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Lasting peace in South Sudan?

February 20, 2012 - Mike Donahey
Peace. In a word, that elusive state is what villagers of Old Fangak, South Sudan want. It is easy to understand after living and working among them for nearly nine days.

Located in northeast South Sudan, Old Fangak specifically and South Sudan generally have a history of violence, ranging from invasions by the Arab and Islam-influenced north to rebel incursions, to cattle-wars. Violence has killed or maimed thousands and uprooted more from homes.

Last week a young man died in the village’s hospital from a gunshot wound suffered a year ago, the result of military action. Not a soldier or rebel, but a victim. Father Christian Carlassare, an Italian priest at Saint Daniel Comboni Catholic Centre in the village, told me the man was hit by a random bullet while in his mud and straw hut. It left him paralyzed before becoming fatal.

Before departing Old Fangak, we learned North and South had agreed to a non-aggression pact Feb. 11. However, it lasted all of three days, according to the Washington Post. South Sudan accused the North Feb. 14 of bombing villages near their border, resulting in more dead. Establishing, real long-lasting peace in many parts of the globe, including South Sudan is like trying to tackle fog. News of the Feb. 11 agreement was initially received with joy by Andrew Chuol of Ames, a villager by birth but now an American citizen who was part of our team repairing and installing wells in Old Fangak. Majok Gatwech of Marshalltown, another Sudanese team member and villager by birth, felt the same. Both have family in the village. Like many former soldiers who have been on the receiving end of bullets fired in anger, the battle-scarred but soft-spoken Chuol wants peace desperately. As does Gatwech. And long-lasting peace can’t come soon enough for all.


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