the city center. Even in Kibera, the sprawling slum where much of last week’s violence occurred, Odinga supporters said they were ready to move on. Packed minibuses streaked through the slum’s main arteries.

“We just want our lives to go back to normal,” said David Kinara, 60, an Odinga supporter and a Kibera resident. “There is nothing much we can do.”

“Life has to go on because if it does not, everyone is vulnerable,” said Owino Kotieno, another Odinga supporter and Kibera resident. “You are vulnerable from police brutality and hooligans.”

In 2013, Odinga also claimed that the election was rigged and took his case to the supreme court. After several months, he lost his case.


Rael Ombuor contributed to this report.