Sudan: Fear of rebel attacks and insecurity in troubled South
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||10 June 2009|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Sudan: Fear of rebel attacks and insecurity in troubled South, 10 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a3b589b14.html [accessed 29 July 2015]|
MUNDRI, 10 June 2009 (IRIN) - Insecurity continues to plague Southern Sudan as ethnic violence and guerrilla attacks leave thousands at risk, analysts have warned.
In Mundri, a farming town in Western Equatoria state, many of those displaced earlier this year by rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) fighters are still too scared to return home. According to UN figures, hundreds were killed and some 130,000 in both the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Southern Sudan forced to flee their homes as the rebels scattered after attacks on their dense forest bases in December 2008.
Some 8,000 people fled their farming villages to Mundri in January. Six months later, people are struggling to survive.
"Some have returned home, but many people remain here in Mundri," said Kennet Korayi, director of the community-based Mundri Relief and Development Association. "They are really struggling: they could not cultivate their fields this year, so they are finding it hard to get by now."
Local police chief Alex Taban stressed that security was "excellent", pointing to the heavy presence of troops from the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in the town. "We have this area under our control," Taban said.
But others say the troop presence remains sparse in more remote areas, and villagers are reluctant to return home to areas where SPLA forces have not been deployed.
"Perhaps as many as a third of those who came to Mundri are still here, because they are scared of going back to the villages," said Korayi.
Most IDPs in Mundri are reported to be living with families but are struggling to get by since in many cases the crops they were relying on have not been harvested.
"We do not believe we will be safe to return," said James Ariwari, who fled to Mundri from a village some 50km away in January. "There are soldiers, but we have heard they are not near our village because it was destroyed."
Elsewhere, large refugee camps have been settled. In the Makandu refugee camp in Western Equatoria several thousand people from the DRC have set up basic shelters. Most fled the DRC in December 2008 due to LRA attacks.
"We have support but it is still hard to find enough food," said Jean-Luc Wihati Zeberme, chief of the camp. "We are in a very difficult situation."
Sima Samar, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan, said she remained "deeply concerned" about LRA attacks in Western Equatoria and Central Equatoria states.
Security forces point out the massive challenges in tackling the mobile guerrilla force, but Samar criticized the response by the SPLA.
"The LRA has plundered and burnt villages, while committing horrendous abuses, including killings and abductions, with an ineffective response from the SPLA," Samar told journalists on 4 June after a visit to the South.
Extra SPLA troops were sent to the region following the attacks, while Ugandan troops continue to be based along Sudan's border with the DRC in an effort to tackle LRA fighters. But many areas were forced to rely on local defence forces equipped with bows and arrows.
"While I recognize the logistical and resource constraints of the police, the SPLA and state governments concerned, the encouragement of self-defence groups is not a substitute for the responsibility of the state to actively police these areas, and deter future attacks to protect civilians," she said.
But the LRA is only one problem facing the South, which has been ripped apart by violent clashes - some sparked by cattle raiding and long-running rivalries between different ethnic groups.
More than 1,000 people have died and many more been displaced in recent months, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Recent death rates have been higher than those in the war-torn region of Darfur, the UN's Special Representative to Sudan, Ashraf Qazi, has warned.
"The size and scale of inter-tribal clashes over cattle rustling has been unprecedented, with the use of sophisticated firearms and targeting of women and children in villages," Samar added.
Tensions over grazing have long been common in the South, but recent battles have been of a larger scale. Some claim "outside forces" are backing militias as proxy forces to destabilize the South.
Southern President Salva Kiir, speaking at a conference on 17 May of senior traditional leaders, urged unity among the South.
"They [the clashes] have never in our history been so deadly, so ferociously fought with modern weapons," said Kiir, first Vice-President of all Sudan. "Some of these weapons are brand new...Where are these weapons coming from? Who is supplying them?
"I have strong reason to believe that these tribal conflicts and tensions are external and alien to the people of Southern Sudan," he added, without elaborating further.
Kiir also warned that violence could increase ahead of national elections due in February, and the historic referendum for the South's potential full independence the year after.