By Ajith Ajith Pioth, Juba, South Sudan,
June 28, 2021 — Terrible chaos erupted at Gordhim Parish, also widely known as Our Lady of Fatima Parish, in Majak Akoon, Wanyjok, Aweil East county’s headquarters. The dispute involved the commissioner, the church, and the entire Majak Akoon community over rumours of treasures hidden under the local church.
The story originated from Ajou Lual, a local elderly man believed to be over 70 years old, and who was a young boy in 1964 when the then Khartoum based, Ibrahim Aboud’s government ordered the expulsion of foreign Christian’s missionaries from Sudan. Ajou claims that the departing priests, fearing that churches would be plundered by incoming Sudanese army, buried what seemed to Ajou to be valuable treasures under the church’s ground.
“As a young boy, I worked alongside other boys for the missionaries in the church. I worked as a cleaner, a messenger and helped with almost everything in the compound.” Mr Ajou Lual recalled. “It was at that time, amidst the impending expulsion of the missions, that some of the missionaries were temporarily relocated from Nyamlel to Gordhim.
Our number was reduced to only three with the other boys being sent home. It was after this that some of the priests helped by the two boys dug a hole beneath the sitting room, placed some boxes inside and laid concrete over the area. The priests then warned us not to tell anyone, lest we die.”
For the last few days, Ajou’s revelation has caused tension between the church and the community on the one hand, and the local government headed by the commissioner on the other.
Speaking to the RBC-TV, Gordhim Parish priest, Father Lino, said the story has been developing for a while now, and the first person to tell him of the alleged buried minerals was a gentleman called Dut Diing, who works for a certain local company.
Father Lino related how Diing had visited him three times, demanding to excavate the church ground, but that the father had turned him down on each occasion. “I told him that this church belongs to the community. He even tried to bribe me, but I refused. He left and returned with father Baak from Aweil Parish, but we held our ground. I talked to the bishop about it and he said that no such permission should be given. Having failed so far, Diing Dut took the matter to the commissioner.” Father Line, elaborated.
“On Sunday, May 23, 2021, around 7:00 pm, the commissioner came to me and expressed his concern for what might be under the ground, pressing that it should be excavated. I proposed that the church could elect members to witness the excavation, but that did not seem to go well with him.”
“On 3rd, June 2021, he returned, and I repeated the same proposal to him.” On 4th June 2021, about 8:30 am, he came again and urged me to privately form a committee comprised of only five people: The deacon, myself in addition to three from the government side. That is a national security personnel, a legal affairs representative, and the commissioner himself. But I refused, saying that it should be up to the church to choose its representatives.”
“On the evening of 15th June 2021, at around 9:00 pm, the commissioner, accompanied by technicians including a Russian and a Kenyan Canadian national and armed soldiers forcefully entered the church compound and used scanning equipment to survey the grounds.” Father Lino, concluded.
John Majok Kuot, head of the local youth committee, said that the community of Majak Akoon disapproved of the commissioner’s approach to the issue and are enraged for being described as “primitive” by legal affairs representative. “We have listed eight points in which we disapproved of the commissioner’s ways of handling things, including using heavily armed soldiers.” John, said.
Commissioner, Kiir Yor Lual, in an interview with us, slammed reports of the story on social media as inaccurate and politically motivated. “I did not go to the church with heavily armed soldiers. I only took my personal guards.” said the commissioner. “Nor have I rejected the inclusion of elected church members in our committee”.
Then he went on to explain saying, “As a government, we are concerned about what might be under the ground. It might be something dangerous, that’s why we wanted only a specific number of people to witness it.”
The author, Ajith Ajith Pioth, is a second-year student of Economics and Banking at University of Juba; he is also a blogger and reporter for RBC TV, and can be reached via his email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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