Some of our friends from the Diocese of Lui along with others from Greater Mundri have fled their homes and resettled elsewhere. Some are in Juba, some in Yei, some still in the bush not too far from their homes; technically they are IDPs -- Internally Displaced Persons -- in the UN's terminology because they are still in their country of origin. Others have fled the country altogether. and are officially refugees Of those, some may be in Kenya; during the long Sudanese Civil War that ended with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, which in turn led to South Sudan's independence, many from what is now South Sudan fled to Kakuma in Kenya, the camp from which many of the so-called Lost Boys and Girls were resettled to the US. Recently Kenya announced that it is closing its camps and shutting down all its refugee operations, but then it seemed that Kakuma would be spared -- so I'm not sure about the ultimate fate of any refugees in Kenya. But Uganda is closer to Lui, perhaps ethnically or culturally as well as geographically, and a large number of our Moru friends have fled to UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) settlements or camps there.
While in Uganda, our Swedish, English, and American teams visited friends at Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement. It's nothing like the rows of white UNHCR tents in photos from the Middle East. Each family is given a small piece of land and some basic materials for buildng a shelter. They have room to cultivate around their homes on the land. The Moru community has made the most of their resources at Kiryandongo. They've built tukuls, a church, and a preschool.
Children are attending the free primary school Youth are enrolling in secondary school if they can scrape together the fees. Maize is the main crop in the very fertile soil, rather than the sorghum people grow in Greater Mundri, and other drops grow among the maize, especially okra. The UN provides a food distribution, but people have to come up with the funds to buy some essentials, such as soap, so our friends are working on various enterprises that will help them do that. A big problem in the camp is a species of sand flea, locally called jiggers, which bite bare feet and lay eggs under the skin, including under toenails. Untreated, they cause infections, even gangrene, crippling, and sometimes even death.
There are Moru people in at least one other camp in Uganda. We didn't visit it, but we heard that conditions are not as good there. Meanwhile, back in Greater Mundri, people are trying to plant now that it's the rainy season. But so many crops were looted or destroyed that there are very few seeds to plant. And there's a lot of suspicion and gossip about people's political leanings as some towns are controlled by the army and others by the rebels.
Our friends were optimistic that things will improve in South Sudan now that some progress has been made toward a return of peace -- Vice President Machar is back in Juba working with President Kiir -- and they spoke hopefully of the national elections slated for 2018. For now, they are doing their best to keep food on the table, their children healthy and in school, and their church community strong. Please pray for the Moru people and those who lead them.