Juba, South Sudan, June 02, 2021 – The South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF) has denied any responsibility for the killing involving a parish priest and other members arrested by armed gunmen during a church service on Sunday.
SSDPF Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang said the government army takes no accountability as no formal report was made to the leadership in connection with the incident.
“I saw the reports. I read them only on news websites and other social media platforms. It was not reported to me formally,” he said.
“The SSPDF takes no responsibility in this case. However, we have launched an investigation into the report and we convey our sincere condolences to those who lost their loved ones,” he added.
Mr. Ruai’s statement came hours after Archbishop of Central Equatoria state Internal Province Paul Yugusuk said Pastor Comas Kwaje Matayo, the parish priest, and other church members were picked up on Sunday by members of the army in Gumbri and taken to an unknown location where he and other Church members were killed.
“I regret to inform the leadership and the Christians of Central Equatoria Internal Province and the Diocese of Lainya that Reverend Comas Kwaje Matayo was arrested on Sunday during a Sunday service together with four other church members,” Father Paul said.
Yugusuk said those arrested, including a 10-year-old boy and an altar servant named Simon Taban, were taken and murdered in “cold blood”.
Other people murdered were Moses Wani, the area chief; and Loki Ebidayo, an elder at the Gumbri ECSS church. Archbishop Yugusuk went called on the army leadership to investigate the killing and find the perpetrators to hold them to account.
“I call upon the Chief of the Defense Forces, General Santino Dengo Wol, to investigate the killing of Comas Kwaje Matteo and the others and bring those soldiers who committed the barbaric atrocities against the man of God and the people of God,” he added.
The motive beyond the killing of the worshippers is not yet known.
However, Ruai said investigations have been launched into the incident. The SSPDF also condemned the killing saying “We value all human lives and we highly condemn the killing of innocent civilians”.