MARCH 11, 2010: Arrow Boys of Southern Sudan

Field dispatch: the arrow boys of southern Sudan - an army of the willing

By  Laura Heaton and Maggie Fick

YAMBIO, Western Equatoria, Southern Sudan— "Omer Bashir," Adrian said, emphatically responding to the question we posed to our local interpreter without waiting for the Zande translation. We had asked who he thought was behind the recent attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army, or LRA, on his community in southern Sudan. "They have been sent. They have been bribed, told to kill the people on this land," he said. Eight months ago, this 23-year-old—his youthful face hiding the horrors he has witnessed—fled with many others from his village to the largest town in this remote corner of southern Sudan near the Congolese border. Adrian and his fellow villagers now live on land owned by the local Episcopal Church, and have begun building basic homes and cultivating the land.

But after speaking to Adrian and other men in this makeshift village of displaced and traumatized survivors of LRA attacks, it's clear that they don't plan to simply wait out the storm. In the absence of an effective response by the Sudanese government to the LRA, many local men and boys have taken community security into their own hands. They are part of a loose-knit, meagerly armed, local defense force called the Arrow Boys.