JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN (July 13, 2016) — Members of the Evangelical Covenant Church of South Sudan and Ethiopia (ECCSS) were among the people shelled at a United Nations Mission camp for internally displaced people during fighting that erupted last week between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar.
“The country is brought back to war by the political leaders who are not willing to embrace peace and stability,” Mathew Jock Moses, president of the ECCSS, said Tuesday.
According to the UN, government forces shelled the camp, killing at least eight civilians. At least 28,000 people were already living at the camp. Another 5,000 have sought shelter there since the resumption of hostilities.
South Sudan is trying to return to peace following a civil war that started in 2013 after Kiir dismissed the cabinet and accused Machar of planning a coup. The war was fought primarily between the young nation’s largest ethnic groups, the Nuer, who are loyal to Machar, and the Dinka, who are loyal to Kiir.
The fighting displaced more than 2.2 million people, who fled to UN camps within the country and to refugee camps in neighboring nations. Tens of thousands have been killed in a war marked by atrocities committed by both sides. ECCSS leaders fled to Gambela, where the denomination has been operating since.
A peace accord was reached under heavy international pressure, and Machar returned in April to again serve as vice president in a government headed by Kiir.
The latest conflict has led to fears that a civil war might ignite again. “We are asking for your prayer and support,” Mathew said.