MAPOURDIT SCHOOL RE-OPENS
After nearly one-month hiatus prompted by invasion of Mapourdit mission station
by the Sudanese Peoples' Liberation Army (SPLA) forces, the mission school and
dispensary have finally resumed their full operations. The dispensary, says
Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, the Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek Diocese,
resumed operations on September 19, 1996. The school which has an estimated
population of 1,500 pupils re-opened on September 16.
Ninety per cent of all pupils were there on the very first
day, says a confident Msgr Mazzolari, who, however, concedes that the invasion
must have intimidated some of the pupils a great deal. He hopes that with time
all the learners and the community in general will get over the negative impact
of the incident. "We remain very optimistic about the future of these
institutions as the local people have demonstrated tremendous solidarity
amongst themselves and with their priests, Msgr Mazzolari says. "The people of
Mapourdit are a very resilient community that has withstood several severe
But the two institutions are
still bearing the brunt of the August 17 invasion which culminated in the
arrest and detention of six missionaries and the looting of the mission. The
six victims of the unfortunate turn of events were three Australian sisters -
Moira Lynch, 72, Mary Batchelor, 67, and Maureen Carey, 52, American Fr.
Michael Barton, 48, Italian Brother Raniero Iacomella, 26, and Fr. Raphael
Riel, 48, Sudanese and Vicar General of Rumbek Diocese.
The three elderly sisters, who like their fellow missionaries at the southern
Sudanese village were actively involved in running both the dispensary and the
school, have opted for a period of rest in their motherland in accordance with
the expert advice. Consequently, the two vital institutions have been hit by a
shortfall of relevant personnel. The school, Msgr. Mazzolari says, currently
faces a shortfall of at least two teachers. The school runs 14 streams in the
morning and eight in the afternoon. The mission dispensary is currently being
taken care of by five Sudanese nurses.
We have suffereed a real loss, but by no means a permanent one, Msgr Mazzolari
says about the absence of the three Australian sisters. "We are shopping around
for relevant replacement."
In an earlier interview with the three sisters in Nairobi, they had expressed
their willingness to continue with their missionary work in the Sudan, so long
as SPLA which controls most of the region, guarantees their safety. However,
one cannot rule out a possiblity of pressure from back home on the elderly nuns
to keep off "the needy people who are brazen enough to slap humanitarian aid
workers in the face".
In the meantime, Msgr Mazzolari has received several written appeals from the
pupils and members of the wider Sudanese community requesting him to intercede
for them in facilitating the return of the Australian sisters.
If it is possible, kindly make the sisters come back, says one of the letters
in part. "The reason why we want them is that we have no teacher to teach us
and no doctors to help us. Sr. Moira was our only hope in Mathematics," it
Prior to the re-opening of the institutions, a delegation of Comboni
Missionaries comprising of Father Kizito Sesana of Sudan Catholic Information
Office (SCIO), Nairobi, and Bishop Joseph Gasi of Tambura Yambio in southern
Sudan, held talks with top SPLA leaders in Nairobi. The missionaries sought to
know the movement's position regarding missionary activities in the
That the re-opening of the school and the dispensary at Mapourdit came hot on
the heels of the Nairobi talks, leaves no doubt that SPLA must have accepted
most, if not all conditions laid down by the missionaries for their continued
support to the southern Sudanese poeple.
During the talks, the SPLA leaders expressed displeasure at the August incident
and promised to consider restitution for the looting of the mission. They
reaffirmed that the invasion, largely blamed on a local rogue commander, Major
Marial Nuor, was conducted without the blessings of the movement's top
It was also decided that church leaders in southern Sudan and top SPLA officlas
meet regularly to exchange ideas on the latest developments and on how to
continue co-existing peaceful.
Without mincing their words, the church leaders expressed their concern about
some SPLA asctivities such as forced recruitment of catechists and teachers.
"But above all we are disturbed by the recent imprisonment of six church
workers in Mapourdit," said the clergy.
"Obviously these facts have negative repercussion on the world public opinion
about the SPLA and the image of the movement has been tarnished. After you
apparently successful recent campaign in the Western world, the Mapourdit facts
have caused a serious loss of credibilty in the movement."
The John Garang-led SPLA is the main rebel group fighting for the liberation of
southern Sudan from the Islamic regime of Khartoum. Internal squabbles within
it's ranks have seen splits and counter splits within the movement and the
latest showdown with the missionaries could just be a pointer to imminent
further disintegration within the SPLA. To have embarked on such a potentially
explosive mission without the express authority of his top-most boss, Major
Nuor either sought to prove that he was no longer answerable to Colonel Garang,
or that he was disenchanted with his leadership.- Charles Omondi.
Sudanese begin training in Kenya
Thirty two Sudanese trainees, all males, have began classes at the new-opened
Blessed Josephine Bakhita Formation Centre in the Kenyan town of Kitale, about
407 kilometres north-west of Nairobi.
Sixteen of the Sudanese, who will be trained in the fields of teaching and
catechism, came from Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya, while the rest were
selected directly from their respective missions in the Sudan. The group from
Kakuma reported at the Kitale institution on October 4, while those from Sudan
reported at the Kitale institution two days later.
Eight morte students are expected from the Nuba Mountains. Their arrival has
been delayed because of the disturbances in the Nuba Mountains which have made
it impossible for planes to land their to pick them.
The Ksh28.5 milliom ($500, 000) Formation Centre, built by the Comboni
Missionaries, lies on a 26-acre plot. It is intended to serve the Sudanese
dioceses of Rumbek, Tambura Yambio, El Obeid and Torit. It can host 80
Upon the completion of their courses, the Sudanese, whose training will be
fully funded by donors, will be expected to commit themselves to work in their
different capacities for their people. -Charles Omondi.
For further information, please contact:
Fr. Kizito, SCIO, tel +254.2.562247 - fax +254.2.566668 - e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org