The Bishop of Morobo, the Right Revd Amosa Data Elinama, was attacked and kidnapped this morning (Monday 5 June) by an armed gang. He was released a short while later and taken to the office of the Commissioner of Morobo. The bishop was travelling from Morobo to Bazi when he was attacked.
Local government sources say that the attack was carried out by members of an anti-government militia group, the National Salvation Front (NAS).
In a statement, the Morobo County Commissioner, Moses Soro, said that Bishop Amosa was travelling by car between Bazi and Morobo when the vehicle was stopped by a soldier. The Bishop thought that the soldier was a member of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces, the official army of South Sudan. But after his vehicle had stopped some 15 armed men canme out of the bush and ordered the bishop and driver to leave their vehicle.
The attackers said: “Bishop we need to do for you something that you will not forget in your life and we wanted to burn your car because you are the supporter of the government.” The bishop’s car was purchased just two months ago with donations from three funders that the Anglican Communion Secretary General, Bishop Anthony Poggo, had put in touch with Bishop Amosa.
The Bishop of Lainya, the Most Revd Paul Yugusuk, is Archbishop of the Internal Province of Central Equatoria, which includes the Diocese of Morobo. Archbishop Paul said that the attack took place at 10.00 am CAT (8.00 am GMT) this morning (5 June) a few kilometers from Morobo while Bishop Amosa was travelling from Koboko to Morobo Diocese to chair a Diocesan Council meeting.
The bishop and his driver were ordered to drive the car 100 meters from the main road into the bush where they joined boda boda [motorbike taxi] riders who had been kidnapped earlier.
They were ordered to sit down and watch helplessly as their bags were looted. The bishop’s bag had two cellphones, his cross, Bible, prayer book, clerical robe, stamp and church document, including a printed report that he had prepared to present at the diocesan council meeting.
The attackers fled when they realised one of the Boda Boda drivers had escaped and they feared he was going to raise the alarm, but not before Bishop Amosa saw them Bishop saw them pour petrol on his car and torch it to ashes before they disappeared into the bushes.
Onlookers watch as Bishop Amosa Data Elinama’s car burns after an ambush on the Morobo to Bazi road on Monday 5 June 2023.
“On behalf of Central Equatoria Internal Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan, I condemn in the strongest terms, the ambush and consequent kidnapping of Bishop Amosa Data Elinoma of the Episcopal Diocese of Morobo and his driver,” Archbishop Paul Yukgusuk said. “We have reliably learnt that this barbaric inhuman act was done by National Salvation Front NAS soldiers. We appeal to the leadership of National Salvation Army to instruct their soldiers to stop harassing servants of God and civilians.”
Archbishop Paul added: “We passionately call on all armed groups in South Sudan to give peace a chance by utilising mediation and other forms of negotiations to settle political disputes. My the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ prevail always. Amen”
Speaking from Madagascar, where he has been attending the provincial synod of the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean, the Primate of South Sudan, Archbishop Justin Badi Arama, reiterated his calls for peace and an end to the attacks on civilians and innocent people. He called on all those who have taken up arms “to end the cycle of violence and negotiate peace.” And he reminded the peace partners in government of the need to implement all aspects of the revitalised peace agreement.
The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Anthony Poggo, formerly the Bishop of Kajo-Keji in South Sudan, is also in Madagascar. He said today: “it is very sad to receive news of the attack on the Bishop of Morobo. I call on those who continue to attack innocent travellers on the roads in South Sudan to respect the sanctity of human life and destruction of property.
“May all those who have taken up arms come to the negotiating table. Please pray for peace in South Sudan as well as an end to the ongoing conflict in Sudan.”
The Morobo County Commissioner’s statement condemned what they called “the barbaric act by NAS to targeting religious leaders and civilians.”
The statement said: “as the leadership of the government of Morobo County together with the organised forces we will make sure that citizens of Morobo County are protected as the mandatory of the national army of the Republic of South Sudan.”