SUDAN WATCH: Is Sudan peace real or just a mirage? 4,000 flee LRA raids in Southern Sudan

Monday, May 09, 2005

Is Sudan peace real or just a mirage? 4,000 flee LRA raids in Southern Sudan

Last August, I started a blog called Uganda Watch for the filing of reports about a savagely violent rebel group called the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), and other news highlighting the terrible situation in northern Uganda.

[Background info: In September of last year, the UN warned that northern Uganda was the most neglected humanitarian crisis in the world - 20,000 children suffering - 90% of the population sheltering in 180 refugee camps - 1.6 million fled their homes - 30,000 abducted as slaves and soldiers.

The war between the Ugandan People's Defence Forces (UPDF) and the LRA has been going on for 18 years. There is a history of tension between the north and south. In 1986, Yoweri Museveni, who is from the south, took power and set about trying to control the Acholi in the north. The LRA dominates resistance fighting, so it says, to reclaim Uganda for the Acholi. Now led by Joseph Kony, it is one of the world's most brutal armies and has terrorised its own people. At least 25,000 children have been abducted, the boys ordered to kill or be killed, the girls used as sex slaves. 500,000 people - mostly children - have been killed in the conflict.]

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Photo: A Ugandan soldier walks past a charred body, Feb 23, 2004, in the Barlonyo camp 26 kilometers north of the Lira in northen Uganda after a massacre believed to be committed by the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group in which at least 200 people were killed. (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)

Here today at Sudan Watch, I am posting some news reports on the LRA - along with three opinion pieces by Sudanese blogger Joseph Oloya Hakim. Please bear in mind, the LRA received weapons and training from Sudan's Islamist regime throughout the 1990s. Joseph believes the LRA are still supported by the Khartoum regime.

4,000 flee LRA raids in Southern Sudan

An Associated Press report May 5, 2005 says the UN confirms thousands of Sudanese have fled their homes in the south to escape increasing and brutal raids on their villages by Ugandan rebels.

A report at AllAfrica, May 7, 2005 covers the same story, saying thousands of villagers have fled their homes to escape attacks by the LRA in southern Sudan. The report explains, in the last week thousands of Sudanese have been forced to cross to Kitgum inside Uganda following stepped up attacks by LRA in different parts of the war ravaged south. It goes on to say:
The UN estimates more than 4,000 people have arrived at the refugee transit centre at Palorinya in northern Uganda seeking protection," UN spokeswoman Radhia Achouri said. Many of the refugees said they had seen LRA rebels hacking people to death, cutting their lips off and burning homes, Achouri said. Most of the refugees were in bad health on arrival, she said.
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Photo: Two young boy's get treated for severe burn wounds in the Lira hospital in northern Uganda, Feb 23, 2004, after a massacre believed to be committed by the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group in the Barlonyo camp 26 kilometers north of the town that killed at least 200 people. (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)
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Is Sudan peace real or just a mirage?

Here below is a copy of a first person account published May 8, 2005 by blogger Joseph Oloya Hakim, a native of Sudan and a staff worker for Servlife Africa. Joseph's post provides an insight into what is happening with returnees to Sudan, and the LRA from Uganda. Joseph believes the Khartoum regime are arming and supporting the LRA and says:
"It is becoming clear that the Arab government in Khartoum is still fighting a proxy war using the Uganda Opposition, the LRA, that is has supported for long."
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Photo: Joseph of ServLife Workers

In his post of May 8. 2005 titled "Is Sudan peace real or just a mirage?" [click on the photo in the post - it is of a child with a mutilated mouth, presumably caused by LRA rebels who hack people to death or chop off lips and/or ears]. Joseph writes the following:

There is a growing speculation that the long fought war in South Sudan is not over yet. With the increasing attacks by the LRA on civilian population in Southern Sudan sparking another wave of 4000 refugees fleeing across the boarder into Uganda reported a local new paper on 7th May, 2005. It is becoming clear that the Arab government in Khartoum is still fighting a proxy war using the Uganda Opposition, the LRA, that is has supported for long. I have given considerable time on some of these attacks in my previous bloogs.

