Sudan + 3 more

JRS Dispatches No. 217

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SUDAN: SECURITY SITUATION IMPROVING, RECONCILIATION NEEDED

On 4 June, official sources within the southern Sudanese authorities announced the threat from the rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), had eased. However, they added that widespread fear remains, whole villages have been abandoned and a key road from Uganda to the Southern Sudan capital Juba is still being patrolled by Sudanese and Ugandan troops.

The road has been repaired and de-mined by international agencies carries a steady flow of coaches, trucks, pick-ups and motorbikes during the day, transporting people and goods to and from Juba.

Hospital records in the southern Sudanese city of Nimule confirm the decline in LRA attacks in the area. In May, only three gunshot wounds were dealt with in the hospital, compared with 25 cases in April.

Capitalising on the improved security situation, JRS staff participated in a meeting in Nimule in early June organised by the Justice and Peace Commission of Gulu (northern Uganda) and Torit (southern Sudan) to promote peace between communities affected by the LRA.

As a result of atrocities committed by the LRA, relationships between the two communities are strained, JRS staff in Uganda told Dispatches on 10 June. There is a lack of understanding of the effects of the conflict on each community. The Acholi people are widely seen by other communities as being the source of the conflict.

"Affected communities need to work together to ensure justice, accountability, forgiveness and healing if we are to bring about lasting peace", JRS Uganda and Southern Sudan Peace Building and Advocacy Coordinator Isaac Ijjo said.

JRS teams work in public building activities in Nimule, Yei, Kajo Kji and Lobone in southern Sudan.

CHAD: PRESIDENT OPEN TO DEPLOYING INTERNATIONAL MILITARY FORCE

After meeting with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on 10 June, President Idriss Deby indicated the possibility of deploying international military forces on Chad's turbulent eastern border with Sudan's Darfur region. Chadian government officials have previously proposed international military aid with caution.

Just two weeks ago, Prime Minister Nouradine Delwa Kassire Coumakoye remarked that neighbouring countries would perceive the deployment of an international military presence as a threat.

International pressure to secure the unstable region has mounted as Chadian government-backed fight rebels. Although aid agencies have assisted thousands of IDPs and Sudanese refugees, Deby rejected Kouchner's proposal for a corridor through Chad secured by EU and UN troops enabling safer delivery of aid to civilians in the region. The president considered the scheme unnecessary.

Deby noted that specific plans for a possible military deployment will be publicly announced by 25 June, the date on which France will meet with foreign ministers from several countries to discuss Darfur. He remarked that the Chadian government has been proposing such a plan to the international community since 2004.

According to sources, various European humanitarian organisations will airlift several tons of aid materials to the areas visited by Kouchner. Roads are impassable due to heavy rains.

"Further security and international support is necessary to alleviate the suffering of IDPs and Sudanese refugees. At the same time, military intervention must be coupled with immediate humanitarian aid and long-term development projects involving the direct participation of victims. The international community must collaborate to provide emergency assistance and conflict resolving activities that will bring lasting security to IDPs and refugees", JRS West Africa Advocacy Officer, Ashley Gagné told Dispatches on 11 June.

LIBERIA: LACK OF REINTEGRATION FUNDING AND PROGRAMMES THREATENS PEACE PROCESS

An estimated 23,000 ex-combatants from Liberia's 14 year civil war roam the country without reintegration training and new professions, reported the Liberian government's disarmament and reintegration commission at a recent press conference.

According to the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), 101,495 fighters were disarmed and demobilised in the country-wide programme which ended in November. However, thousands are still waiting for reintegration training.

Jarvis Witherspoon, head of the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (NCDDRR) noted that without proper training and reintegration support, the vulnerable former fighters remain a threat to Liberia's future peace and security. He blamed weak donor funding for the lack of skills training available to former fighters. Responsibility for the reintegration and rehabilitation of ex-combatants was transferred from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to the NCDDRR in early April.

When the disarmament process in Liberia began, each disarmed and demobilised combatant received US$300 and the opportunity to pursue academic or vocational education courses.

According to analysts, only 75,000 of those disarmed and demobilised have been placed in donor-funded training programmes to learn skills like plumbing, carpentry and masonry. Others have been enrolled in secondary and higher educational institutes, yet 3,500 are enrolled in programmes that have not yet started.

A UN commissioned national survey of ex-combatant reintegration conducted last year recommended a continuation of skills training programmes for pending beneficiaries. However, the Liberian commission needs US$18 million dollars to embark on the provision of skills training for remaining former fighters.

"We urge the international community to provide sufficient support for the recovery process. Financial and human engagement is equally necessary before, during and after crises. The peaceful and timely reintegration of ex-combatants underlies the nation's future stability. Educational development programme must therefore be funded and implemented. Lack of such support could unhinge the fragile peace", JRS Advocacy Officer Ashley Gagné told Dispatches on 12 June.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: RISK OF FRESH CONFLICT DANGEROUSLY HIGH

Between 26 and 28 May, three villages in South Kivu suffered attacks which left 18 people dead and 28 injured. Twenty-five were kidnapped during the course of the attacks believed to have been carried out by ethnic Hutu rebels operating in the area. Locals allege they heard the attackers speaking Kinyarwanda, the language spoken in neighbouring Rwanda.

In a subsequent statement by Archbishop François-Xavier Maroy Rusengo to the French ambassador, Bernard Prévost, the archbishop warned of the risk of a new war. He compared the present situation to the one just before the war in 1998.

Bishop Maroy Rusengo stated that numerous troops from Rwanda were deploying in the eastern Congolese province of South Kivu.

General Nkunda, ethnic Tutsi and former rebel leader loyal to Rwanda, is believed to be involved in recruiting troops from Rwanda. Since January approximately 200 Rwandan combatants have been returned home.

Caught between these two groups, the measures adopted by the government are seen as inadequate. The organisation of a roundtable on insecurity in the region was described by the archbishop as clearly insufficient.

In this fragile context, many speak of extending the process of integrating rebel groups into the national army, known as mixage. However, when tried in North Kivu, the results were not promising.

According to JRS Regional Advocacy Office, Nicolas Clemesac, these groups are still acting as rebel militias. They are frequently responsible for acts of violence and robbery. Mr Clemesac described the mixage process as having failed to restore order to the anarchic region.

"Given the effects of the mixage process in North Kivu, we would be very reluctant to propose its implementation in South Kivu. Action is desperately needed by the international community and the government to prevent renewed conflict" Mr Clemesac told Dispatches on 4 June.

Soldiers in the national army, FARDC, have also been accused of systematically violating the human rights of local populations, reinforcing the sense of impunity in the country.