Friday, November 26, 2010

Meet the Arrow Boys, the South Sudanese tribal militia that is the last line of defence against Ugandan rebel group LRA

Boys to men as Sudanese villagers take on Lord's Resistance Army
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald -
Author: Jason Koutsoukis
Date: Saturday, 27 November 2010

Photo: Protecting their families ... the Arrow Boys Samuel Manese 2nd from left and Deputy Chief Acquila Daniel 4th from right at rear, use an array of weapons against the insurgents. Photo: Kate Geraghty
(KASSIA, Sudan) - Meet the Arrow Boys, the South Sudanese tribal militia that is the last line of defence against Africa's most feared insurgent gang - the Lord's Resistance Army.

Granting rare media access to the Herald in the tiny jungle outpost of Kassia, less than 40 kilometres north of the Congo border, the local Arrow Boys chief, Samuel Manase, said the savagery of the attacks by the LRA was difficult to comprehend.

''They last attacked this village in September,'' Mr Manase said. ''They killed two people and tried to abduct three children but we succeeded in rescuing the children.''

He said the death toll in Kassia from the LRA this year was about 20. ''They kill in different ways. Sometimes people are shot dead, other times men are surrounded by a circle of LRA members beaten to death with clubs. Earlier this year I saw men here being chopped up with pangas [machetes].''

Comprised mostly of men in their teens and early 20s, the Arrow Boys were founded in the South Sudanese state of Western Equatoria last year and employ an unconventional arsenal that includes bows and arrows, spears, even poison darts, in their attempts to fend off LRA attacks.

''We use whatever weapons we can make from the materials here in the forest,'' Mr Manase said. ''We receive some assistance from the government of South Sudan in the form of small arms but it is very little.

''In the last LRA attack in September, it was the wild bees. As they tried to enter Kassia the LRA disturbed several large nests and then the bees set upon them.''

Chased out of Uganda in 2005, the LRA has since marauded through the jungles of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic in search of refuge from the Uganda People's Defence Force.

The LRA chief, Joseph Kony, is now thought to be hiding out in southern Darfur under the auspices of the national government of Sudan, which is opposed to South Sudan's likely secession from Khartoum in a referendum scheduled for January 9.

Kony, 49, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, and styles himself as a Christian ''prophet'' whose mission is to turn Uganda into a theocracy ruled by the Ten Commandments.

Now the LRA is little more than a gang of bandits, with little, if any, real political motive, engaged in a battle for survival.

The Arrow Boys deputy commander in Kassia, Aquila Daniel, said the LRA attacked without warning. ''Their only motive plunder,'' he said. ''They take our food, and they take any other possessions we have including women and children.''

In the event of an attack, an alarm is sounded to mobilise the Arrow Boys.

''We are here hiding in the trees, waiting. The boys have little training; they only want to protect their families,'' Mr Daniel said.

''It is difficult to know how many of the LRA we kill because whenever an LRA member falls, the others in the group are under orders to bring back their bodies to their camp, whatever the cost.

''So occasionally we find traces of blood in the grass, we hope it is evidence that we have killed one of them, but we have never been able to claim a body.''

Emmanuel Samuel, 10, joined the arrow boys in July when he heard the LRA were in the area.

''The village elders told me to stay in the village but I wanted to follow my father,'' Emmanuel said.''I have fired my weapon [a bow and arrow] just once.

''No, I was not afraid because my mother and father were there fighting alongside me.''

Kate Geraghty travelled to Sudan courtesy of Doctors Without Borders

Thursday, November 25, 2010

US reveals plan to disarm LRA fighters

US President Barack Obama presents strategy to combat Lord's Resistance Army rebels and their leader Joseph Kony in central Africa

US reveals plan to disarm LRA fighters
Source: by Xan Rice in Nairobi
Date: Thursday 25 November 2010 13.12 GMT

The Lord's Resistance army leader, Joseph Kony, pictured in 2006. Photograph: Stuart Price/AP
The US government yesterday revealed a plan to disarm Lord's Resistance Army fighters in central Africa and capture or kill their leader, Joseph Kony.

Barack Obama presented a strategy document to Congress designed to "mitigate and eliminate" the threat to civilians posed by one of the world's longest-running and most brutal insurgencies.

