South Sudanese Cleric Recounts Ordeal After Army, Civilian Clash in Warrap State

Map of South Sudan showing the Warrap State where the August 8 clashes between the army and armed civilians took place.

Days after civilians attacked a Catholic Parish that hosted members of the military within South Sudan’s Diocese of Rumbek, the Priest in charge of the Mission Center has recounted the ordeal to ACI Africa. 

“Early in the morning, the civilians attacked the soldiers at the mission, capturing all the guns, including the army tanks (and) eight vehicles; 10 people were left dead in the Comboni school compound,” the Parish Priest of Romic, Fr. Ireneo Mayok Jongkou told ACI Africa Thursday, August 20.

Fr. Ireneo added, “The civilians were shooting in the compound, even shooting the rooms because the soldiers were based in the Catholic compound. We accommodated over 50 soldiers in the Comboni primary and the secondary school and that is why the civilians were angry with us and did not compromise shooting the mission compound during the firing.”

On August 8, clashes between South Sudan security forces and armed civilians during a disarmament exercise in the north-central Warrap state left at least 127 people dead, Aljazeera reported.

Among the dead were 82 civilians and 45 soldiers, army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said in a statement.


During the August 20 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Ireneo recounted his experience of the exchange of gunshots while he was in the parish house saying, “During the heavy shooting, I was in my room because I could not come out to run because I could not run well. I just said to myself that if this is the final day for me let it be and it is good that I am dying in my house.”

He continued, “While in my room, they (civilians) opened the door for me, they told me to run away and go hiding.”

“I remained in hiding until the members of parliament came from Juba by helicopter and met with me and the reasons for fighting were presented to them,” the 68-year-old South Sudanese Cleric told ACI Africa.

He went on to highlight the consequences of the violent clashes on the Mission Centre.

“All structures for the parish, benches for Comboni primary school and the secondary school have been broken; they have no windows and doors and the solar system has been destroyed,” Fr. Ireneo told ACI Africa

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“We were accommodating more than one thousand students here in our schools and now all the books for the primary school were looted,” the Cleric lamented and added, “All the chairs of the mission tables in the Church were taken away. They looted the whole area, even the big market of the Romic area.” 

South Sudan is emerging from a six-year civil war that left 380,000 dead with millions displaced. Disarmament is a major stumbling block in the reconstruction process.

The disarmament process, which is part of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) was signed between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar in February after many months of negotiations and a protracted formation of a unity government.

During the August 20 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Ireneo said that before the arrival of the advanced team for disarmament in Tonj, “All the guns were collected and were presented to their paramount chiefs.” 

“The guns were now looted in the riot when the soldiers killed the son of a very important person, the paramount chief of Luanyjang. Without the killing of the son of the paramount chief, things were going smoothly,” he added.


The South Sudanese Priest explained, “The civilians in Tonj East of Warrap state are now giving a condition that they do not want the leadership of the army that was taken there to further the disarmament exercise.”

“The MPs and governors are now telling us to talk to the civilians to return the guns they took away from the army,” Fr. Ireneo told ACI Africa.