2. Missionaries imprisoned at Mapourdit
For 72-year-old Australian Sister Moira Lynch and her fellow missionaries at
Mapourdit mission of Rumbek Catholic Diocese in southern Sudan, the morning of
August 17, 1996 will for many years to come rekindle dreadful memories. It was
the morning when the wardens turned poachers and harassed the very game under
On the fateful date, Sister Lynch, her compatriots Sisters Mary Batchelor, 67
and Maureen Carey, 52, American Father Michael Barton, 48, Italian Brother
Raniero Iacomella, 26 and Father Raphael Riel, 48-year-old Sudanese and Vicar
General of Rumbek Diocese were taken prisoners by their supposed protectors,
Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers.
The soldiers under the command of Major Marial Nuor stormed the mission
compound at around 5 am. "I was already in the chapel for my morning prayers
when I heard some commotion within our compound. I rushed out to establish what
was happening and was met by the soldiers, who immediately ordered me to sit on
the ground," Sister Lynch recalls.
Days before the invasion, a number of telling episodes had occurred at mission
compound. Among them was the forced conscription of five teachers from the
mission school by the SPLA. The school which was established in 1993 has a
population of 1, 500 pupils.
The soldiers then proceeded to the other missionaries' room and ordered the
occupants who were still in bed out. That was the beginning of what turned out
to be a 12-day incarceration. The missionaries were to spend a greater part of
the first day of their arrest separated from each other but within their
compound. During this time, the soldiers literally turned everything at the
mission upside down. They confiscated, among other things, several letters the
nuns had written to their relatives and friends back home, and which were due
for posting in Nairobi, Kenya, in the next few days.
Among other issues, the letters had information about the forced recruitment of
Mapourdit school teachers by the SPLA, an issues which the soldiers picked on
to brand the missionaries "foreign spies".
"We had all along suspected you people of working for the Khartoum government
but now we have found the evidence," Sister Lynch remembers the soldiers saying
regarding the information in the letters.
It was not until evening that the six were allowed to celebrate mass together
before being whisked away in the mission car to an unknown destination. The
destination later turned out to be Row Prison. Sister Carey and Brother
Iacomella were moved back to the mission after only three days. They were kept
under house arrest for what the soldiers described as "their own security".
Meanwhile, Sister Carey was supposed to keep the mission dispensary running.
In the days following the arrest of the six missionaries, the Mapourdit mission
which had just received an a assortment of supplies from Nairobi, was
systematically looted by the SPLA soldiers, prompting speculation that the
soldiers, hard pressed by their own deprivation, had to feign betrayal to
justify encroachment on missionary supplies.
The charges against the captives, generally believed to have been arrested
without the blessings of SPLA's top leadership, were stated as "hindering SPLA
recruitment, being found in possession of documents proving that they are spies
from foreign countries and working for the spread of Islam under the disguise
of the Cross."
Sister Lynch said that they were not mistreated while in confinement though
they felt greatly humiliated.
What exactly may have prompted the invasion of Mapourdit mission may never be
established but one thing is certain: The episode dealt a serious blow to the
image of the main Sudanese rebel movement, the SPLA, which controls most of
southern Sudan. It also provided its adversaries with additional evidence with
which to hit the John Garang-led movement even harder.
News about the invasion spread across the world like a bush fire and from
nearly every direction, there was pressure on the SPLA to facilitate the
unconditional release of the missionaries. Charles Omondi.
3. 168 DINKA CHILDREN RETURN HOME IN SOUTHERN SUDAN
Nairobi, 13 September 1996
More than 160 Dinka boys will see their parents for the first time in at least
three years this week, in the first family reunification from areas controlled
by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).
The reunification was coordinated by the United Nations Children's Fund
(UNICEF), in cooperation with the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association
(SRRA) and Radda Barnen (Swedish Save the Children). Together, the
organizations interviewed the boys to find out where they were from, whether
their families were still there and wanted them home, and whether they wanted
to go home themselves.
The boys were airlifted by a UNICEF-funded Buffalo cargo aircraft from
Lokichokio -- the Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) relief base in northern Kenya
-- to their home areas of Akot, Adior, Thiet and Agangrial between Tuesday and
Saturday. Aged from 10 to 18, the boys had been living in a camp for
unaccompanied minors in New Cush since June 1995, where they arrived after an
arduous two-year journey by foot to Uganda and back again.
Some left home in search of education, while others fled fighting in their home
The greatest challenge for UNICEF will be to ensure that the education system
in the home areas is functioning so the boys will not have to leave their
For further information, please contact:
Fr. Kizito, SCIO, tel +254.2.562247 - fax +254.2.566668 - e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org