While they are unlikely to result in US troops being directly involved in combat operations, the proposed measures should strengthen local military efforts against the LRA and have been welcomed by international human rights groups.

The rebels emerged in northern Uganda 24 years ago with devastating consequences for the local population. In recent years, they have exported their terror to the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic.

More than 2,300 people in these countries have been killed by LRA fighters over the past two years, with 400,000 civilians forced to flee their homes.

At least 3,000 men, women and children have been abducted – the rebels' primary form of conscription.

Obama's announcement followed the passing of a bill in May that requires the US to support multilateral efforts to subdue the LRA.

The four main objectives of the new plan are to increase protection for civilians, encourage rebel defections, improve humanitarian access and "apprehend or remove from the battlefield Joseph Kony and senior commanders", according to a letter sent to congressmen.

The strategy is a more formal and official version of the one employed by the US for the past two years after it took the lead among western countries in trying to end the rebellion.

In December 2008, the US military provided intelligence and financial support to the Ugandan-led Operation Lightning Thunder, which flushed LRA fighters from their main hideout in Congo, Garamba National Park.

But rebel leaders including Kony – who claims to have messianic powers – escaped the ground and air assault and immediately embarked on a series of massacres in remote villages.

The strategy document said the US had spent more than $23m (£14.5m) on support for the Ugandan military since then, but added that more money was needed.

But ending the insurgency is likely to be extremely difficult, even with more cash and commitment. It was a task that proved beyond the Ugandan military when the LRA operated there for 20 years, and the rebel fighters have proved equally comfortable in countries to the east.

The US-based Enough Project warned in a recent report that the LRA's "propensity for violence remains undiminished" despite having a fighting force of just 400. Ledio Cakaj, a field researcher for the project, said Obama's plan signalled a more hands-on approach by the US military in regional counterinsurgency operations.

"You are not going to see marines on the ground fighting Kony," Cakaj said. "But you are going to see more US troops and contractors on the ground facilitating regional efforts to stop the rebels. It's not a radical move, but it is certainly a positive step."

CAR: CPJP rebels kill 4 soldiers, hold Birao garrison town near border with Chad and Sudan

Birao is a garrison town near the border with Chad and Sudan (AFP)

Rebels kill four, hold Central African Republic town
Source: AFP -
Date: Thursday, 25 November 2010
(BANGUI, Central African Republic) - Rebels killed four soldiers and captured an unknown number of troops in an attack on Birao, the main town of northern Central Africa Republic, the military said on Thursday.

Rebels belonging to the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace were still in control of the key town after forcing government troops to withdraw, a military commander told AFP.

"The rebels killed four of our soldiers and wounded some other," he said, declining to be named.

"A certain number of our men were also taken prisoner but we have no exact figures on that."

He said reinforcements were on the way to the area and a counter-attack was planned.

Birao is a garrison town near the borders with Chad and Sudan in an area where attacks by rebel groups occur with regularity.

Rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army staged a raid on the town in October, looting shops and abducting a number of women.

The CPJP has not signed peace accords with the government of President Francois Bozize, unlike most rebel movements in the desperately poor landlocked nation.

The CPJP's founding leader is former government minister Charles Massi. His relatives and aides say that Massi was detained in neighbouring Chad, handed over and tortured to death in January in a Central African prison.
- - -

UPDATE on Friday, 26 November 2010

Central African Republic rebels seize Birao town
Source: BBC News Africa -
Date: Friday, 26 November 2010 at 13:07
Rebels in the Central African Republic have taken over the town of Birao after heavy fighting with the army, a UN official has told the BBC.

The CPJP rebels have seized key strategic places including the armed forces' command base and the airport.

Birao had been under UN guard since June but the peace mission ended two weeks ago.

No casualty figures have been released but one humanitarian worker was killed during the attack, the official said.

The head of the UN humanitarian agency in CAR, Jean-Sebastien Munie said a large number of rebels led the attack on Thursday.

"The rebels' attack took the national forces by surprise."

The CPJP rebels are the only militia which remains outside the country's peace process.

Birao lies in a highly unstable region near the borders with Sudan and Chad, both of which have several rebel groups of their own.

