Sudan: insecurity in Nimule soars

Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement last year between the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army/ Movement (SPLA/M), the Ugandan rebel group, the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), has changed tactics and increased the frequency of its attacks on the local population in southern Sudan. These attacks have generated panic among the local population in Magwi County (southern Sudan), especially those within Pageri, Nimule, and Mugali payams (districts).

The frequency of the attacks has left the population feeling that they are living in a state of siege. Many residents from the surrounding areas in Olikwi, Mugali, Anzara, Longu and Abila have moved toward Nimule town in search of security. The local authorities have only recently stepped up its efforts to address the issue. However, this only happened after it were severely criticised by the SPLA Army Chief of Staff, Commander Mabutu Mamur.

It appears that the LRA has reorganised into small groups of approximately 10 men who attack villages in search of food. Over the last few months, they have been responsible for a number of attacks in southern Sudan, particularly in the area close to the border with Uganda.

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), formed in 1987, is a rebel paramilitary group operating mainly in northern Uganda. As of May 2005, the group have been engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government in what is now one of Africa's longest running conflicts. The LRA have been accused of widespread human rights violations, including the abduction of civilians, the use of child soldiers and a number of massacres.

On the evening of the 20 April 2005, one of these small groups came into Nimule town in search of food to steal. Sitting outside talking, several JRS staff members heard gunshots. At first, they continued to talk. They thought it was just some drunken soldiers firing off randomly. However, a few minutes later, the sound of the gunshots become louder. The JRS night guard turned off the generator and the staff all quickly went to their rooms. The gunfire continued sporadically throughout night, breaking the otherwise complete silence.

In the morning, the JRS staff were informed that the LRA had come into Nimule. In an attempt to get food, they had killed three people, abducted others and escaped. The SPLA authorities quickly dispatched soldiers to the outskirts of town to track down the suspects and to protect the town against further attacks. JRS staff members were both confused and extremely stressed. Many live in the area which was attacked and several of them had spent the night looking for family members among villagers who had fled the gunfire.

On 22 April, after, staff were awaken in the middle of the night by the sound of bombs exploding. While the explosions appeared to be nearby, there were actually several kilometres away, in Longu. The LRA had again been spotted and the SPLA/M had attacked them. The LRA later scattered and fled north.

On the evening of the 4 May 2005, another small force attacked Abila village, east of the Nimule border check point. Food was again stolen from a local family. On this occasion a person was abducted. Following the attack, the rebels proceeded to school, Olikwi primary school, and again stole food. The following day, there was another attack in a village in Mugali camp for internally displaced persons. This time three people were killed, including a LRA member, in a shoot out between the LRA and SPLA.

As the second school term begins, JRS staff continue to monitor the security situation and the effects it is having on the local population, in particular on the school children. Until the security situation improves all those moving between Nimule and Pageri and Mugali will require heavy escort.

Celestino Dumo and Augustine Kenyi, JRS Sudan