Reports incicates that refugees reported they saw people being hacked to death others mutilated as they flee. Similarly with the growing concern that Paulino Matip, a former Major General in Sudanese Army who at one time was a power rival with Riak comianding loyal militias in the western Nuer: Unity State, moving in and stationing his troops in and around Bentieu Oilfields at a time when the North and South Peace deal has to be consolidated indicates the cosmetic nature of the agreement that was signed on 9th January 2005 to end 20 years of hostilities in Sudan. It is still unclear as to why the two Sudan backed groups are militarily active when there was suppose to be unilateral ceasefire in the whole South Sudan.
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How Sudan returnees cope with LRA insecurity and meagre food rations

Read Joseph's post May 2, 2005 and see how Sudan returnees cope with LRA insecurity and meagre food rations. The post is copied here in full incase the link to Joseph's blog becomes broken:

After the Indiana team have successfully completed a one week Medical Outreach Program in Sudan refugee camp in Uganda and having had earlier considered doing similar outreach in South Sudan, I decided to Plan a trip to Nimule a boarder town at Uganda/Sudan boarder where Servlife Africa plans to host the next round of medical outreach. The trip itself is an exhilarating as well as an agonizing experience.

One of the few joys of Sudan trip is after 20 years in refugee camps, many Sudanese Voluntary Returnees are making back home. The joy of returning written on the faces of these returnees is something that automatically sparks joy in my heart too. Nevertheless, while most returnees are happy that they are back in their country following attacks and displacements in their Camps in Uganda by the LRA (The Lords Resistance Army) a shadowy Uganda rebel groups known for their atrocities in Northern Uganda, the uncertainties in which most of these returnees live in Sudan is something that is worrying.

Most of these returnees are going back to their traditional home places but are not being provided adequate protections. The fertile areas East of the Nile where most of these returnees are going back are areas that are infected by the LRA. These areas serve as Safe Heavens for the LRA as they are being re-armed by the Sudan Government.

While I was in Sudan, the LRA attached Nimule 3 consecutive days: killing one SPLA soldier and 3 civilian on the first day of attack; and abducted 9 civilians in the following attacks and the reports indicated that all the abductees were harked to death. Previously the LRA had attacked several returnee villages; killed and abducted many. "This turn of events is a worrying development for us" said one village leader.

"We returned hopping we shall be safe here but it is clear now that the Sudan Peace is a private agreement between Garang and Bashir: not for us; otherwise, why are we returnee civilians not being protected from attacks by the LRA?"

Besides the LRA insecurity, most of the returnees do not have returnee packages: no food and the refugee women I met collected wild leaves (View on Servlife Africa Photo Album) which they were preparing to cook. The returnees told me that at return a family just receives 5kg of Maize and nothing else and the 5kg depletes in 3 or 4 days.

Because of the LRA insecurity and the Landmines, the returnees could not venture in to the forest to collect wild fruits and wild vegetables. The medical services are poor and remote too and most returnees are likely to face a disaster if no helps come their way in terms of supplies and civilian protection.

By all standards, I may say the returnees situations are worst than in Refugee camps in Uganda.
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Focus on Darfur and countdown to current genocide?

Note this post by Joseph entitled "Focus on Darfur and countdown to current genocide?" May 5, 2005 [Joseph writes "the LRA attacks on returnee civilian is a political one pinning the Khartoum Government"] - copy in full:

At present the Sudan Government assertions of its authority in Darfur has focused on strengthening the military and establishing direct control with governors appointed form outside the region. The land issue remains unresolved, fighting still going on, government refusing to admit that is fighting anyone other that the bandits, the Fur formed Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance that joined the National Democratic Alliance that began military training in Eritrea in 1997. Rising insecurity engulfed the Masalit in 1998-9 when disputes with Rizaiqat resulted in over 100,000 internally displaced and several hundreds refugees fled to Chad. The government has insisted that it was tribal clashes.

Successive governments in Khartoum have tried to dismiss fighting that broke in the north and South as merely tribal clashes although they have fuelled such fighting with official and semi-official support to so called tribal militias.

Often times, appeals to Islam and Pan Arabism have been used by Khartoum Government to overcome the discontent of marginality elsewhere in the North. These appeals are not only to home grown support but increasingly about access to external powerful allies.

