A St. Paul man is trying to arrange a long-distance rescue of his two young nieces after learning they were abducted by gunmen in Southern Sudan last week. Gabriel K. Solomon, 27, a University of Minnesota graduate student who lives in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood, is contacting officials in southern Sudan by phone and email to urge them to take action to find the men who abducted 1-year-old Ajak Aciek Mading and her 3-year-old sister Yar on Oct. 3 in Southern Sudan’s Jonglei state. Solomon said his grandmother was fatally shot during the abduction, and his stepmother is still hospitalized after being shot by the attackers.
“It is very frustrating “said Solomon speaking to the African News Journal from his residence in St. Paul.” “I was told the government officials, commissioner and others may be planning to attack the militia to disarm them and rescue the kids. This option scares me, I would like to see a peaceful conclusion rather than a military one.” added Solomon.
The family says the abductors were from the Murle ethnic group and took the girls as surrogate children. The Murle have been blamed for cattle raids, and the United Nations reported in August that armed groups of Murle men in Jonglei state were suspected in about 40 child abductions during the previous year.
But local officials told Solomon they lack the resources to provide basic security to citizens, let alone locate and pursue the abductors. Solomon is appealing to the state governor, Philip Thon Leek, to intercede and negotiate for the children’s release. With the difficulty in long-distance communication, and the low capacity of government involvement throughout Southern Sudan, Solomon is worried that his entreaties will not persuade the Leek to take action.
The abduction highlights a dangerous lack of security in Southern Sudan that has been barely noticed by a world public better acquainted with the violence in Sudan’s far western Darfur region. The fledgling government of Southern Sudan devastated after its long civil war with the northern Sudan government based in Khartoum, is unable to provide general security for its citizens as interethnic clashes reignite. The southern portion of the state is transitioning into independence pursuant to the treaty brokered by the U.S. that ended the civil war.
Foreign aid bodies including the U.S. Agency for International Development have been operating in the southern capital Juba to help the south develop. But that progress seems a long way away from beleaguered citizens of the south. One official has even suggested a return to the vigilantism of the civil war period may be necessary.
Solomon said he spoke by phone Tuesday night (Oct. 10) with the head of the local county government who told Solomon apologetically that he lacked the resources to find the girls let alone meet basic security needs. The official, Bor County Commissioner Abraham Jok told Solomon he had 90 police officers to patrol a county nearly 7,000 square miles in area — and no walkie-talkies or telephones. Only top managers have satellite phones. Residents who want to report a crime must walk or bicycle to the district capital and find a police officer to communicate in person.
(Ntuv Tunka contributed to this story)
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