Related stories

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

APC: Congolese students and survivors use ICTs to prevent the spread of violence

Photo by l’Association des Femmes Solidaires: Survivors of violence undergo training and counseling in Brazzaville (APC)

Congolese students and survivors use ICTs to prevent the spread of violence
Source: Association for Progressive Communications (APC) -
By Sylvie Niombo for APC
BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo, 27 October 2010:
Association Dynamique Plurielle in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, will work with 250 female 1st to 3rd year high school students from Savorgnon de Brazzaville High School to fight against sexual harassment in schools by involving teachers and school management. It will organise awareness meetings on the Portella and Potignon Acts, which prohibits relationships between teachers and students and protects minors, during which they will screen video testimonies from survivors of abuse. During the project, students will also send alerts about sexual harassment cases via SMS by the students; and a “listening cell” of the organisation at the high school will actively respond. Educational information about the laws will be sent to 250 students; and trivia questions via SMS and MMS will be sent out participants. Winners will be awarded free internet browsing tickets for the best answer. Students will also be trained on how to use the internet to teach and train others. They will also be sensitized to online privacy and security issues when surfing the internet and using mobile phones.

Association Femmes Solidaires in Brazzaville will train fifteen young mothers infected with HIV/AIDS and survivors of violence in counselling so they can provide psychological support to their peers. Awareness-raising sessions will be held on human rights, targeting 50 women and young mothers infected with HIV/AIDS. Ten of them will be trained in basic computers skills, internet browsing and searching, and writing articles and blogs to document the experiences of violence by HIV-positive women and girls. Radio shows that broadcast the testimonies of these survivors of violence will be produced with the assistance of female journalists and members of the organisation. These radio programs will be reproduced on CDs and distributed to other organisations for their advocacy and educational activities, and uploaded to the internet.

Jeunes Infrastructure et Développement (CJID) will work to reduce violence against women and girls in Kinkala, an area that was affected by armed conflict until 2003, through awareness and education on ICTs. Twenty female soldiers and policewomen will be sensitised about violence against women. Around100 survivors of violence will be reached by this project; from which 35 will be trained in basic computer skills and internet use. They will create a listening space for survivors at their office, and provide mobile internet access to the people of Kinkala, especially young students. The project will also produce video testimonials with a team of survivors of violence, which will be screened at awareness meetings and shared with other organisations. There will also be an SMS contest for the best testimonies, and a moderated blog will be put in place to give voices to the project beneficiaries on the web.

Comptoir Juridique Junior will work with 200 students in the Mpaka Secondary School and the OCH Technical High School in Pointe-Noire to fight against and prevent sexual harassment in schools. Their actions will involve teachers and school management. Students will send alerts on cases of sexual harassment via SMS, and different measures will be taken after a consultation. Competitions for testimonies by survivors of violence via SMS and MMS will be held with 200 students, and the best testimonies will be awarded with training on the use of the internet for learning purposes. The project also educates students on privacy and security online when surfing the internet and using mobile phones. A network of students from both institutions will be created before the end of the project.

Handicapés Sans Frontières in Pointe-Noire will gather some sixty female journalists, women and girls with disabilities to educate, denounce, and find solutions to end violence against them, as well as help them break their silence. The organisation will hold awareness sessions on women’s rights and how to fight violence against women in the media and women’s circles for those with disabilities. They will be trained in basic computer skills and the internet in order to communicate about violence through blogs, photos and mobile phones. They will learn how to record sounds with mobile phones, how to take and upload photos and how to upload video and audio to the internet. Women and girls with disabilities and survivors of violence will also use the internet to advocate for a space where they can express themselves. Female journalists involved in the project will present radio and television programs that demonstrate the magnitude and call for action on violence against women and girls with disabilities.

As part of its work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal #3 (MDG3), the Association for Progressive Communicaitons Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP) is providing a small grants fund for projects working with women technology and raising awareness about violence against women in over 30 communities. Funds from the MDG3 grant are going directly towards supporting over 60 local, primarily community based organisations to implement projects that use ICTs to end violence against women and building their capacity to do so.

The Tack Back the Tech! fund is a part of the APC women’s programme Take Back the Tech! to end violence against women project, which falls under the APC’s work towards achieving the third Millennium Development Goal on equality for women. A total of $20 000 dollars have been disbursed to twelve country partners for redistribution to local and grassroots organisations that are working with women and ICTs.

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