First Published: 2009-09-16

 
South Sudan struggling with Christian extremist LRA
 

Christian radicals killed, maimed, abducted hundreds, displaced 68,000 in south Sudan since January.

 

Middle East Online

The bible-bashers also target rival church congregations

YAMBIO - Attacks attributed to Ugandan-led rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have killed at least 188 civilians and displaced 68,000 in southern Sudan since January 2009, with 137 abductions also reported, according to the UN.

"Many innocent people are losing their lives every week, and the United Nations is very concerned about the killing, abduction, maiming and displacement of innocent civilians," said Ameerah Haq, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Sudan.

In Sudan, Western Equatoria State has been hardest hit by the recent upsurge in attacks blamed on the LRA, which have also taken place in several regions in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR).

"During the last six weeks alone, 11 incidents of LRA attacks have been reported, seven of them in the first week of September," Haq told reporters on 11 September during a visit to Yambio, the state capital of Western Equatoria.

In Nairobi, Justin Labeja, the head of the LRA's peace negotiating team, questioned the authorship of the attacks.

"It is very unfair because nobody can come up with clear concrete evidence. Who can say this is the LRA of [leader Joseph] Kony who is doing this?" he said.

What the "real LRA" is any more is hard to pin down. When it emerged in northern Uganda in the late 1980s the LRA was made up almost exclusively of people from the region's Acholi community, fighting perceived marginalization. The LRA now includes nationals from Sudan, the DRC and CAR - many as a result of recruitment-by-abduction. In southern Sudan "LRA" has been used as a catch-all label for any armed group which attacks civilians.

However, those displaced by the latest attacks reported tactics which bore the hallmarks of the LRA, including grotesque killings and targeting church congregations.

Hard task

Combating the small groups of guerrillas - experienced in jungle warfare and able to slip across international frontiers with apparent ease - has become a hard task.

"There is not much coming from the [Sudanese] state, they are not able to provide the security that they [people] need," said the UN’s Haq. "While the humanitarian community is providing food and other non-food items, the food itself is becoming a magnet for LRA attacks… The answer to that is really how we can provide security around a perimeter."

Extra troops from the south’s military, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), have been sent to the region, according to spokesman Maj-Gen Kuol Diem Kuol.

"We are working hard and doing all we can to ensure the safety of civilians in the region," he explained.

The main military force are Ugandan troops, whose soldiers have established camps in Sudan to try and hunt down the now mobile LRA units in southern Sudan, DRC and CAR.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has just 200 blue helmets based in the sprawling region of Western Equatoria.

UN stretched

Officials said the force has been stretched by a string of recent violent inter-ethnic clashes elsewhere in southern Sudan.

Its mandate, one official added, needed to be beefed up by the UN Security Council to allow active military engagement against the LRA.

"We need an integrated approach to really provide security to these people, [and] that will require the support of the UN and UNMIS," said Jemma Nunu Kumba, the governor of Western Equatoria.

"UNMIS needs to get involved just like MONUC [the UN peacekeeping mission] in Congo [DRC], to be able to repulse the rebels when they are attacking the civilians," he added.

Those displaced by the LRA say more effort is needed, not simply to hunt the rebels, but to provide security that would allow people to return to their homes.

"The LRA have killed our people, and they took two of my children," said Karina Zeferino, who fled after attacks in August on her hometown of Ezo, close to Sudan’s border with CAR.

She trekked the 155km to Yambio town with her remaining young daughter.

After the attacks, peacekeepers airlifted UN staff and aid workers from Ezo by helicopter, shutting down international humanitarian work in that area.

"People are suffering, but we cannot go home because the LRA will attack again," added Zeferino, holding her child tightly to her side. "There is no help for us there, so that is why we have come to Yambio, but it is hard here too."

"The LRA will remain a problem and we will be unable to go home until pressure is really put on them by all sides," said Gaaniko Bate, a leader of the ever-growing Makpandu camp in southern Sudan, which hosts some 2,530 refugees from DRC.

"These people will not be easily stopped," he added.

 

Syria army agrees to respect truce in Syria’s Aleppo

Israel strikes Hamas sites in Gaza

Is Erdogan-Davutoglu tandem coming to an end?

UN urges to take action over rebel fire on besieged Yemen city

Cafes, restaurants spring up in Tripoli

Malta likely to become first EU member to open Libya mission

Qaeda threatens to target homes of Yemen security forces

Anti-ISIS coalition pledges additional military commitment

UN warns Eastern Aleppo may soon become besieged

London set to elect its first Muslim Mayor

Fierce fighting rages in Aleppo as diplomacy efforts intensify

Riyadh's $22.5 bn Metro project on track

Egypt court sentences prominent activist to six months in prison

UK to take in more Syria child refugees

France to host Saudi, Qatar, UAE, Turkey FMs for Syria talks

US expects more military resources for anti-ISIS fight

Standoff escalates between Egypt journalists and authorities

Turkey says ready to send ground troops to Syria 'if necessary'

Hamas accuses Fatah of organising military cell in Gaza

Egypt court acquits Mubarak's last PM

Israel to upgrade ties with NATO as Turkey lifts veto

Passengers injured as Etihad flight hits severe turbulence

Israeli tanks fire shots over Gaza border

5th edition of Middle East Homeland Security Summit to be held in Amman in November

Money and revenge push Syrians to jihadist ranks

EU conditionally backs visa-free travel for Turks, overhauls asylum system

Airstrikes resume in Damascus as fighting 'freeze' ends

Relief in Yemen's Mukalla after year of al-Qaeda rule

Saudi oil minister visits Sudan to cement improving ties

Warnings for Assad as Syria talks shift to Berlin

US troops facing growing risks in Iraq, Syria

Fierce clashes rage in Syria’s Aleppo

Yemen warring parties back to peace talks table

OPCW warns ISIS may be making chemical weapons

French court says 'Carlos the Jackal' must face trial for 1974 attack

UN demands protection of hospitals in armed conflicts

Jewish settler who led burning alive of Palestinian teen receives life sentence

Italy ready to raise shipwreck off Libya coast

Heavy airstrikes kill dozens in ISIS Syria bastion

Deadly intra-rebel clashes rock eastern part of Syria capital

German 'jihadist' goes on trial for Syria war crimes

Number of people held in solitary confinement doubles in Israel

UN fears operation near Mosul will displace 30,000 more Iraqis

Turkey Nobel Laureate shows solidarity with veteran writer, Murat Belge

Russian FM hopes for Aleppo ceasefire in 'next few hours'