South Sudan - Keeping coronavirus out of Kuron

Published: 8 Jun 2020

 Crucial cargo during coronavirus is transported to Kuron by MAF Pilot, Wim Hobo

MAF Pilot, Wim Hobo, has been regularly flying to the award winning ‘Holy Trinity Peace Village’ in Kuron for four years. This time, essential supplies include face masks and educational resources to keep coronavirus at bay…

Located near the border of Ethiopia since 2005, the remote Holy Trinity Peace Village - also known as Kuron Peace Village - is reportedly untouched by coronavirus. Home to over 3,000 people (UN), its founder – 84-year-old Bishop Paride Taban - wants to keep it that way:

‘We have no coronavirus here - it is safe! ‘We have people who want to come here for meetings, but we say: “no!” We keep people out and don’t even allow them to come to our guest house.’

‘Holy Trinity Peace Village’ is the brainchild of Bishop Paride Taban, which he founded in 2005. MAF Pilot, Wim Hobo, is in the background offloading cargo.

An oasis of peace in war-torn South Sudan

Kuron Peace Village was created as an oasis of calm in the midst of war-torn South Sudan. It was Bishop Paride Taban’s dream to establish a community comprising of different tribes, ethnicities and faiths. He’s proved to the world that peaceful cohabitation in South Sudan - regardless of background - is possible.

The village boasts three nurseries, St. Thomas Primary School, Kuron Vocational Training Centre, Kuron Primary Health Centre, 3,000 teak trees, banana plantations and an airstrip. The Bishop’s warm eyes proudly twinkle above his facemask:

'We have one of the best airstrips! We did most of the work with women - they are the best!’ 

Students at Kuron Vocational Training Centre are taught carpentry, tailoring, brick production and welding. The Bishop hopes that these new skills will give their young people more opportunities and an alternative lifestyle to cattle raiding, which often fuels intercommunal violence in South Sudan.

Having successfully united his people in that part of the country, the Bishop went on to achieve global recognition for his groundbreaking work. He received the ‘Sergio Vieira de Mello United Nations Peace Prize’ and the ‘Roosevelt Award for Peace and Reconciliation.’ MAF Pilot, Wim Hobo, attended the latter ceremony.

MAF Pilot, Wim Hobo, offloading new tyres

A cargo to fight coronavirus

Over the years, the Bishop has chartered MAF’s small Cessna 182 aircraft many times – often piloted by Wim - to transport him to meetings in Juba and beyond.

Twenty MAF flights later, on 8th June, Wim is now transporting cargo with a difference.

Alongside the everyday items of food, cooking oil, fertiliser, washing powder and new tyres are facemasks, buckets and banners bearing crucial information for the Bishop’s coronavirus awareness programme.

Pandemic puts plans on hold

In light of the pandemic, the usually hospitable Kuron Peace Village, has been forced to close its guesthouse, meetings are postponed, schools are shut and children have been kept away from the airstrip.

Before coronavirus turned the world upside down, the Bishop hoped to officially open their secondary school this year, in a bid to prevent young people from migrating to larger towns. Alas, the completion of the intended ‘Peace Academy’ has been put on hold: 

‘We wanted to start this year, but now with coronavirus, we can’t.’

Despite the setback, the Bishop marvels at how far the village has come, especially in terms of providing safe educational spaces for their children:

‘We started under a tree, before we even had any buildings!’ 

With much work still to be done – mostly funded by institutional donors -

 it’s frustrating that a global pandemic has delayed the Bishop’s plans. 

MAF Pilot - Wim Hobo, Bishop Paride Taban and team in masks in front of MAF plane

Road to development

The people of Kuron Peace Village have also built their own road. They hope that one day there will be a safe, decent road all the way to the capital, Juba.

When travellers take the long road to Juba, it takes two days by car with an overnight stay in Kapoeta. They risk meeting dangerous bandits en route or getting stuck in the mud during the rainy season.

Cash crops like watermelon rot by the time they get to Juba. Poor transport links hinder getting produce to market and limit the cash crops that the people of Kuron can grow in their fertile soil.

For now, a 1 hour 20-minute MAF flight is the safest, quickest way to navigate danger and avoid getting stuck in wet mud.

He hopes that one day, his astonishing Holy Trinity Peace Village will be replicated in other parts of South Sudan to create lasting peace across the whole country.