Brutal attacks on civilians by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Southern Sudan could amount to crimes against humanity”, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a report launched on 21 December in Yambio, Western Equatoria State.
The report notes that the LRA carried out 27 confirmed attacks from 15 December 2008 to 10 March 2009, claiming 81 civilian lives and injuring, mutilating, raping or abducting many others. It further discloses that the LRA has pillaged and often destroyed villages, causing displacement of over 38,000 people within Western and Central Equatoria states of Southern Sudan.
The report emphasizes that the brutality employed during LRA attacks has been “consistent, deliberate and egregious”.
Among LRA victims attending the launch was Merci Ann, a 15-year-old girl, who said she was severely bitten during an attack and witnessed the killing of two relatives. She added that the LRA had forced her to travel for seven days to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where she shelled nuts every day, causing damage and pain to her fingers.
Speaking at the launch, Western Equatoria State Governor Jemma Nunn Rumba said, “The main challenge of the state since 2006 has been insecurity caused by the LRA,” adding that many people in the state were displaced due to LRA attacks and were living in camps or with relatives under poor humanitarian conditions.
The governor commended the swift response of the United Nations in assisting affected people and called for further assistance towards stopping LRA atrocities.
UN Deputy Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Lise Grande said, “The human cost caused by the LRA is not only enormous but also unacceptable.” She noted that 200 people were killed and 150 abducted during 154 attacks perpetrated by the LRA, and 80,000 people were internally displaced.
Ms. Grande said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had made swift appeal to the Central Emergency Response Fund at the request of the state government and had been able to secure $5,000,000 that was channeled through agencies working in the state. She said some 23 agencies based in 27 locations in the state were working to assist the population.
The Deputy Resident also noted that the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) and Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) had the primary responsibility of protecting civilians in Southern Sudan. She called on the SPLA and Southern Sudan Police Service (SSPS) to work in a coordinated manner to provide better protection for civilians.
Mr. Simon Kun Pouch, of the Southern Sudan Relief and Recovery Commission said the GoSS was doing its level best to assist those affected by LRA attacks. “When any part of the body is hurt the head feels it and likewise the GoSS feels the suffering of people in Western Equatoria State.”
During her presentation of the OHCHR report, Roxana Garmendia, UNMIS Human Rights Coordinator for Southern Sudan, said LRA atrocities were crimes against humanity with respect to Southern Sudan and the international human rights law.
The report recommends that the international community and governments in the region cooperate with the International Criminal Court in searching for, arresting and surrendering LRA leaders accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes.