Sudan - Uganda: Leave us in peace, Maridi residents tell LRA

Report
from The New Humanitarian
Published on 21 Jun 2007
JUBA, 21 June 2007 (IRIN) - Elizabeth Madia sits quiety, lost in the memories of the day last year when Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels attacked her village of Mboroko, a few kilometres outside Maridi town in Southern Sudan's Western Equatoria region.

"It was 9am when they came and attacked our home," the mother of 10 explained. "They began beating me; I cried out loud and ran away from the homestead."

When the children heard Madia crying, they ran after her to hide in the bush. "We were far inside the bush [when] we heard gunshots," she added. "When we returned, we found the body of my husband lying in the garden."

The day that changed her life for ever was 22 November 2006.

After burying her husband, Madia left Mboroko to live with her elder son, Salah, in Maridi. "Now I do not even have enough strength to work," she explained. "I am so depressed and afraid of more attacks, that is why we left and came here. I am not going there again," she added.

Continuing atrocities

The presence of the LRA in Maridi area has led to displacement and killings, adding to the burden on local families.

"I am the first-born of my family so I have a lot of responsibilities," Salah Madia, a former soldier in the Sudan People's Liberation Army, said.

Madia, who quit his job to take care of his mother and siblings, says: "We are very angry about what happened. We are supposed to enjoy peace in Sudan [but] I do not know why our father was killed like that.

"We have just finished fighting with [government troops] and now there is another war going on here, which is killing even elderly people. It is really bad," he added.

Local residents of Mboroko said the LRA recently killed eight people and abducted four girls, fuelling their bitterness towards the rebels.

Maridi county is in a thick equatorial forest a few miles from Sudan's border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo - a location that proved an ideal hiding-place for the rebels.

According to the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SRRC) the government's humanitarian wing, the rebels have wreaked a lot of havoc in the area, especially since 2006.

"They killed our people - Richard Edward, Kenet Charles, Isaac Madia Dimo, Dowla Makaku, Tharbai Zingi, John Loka Duku Zha and Kaunda," said Amos William, SRRC Secretary in Maridi. "I do not know who is going to compensate for the death of these people. Some were ambushed on the way from Yei to Maridi; others were killed when the LRA attacked their villages.

"In Maridi, four girls were abducted and their whereabouts unknown. They are Sheba Tito, 14, Wakil Dandia, 17, Thabo Jenesa, 18, and Jerubo Margombi, 18."

Information compiled by the SRRC shows that 1,181 households have been affected by the LRA in the county. With help from aid agencies, local authorities are trying to assist those displaced by LRA activities.

"We have written many proposals requesting relief aid, a few were approved and this is what I use to help these people with," William explained. "Those who fear to go back to their homes [are given] a piece of land to settle. Some, who are unable to stay by themselves, live with relatives here in Maridi."

Many people in Maridi called for the LRA to relocate from their area, saying their presence affects their peace, despite ongoing talks between the rebels and the Ugandan government. The on-off peace talks are taking place in Juba under the mediation of Southern Sudanese Vice-President Riek Machar.

Recently, World Vision released a report, Reluctant Hosts, showing that communities in Western Equatoria had suffered extensively because of the rebels, and were living in an atmosphere of fear.

"Let the government of Southern Sudan tell these LRA rebels to go away from our land: it is time for peace in Sudan now," Salah Madia said. "We are not their enemies; their enemies are Ugandans. [At end-May] they killed and looted people in Torit [in Equatoria]."

gg/eo/mw

[END]