The power of Pan Arabist ideology, however fictitious its actual base, can connect local groups to a wider international community and offers them opportunity to mobilize support for internal conflicts. We have noted: the alliance of Arab tribes in Darfur appealing to Libya outside Sudan and the UMMA and NIF parties inside Sudan; Sadiq rallying Arab North to retake Kurmuk from SPLA forces, the successive governments were appealing to wealthy Muslim States for military hardware in the face of Anti-Arab insurgency in the South etc. etc.

With the above background, it would be naive to see the unfolding events in Darfur outside the policy of successive governments in Khartoum. Government in the West wants the definition of the word to classify the deaths and suffering of Darfurians whether it qualifies to be called Genocide or not. By the sheer scale of death, emptying of villages by para military groups supported by Behsir’s regime, as well as the willingness of the government to wipe out the black population of Darfur, nothing could be outside the term Genocide. The world has failed its mission; Rwanda has taken place in Sudan, and still no concrete action unfolding. More people have died and more will die and the world has sacrificed the Sudanese People on the alter of Islamic terrorism.

Sometimes, it is difficult to be thoroughly objective in a situation like Sudan. Although the North - South problems have reached a stage where no parties expect resumption of hostilities, The LRA attacks on returnee civilians is a political one pinning the Khartoum Government. Most South Sudanese believe that what Khartoum government did not achieve through military means, it is pushing to achieve through the policy of destabilizing the communities. The presence of the LRA, which it has re-armed in the past and which it is still arming, in Sudan is an extension or rather the arm of Khartoum government. Knowing that there would be a referendum in five years and most communities are to vote either for unity or secession,

Khartoum government hopes that by keeping the support for the LRA active, it will keep most communities a bay in exile and they would not have opportunities to participate in the referendum on the South. What is still disturbing is the slow move by the International communities in consolidating that comprehensive peace agreement between the

Khartoum government and SPLA/M signed in January this year. Darfur Situation still captures the spirit and emotion of the international communities. Yes it is correct that efforts be put to bring peace to that part of the region, but with a closed eye on the south problems things will soon fall out of hands; particularly communities that do not enjoy protections would take up arms and they will fight for shear survival of their respective communities: if this happens, something both the International communities and the weak Government in the South of the SPLA would not be able to handle. It will on the scale be a replication of Somalia in Sudan.

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Photo via Joseph's post with thanks.
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Two Red Crescent staff members killed

Geneva (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was saddened to learn of the killing on 1 May of two members of the Sudanese Red Crescent Society by unidentified individuals who fired at their ambulance in the area of Kassala, east of Khartoum.

Faki Mohammed Nour, the driver of the vehicle, and Hassan Mohammed Ali, a nurse, reportedly died from their wounds on the spot. Mahmoud Adam Idris, a Red Crescent medical assistant accompanying them, was injured and taken to a nearby hospital. The patient who was being transported remains missing and is believed to have been abducted.

The ICRC expresses its heartfelt sympathy to the families, friends and colleagues of the victims and hopes that the fate of the missing person will soon be elucidated.
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Kofi Annan calls for more African Union troops in Darfur

Bearing in mind the above news re LRA, see what Kofi Annan said in this excerpt from an Associated Press report May 7, 2005.

The AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur needs to be strengthened but help from UN soldiers will be limited, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report Friday.

Mr Annan said although violence in Darfur was not occurring on the massive scale of last year, the general level of insecurity in Darfur was still hindering humanitarian aid and remained "unacceptable."

The UN and its mission in Sudan could, however, help the African Union mission with technical advice, training support, help in choosing police, by developing an expansion plan and by convening troop contributors and pledging conferences.

An even larger deployment of 12,000 troops would be needed to keep the peace throughout Darfur to enable the return of all displaced people by the 2006 planting season, according to Annan.

He stressed that although it would be up to the African Union to decide how to organize this, its leaders might decide it was time for the wider international community to play a part in this complex operation which would require "a substantial increase in resources," he said.

He said the UN peacekeeping mission to Sudan would only be able to offer limited help to the AU troops in the coming months because it needed to focus all its attention on monitoring a north-south peace deal struck earlier this year between the government and southern rebels that ended a 21-year civil war.
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New Blog

Best wishes to Kukuziwa at Relief to Darfur? and thanks for the link.

Update May 8: I have just visited this link and was surprised to see a message from Sarah, the author of the blog. Sarah will be in North Darfur over the next two months. Be sure to read Distillations of Darfur. Hope we don't have to wait two months for Sarah's next post.
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