Rebel threat to food security in the south

Attacks on civilian populations in southern Sudan by the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) pose a significant threat to food security and overall stability in Equatoria states, according to a report.

The attacks, which intensified after talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA stalled in January, have left 3,500 people displaced in Torit County since February, said the report published by USAID and the Famine Early Warning System Network.

"Civil insecurity has grown in Central and Eastern Equatoria states," the report states. "The LRA abandoned the talks and retreated to the Central African Republic (CAR), attacking and looting communities, including parts of Magwi, Kajokeji, Yambio, Tambura and Torit counties, as they fled."

However, the report also speculated that LRA-related insecurity could be reduced if peace talks resume in mid-April, as scheduled.

The on-off talks, which are intended to end the 21-year-old war in northern Uganda, started in July under the mediation of southern Sudanese Vice-President Riek Machar, but stalled after the rebels demanded a new venue and another mediator. According to the LRA, their lives were in danger and the mediator was biased.

Photo: The Daily Monitor
Joseph Kony, leader of the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army

The talks, to include the former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, are due to resume on 13 April in the south Sudanese capital of Juba. Chissano is the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the areas affected by the LRA insurgency.

Delegations of leaders from northern Uganda are due to travel to meet the LRA leader, Joseph Kony, in his hideout near the Sudan-Democratic Republic of Congo border, ahead of the talks.

However, observers say the talks continue to be haunted by the fact that Kony and three other LRA commanders face indictments from the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Aid workers in southern Sudan say the rebels, though fewer in number now, have continued to launch sporadic attacks on civilian populations and to loot food. On 28 March, they attacked Nabazia, 12 km from Maridi, looted food and abducted six young girls.

The food security report also noted that while the situation had improved in northern parts of southern Sudan, it was likely to deteriorate as the April/May to August hunger season progresses.

This would particularly affect poor and recently resettled households in areas affected by civil insecurity, cattle raiding and where population resettlement is significant. These areas include Aweil East, West, North and South counties in Northern Bahr El Gazal State; Gogrial and Twic counties in Warab State; and Wuror, Diror, Pulchol and Nyirol counties in Jonglei State.

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