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.

 

Egypt renews calls for creation of joint military force at Arab summit

Torturous Iran talks move into top gear in battle of wills

Qaeda seizes 'majority' of Syria northwestern city of Idlib

Saudi ambassador to return to Sweden after diplomatic spat

Oil prices fall after Yemen-inspired gains

Libya forces ‘withdraw’ from frontline bases near oil ports

UN Security Council keeps Libya arms embargo in place

Saudi-led airstrikes target arms depots in Yemen capital

Death toll from hotel attack rises as fighting continues in Somalia

Turkish parliament passes security bill after long debate

Turkey army chief of staff visits historic tomb inside Syria

Saudi-led coalition keeps up raids against Yemen rebels

Assad says open to dialogue with US

US backs Saudi-led intervention in Yemen

Heavy Saudi raids force Sanaa residents to flee

Israeli Arab MP walks for Bedouins

Gulf stocks regain ground after early losses over Yemen

Kerry presses Iran on nuclear deal before deadline

Somali pirates seize Iranian fishing vessel

Borse Dubai sells big stake in London Stock Exchange

Can Arabs form joint military force?

Libya rivals discuss UN-backed peace proposals

French President to join 'anti-terror' march in Tunis

Sisi underscores Egypt’s rights to tap Nile water

US-led coalition aircraft bomb Tikrit

Saudi warplanes strike Yemen rebels in Sanaa

Netanyahu to form Israel new government after shock victory

Turkey military responds to Kurdish attacks in southeast

Leaders see horror of air crash as investigators step up probe

Fistfight in Iraqi Kurdish parliament

Syria rebels seize ancient town of Busra Sham

UN reveals plethora of abuses against activists in Libya

IS attack kills 5 militia fighters in Libya city of Sirte

Yemen President ‘in safety’ as rebel forces advance

US considering launching air strikes on Tikrit

Yemen Huthis seizes key airbase near Aden

'Feminist' policy costing dear to Sweden

Obama says row with Netanyahu ‘substantive’

Tunisia honours victims of deadly attack on national museum

Roadside bomb kills two Egypt soldiers in restive Sinai

‘Islamic State’ woos Syria children with money: More than 400 recruited in 2015 alone

Huthi-led militia push on southern Yemen

US envoy to Libya leaves Twitter after barrage of online abuse

US provides 'eye in the sky' to support Iraq Tikrit operation

Turkey prosecutors launch probe as ruling party rift grows