Sudan

Sudan: Reluctant Hosts

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Sudan- Funding for protection forces and an early warning system for the state of Western Equatoria are desperately needed to help prevent widespread looting, murder and rape in case of another Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) 'rampage' in the area, according to a new report.

The report, Reluctant Hosts, is being launched today by World Vision, an international relief and development agency. World Vision staff in Sudanhave described the people of Western Equatoria as still living in an"atmosphere of fear" despite current peace negotiations between the LRA and the Ugandan government. The report warns that the international communityand national and local governments must take the potential for further LRA violence more seriously, and look to do all it can to protect the innocent citizens of the state.

"In February 2007, the LRA left its hideout in the Democratic Republic of Congo and traveled north into Southern Sudan after peace talks between thegovernment of Uganda and the LRA collapsed," said Seth Le Leu, program director for World Vision in Southern Sudan. "Its soldiers enteredcommunities in the populations of Eastern and Western Equatoria, repeatedlyattacking communities, abducting, looting, allegedly raping and killing itscitizens."

"The peace negotiations have thankfully now resumed," Le Leu said, "however, this has not put an end to the fear felt by people in Western Equatoria." Under the terms of these renewed talks the LRA must assemble in one single place. This assembly point is within Western Equatoria and so these communities have once again been forced to become the reluctant hosts of this movement. "Men, women and children are living in constant fear of any further attacks to the communities in Western Equatoria," Le Leu said.

World Vision's report not only highlights the havoc caused by the LRA to Western Equatorian citizens in times past, but stresses the need to include those communities' grievances in the current peace negotiations. It also calls on the government of Southern Sudan and the international community to protect the citizens by properly training protection forces and by equipping them to do their job properly when violence flares.

The report also recommends some actions in making the people of Western Equatoria safer. These include funding an effective system of communication that would allow communities to be warned of any impending attacks and give people time to flee; clearing bushes and underground bordering roads along main roads; and erecting radio masts and starting local radio stations.

For more information contact Rachel Wolff at 253.394.2214 or rwolff@worldvision.org.