By Richard Ruati
September 27, 2010 (YAMBIO) - Self-defense groups in south Sudan are to be given guns to help fight off increasing attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
- Arrow Boys seen here in May, patrol a village in south Sudan in an attempt to defend themselves from attacks LRA rebels (AFP)
Some 5 million Sudanese pounds (over USD $2 million) will be spent arming the ‘Arrow Boys’ vigilantes, Western Equatoria state governor Joseph Bakasoro told Sudan Tribune.
The LRA are rebels who originally fought for the Acholi of northern Uganda. The group is now the scourge of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR), Uganda and Sudan. It is led by Joseph Kony, who is wanted by International Criminal Court for countless atrocities. In 2008, he was about to sign a peace deal, negotiated by Southern Sudan, but at the last minute he refused to lay down his arms.
The Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) has allocated funds to empower the Arrow Boys in Western Equatoria state to fight the LRA. Last week it made recommendations on how to tackle the LRA.
The Arrow Boys are a group of young men who came together to help protect their people from LRA incursions. They are ill-equipped, relying on knives and traditional weapons. They are made up of young men and women from Western Equatoria who took up arms right after the LRA reprisal attacks at the end of 2008, to serve as protection units to the communities against the marauding LRA rebels.
Initially the self defense force was small scale. It grew in September 2009 in response to attacks in which villagers were killed and raped and their villages looted and burnt.
The latest horrendous attacks have affected thousands of villagers. This arrangement to arm Arrow Boys has come three weeks after strong communique from Religious leaders in the Great Lakes Region spearheaded by the two Bishops of the Yambio Episcopal Church in Sudan (ECS) Diocese, Rt Rev Peter Munde and the Catholic Diocese of Tambura-Yambio, Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala. Their joint statement urged the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) to step up civil protection from the LRA.
The SSLA speaker James Wani Igga told Sudan Radio Services on Thursday that Arrow Boys will be equipped and trained to protect the region.
“The Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly has reached a resolution, empowering the vigilantes known as ‘Arrow Boys’ and we have allocated them a sum of five million Sudanese pounds so that they can be trained, given equipment and then they will begin to look for these people, the LRA. Instead of the LRA ruining the forest, and the countryside and victimizing innocent people, they will now be the ones to look for them and we are calling upon any population here, if anybody sees the presence of LRA in any of the Payams or any of the villages, you immediately report it so that the Arrow Boys can immediately march there.”
The SSLA security and public order committee last week made their recommendations on how to tackle the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army incursions in Western Equatoria state.
The deputy chairperson of the committee in southern Sudan, David Okwier Akway outlined the recommendations to Sudan Radio Services in Juba on Monday.
“We as a committee, made our recommendations to the SSLA concerning our findings and investigations in Western Equatoria state. We recommended that, the SPLA must aim to end armed incursions by the LRA and Ambororo armed nomads in southern Sudan. Second, we recommended that GoSS [Government of Southern Sudan] should support organized forces for effective operations against the LRA with sufficient funding. The committee also urged the ministry of SPLA and Veterans Affairs to deploy additional and well trained SPLA forces to Western Equatoria state, and other areas in southern Sudan affected by the LRA. We also recommended training and provision of equipment to other organized forces like the police, prisons and wildlife services to help the SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] forces. Thirdly, southern Sudan borders should be more effectively enforced in order to prevent the flow of illegal immigrants and the proliferation of arms. The committee also recommended the construction of security roads in these areas to facilitate the movement of organized forces in Western Equatoria state. We recommended GoSS take a lead in coordinating regional efforts against the LRA with the GONU [Government of National Unity], Uganda, DRC and CAR. Finally, we recommended that the GoSS reactivate peace talks between the government of Uganda and the LRA.”
There are fears that violence could increase in Southern Sudan, ahead of January’s referendum on the region’s independence.
"The home guard units will be trained and armed so that they can provide effective defense until the regular forces can intervene," said Mr Bakasoro.
Some southerners accuse northern politicians opposed to the south’s independence of arming the LRA but this has been denied in Khartoum.
US-based Human Rights Watch last month accused the rebels of going on a massive recruitment campaign in the DRC and CAR.
In May, the US passed legislation requiring Washington to come up with a strategy to work with regional governments to protect civilians from LRA attacks.
LRA attacks have forced some 25,000 Sudanese from their homes this year, the UN says.