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South Sudan Expels Catholic Priest

South Sudanese authorities have expelled a Kenyan Catholic priest working with the Yambio Tambura diocese in South Sudan.

Joseph Marko Wanga Bilali, minister of local government and law enforcement in Tambura state, on Wednesday issued an order to the National Security and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to evict the Rev. Father Joseph Githinji from Tambura state, which borders the Central African Republic.

The letter said Githinji is required to leave the territory and report to Yambio immediately.

Wanga’s letter did not give any reasons for deporting the Kenyan priest.

Catholic Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussal of the Yambio Tambura diocese told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus that he chartered a plane to transport Githinji and his superior from Tambura state to Kenya.

Speaking from Nairobi Thursday, Githinji said he does not know why South Sudanese authorities expelled him. He said he has been working as a missionary among the Azande community in Tambura for the past 10 years.

Githinji did describe an incident, however, when he and some other priests were harassed and ordered at gunpoint by security operatives who commandeered a vehicle he was driving during a road trip to Yambio town in Gbudue state on Wednesday.

Githinji, a member of the Missionary Community of Saint Paul the Apostles, was the parish priest of Saint Thomas and Ave Maria Catholic churches at Ngboko village in Rii Yubu County.

The Kenyan priest said he was detained together with a Spanish priest, the Rev. Fr. Fernando Aguirre, the superior of the Missionary Community of Saint Paul the Apostles, who was told to remain in South Sudan with three other seminarians.

Githinji said they had to "leave the mission without anybody until further notice."

Deputy governor of Tambura State Lino Utu did not respond to several calls for comment by VOA.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the South Sudan In Focus radio program.