APRIL 7, 2010: Ugandan rebels drive many from their homes around South Sudan

Ugandan rebels drive many from their homes around South Sudan’s Ezo town

Source: Sudan Tribune

By Richard Ruati

April 7, 2010 (EZO) - Fresh attacks carried out by a notorious Ugandan rebel group have uprooted Ezo residents. They are spreading panic in around Ezo town, forcing villagers to abandon their farms, Ezo resident said Wednesday.

The 6 April attack by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Ezo district, western equatorial State, near Sudan's border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), killed two people and injured one other.

Ezo town is situated 100 miles from Yambio town, the state capital.

The rebels in the fresh attacks have pillaged and torched homes, stealing food items from Congolese refugees and IDPs, including bags of wheat, tins of cooking oil.

Since October 2008, the LRA, which is said to be behind many attacks and atrocities, has extended its deadly reach into the DRC, Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR), terrorizing the civilian population and causing chaos and mayhem.

Some 360,000 Congolese people have been forced to flee in successive LRA attacks in northeast DRC, while some 20,000 others have fled to Sudan and CAR, according to UN estimates.

LRA activities around Ezo have continued in the last couple of days. Tuesday evening between 7:00PM and 10PM, LRA attacked clandestine attacks rocked Ezo County on Tuesday.

Eye witnesses said one man Inipaivuru Bavu, a refugee from DRC was killed and his body is yet to be buried on Wednesday. Another resident from Ezo Alesio Kingire, whose condition was deteriorating, had been shot on his buttock and was rushed to Yambio and it has been reported to have died.

After the exchange of gunfire between the LRA rebels and the UPDF/SPLA/Arrow Boys the LRA rebels left Ezo town advancing towards Degere but local people say they again turned away from Degere and headed to Mariagba where they have a suspected base, reports a local source.

Ezo residents are roaming and wondering what security plan is in place to push away LRA rebels before polling day on Sunday so that they don't disrupt elections in Ezo County.

"I am afraid if the SPLA doesn't attack the suspected camp and engage them in a full fighting between today and Saturday, the elections will be disrupted in Ezo. It is sad and very disturbing when the people of Ezo are preparing themselves for landmark elections," said a concerned citizen of WES.

"LRA rebels attacked a nearby refugee camp just ½ km from Ezo town center, and within the ranges of 70 meters to UPDF and SPLA barracks, they had planned to strike in Ezo center," said Ezo resident who requested anonymity in fear of repression from security forces.

He added that "the refugee camp is guided by few policemen, who could not manage the heavy attack staged by LRA rebels, however, the police tried their level best but ran short of ammunitions, the situation is gruesome and horrible".

The latest LRA attacks have brought fear and panic to Ezo with many residents fleeing their houses. Many other villagers have been displaced too.

A mother of five said, the horrendous attacks by LRA rebels will contribute to starvation in Ezo town, as many residents will fear to go to their farming yards.

More reports from Ezo confirm that, LRA rebels are still around Ezo, as they were seen eating mangoes just few kilometers away from Ezo town centre, forcing many resident hunting for termites or white ants to abandon the forest.

The County Commissioner Ezo has dismissed the civil population's outcry, saying "LRA attacks in Ezo are normal; it does not pose any danger to the Sunday elections," just four days away.

"LRA rebels used to attack during the voters' registration, [but] we managed to register everybody, so, the same applies to elections day, elections will go as planned in Ezo. We have secured the refugees' camp and the county authority is in charge of security," he said.

The Commissioner further stated that, there is no cause of alarm, "even this afternoon young boys were playing football in Ezo playing ground, the issue of LRA is nothing new, tomorrow Ezo County will graduate 140 polling officers ready to carry out elections, LRA issue is not only in Ezo it is also in some parts of Western Equatoria, CAR and DRC, he said.

He denied panic and flees of villagers in around Ezo County.

Fear from LRA rebels has risen as the notorious rebels return to the dense forests in Western Equatoria, since 2008 thousands have fled LRA raids and now live in camps all over the region.

Security analysts say the LRA attacks reminds voters of their precarious days last year, security issues have topped elections campaign from the WES's key rival gubernatorial candidates – many voters may vote putting security as a concern.

The fighters - whose leaders originate in northern Uganda - have earned a grim reputation for murder, rape and abducting children.

Mutilating victims, including hacking off noses and lips, is one of their trademark calling cards.

Boys are taken to become fighters, girls as sex slaves for the commanders.