On November 28, there was a horrific attack on the people of Duk Payuel where ASAH first began. Fourteen of the ASAH students came from Duk Payuel. In the early morning hours while people were sleeping, armed Murle tribesmen attacked. They stole the cattle, burned the huts, and abducted fifty-six women and children. The death toll has now risen to 69. Six of those killed were aid workers, including three who worked for John Dau Foundation, the provider of medical services in Duk County. Others remain hospitalized, some still in critical condition. My understanding is that troops have been mobilized to rescue the women and children and that local youth retrieved the cattle. Our hearts are heavy with this news.
Two of our students had relatives in the village at the time of the attack. Fifteen-year-old Deborah Abul lost her only living relative, her aunt. Three younger siblings of Rebecca Akuol, who turned 17 on December 2, were abducted. One additional sibling was shot and is recovering at a hospital in Juba.
This attack is unrelated to the horrific war which continues in many parts of South Sudan and has displaced more than one million refugees to Uganda alone. Though villagers fled Duk Payuel in February 2014 when rebels attacked, the area had regained a sense of peace and some, though not all, people had returned. They rebuilt their tukuls (adobe thatched huts) and resumed farming and tending cattle.
Jonglei state Deputy Governor, Agot Alier, condemned the action, stating, “You abduct people from their own parents, their own mothers and fathers, for the purpose of selling them to other needy families. This is more of human trafficking and amounts even to slavery that has been abolished a long time ago.”
Life goes on as it must. Our students are now on break through December and January, staying with relatives in refugee camps in Adjumani district of Uganda through the holidays. There will be mourning, and our girls will have the comfort of their community. Some of our students do not have relatives in Uganda, so they are staying with friends. Because food rations at the camps were cut in half in May and in half again in September, we sent our students with food so they will be able to add to the nourishment of their families. The aid organizations do not have sufficient funds to provide all the needs for displaced people around the globe.
Please keep the people of South Sudan in your prayers.