Monday, February 26, 2007

Ex-LRA fighter found in Ikafe Refugee Settlement

On Saturday 24, February 2007, as a refugee woman went about her business in the nearby bush within the Ikafe refugee settlement - Yumbe district (Northwestern Uganda), she stumbled on a young girl taking a nap on bare ground. What started as Samaritan move for the refugee woman, resulted into a realisation that the young girl was a former Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel, fleeing captivity.

She was later taken in to the Officer in Charge of Ikafe police post, who later called in the Yumbe district Police Constable. SHRA staff had an opportunity of interviewing the girl before she was taken to the district police station. Mary Konga-nee name, was captured in 2002 in Mungulu area-Adjumani district, where she had been taken to babysit her Auntie's child. Since then, the world took a horrible turn for her. She was forced into early marriage to a rebel commander with whom she bore a son with. She was also forced to drop her nee name for Mariamu Annet as a ritual for all captives. The memories she has of her captivity was living by the gun, terrorising villages when sent on mission.

Mary says, she saw the peace talks as an opportunity to return to her mother and father, who by the time of her capture lived in Yumbe, but as of now does not know where they are. The disappointment came when, they were ordered to reorganise and relocate by the LRA top commanders. She seized this opportunity to flee captivity; living all she had behind - including her only son, she run away in the night with only a hand grenade as a weapon. She says her journey had taken her roughly five days - where she walked in the night, and rested during the day. At the time of SHRA's visit, the settlement authorities were awaiting the District Police Constable to take her for further protection and interrogation.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Meningitis Stops SHRA in West Nile

SHRA today had to postpone the rest of its planned activities in West Nile and Adjumani. The Health authorities of Moyo and Adjumani Districts have imposed tough measures in the effort to contain the ongoing meningitis epidemic in northern Uganda. Schools are closed, church services reduced and people are not allowed to gather for more than one hour at a maximum of 10 individuals. SHRA understands the need for these measures and will return to finish the program when the situation has normalised.

The pic is from the ceremony in Rhino Camp, Arua District.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

SHRA Introduces Paralegals Amidst Meningitis Epidemic

Sudan Human Rights Association today officially introduced the first of its Paralegals to the Sudanese refugee community in West Nile, Uganda. This happened in Madi Okollo settlement in Arua District. The Paralegals have been mandated by SHRA after receiving a full-package training in topics such as Human Rights, Conflict Management, Psycho-social issues and Refugee Law. The Paralegals are already active in assisting their fellow community members and the implementing agencies in the settlements on these matters.

SHRA continues the introduction of Paralegals for another week. The gatherings have, however, been scaled-down due to the raging meningitis epidemic in West Nile and Adjumani. According to the Ugandan newspaper, The Monitor, more than 2,300 cases have been recorded - leading to more than 100 people so far dead from the airborne disease.
The picture shows two Paralegals attending todays ceremony in Madi Okollo.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Crisis in Darfur: Interview with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir

The "spill-over" of the Darfur crisis into Chad is not a surprise to the President of Sudan, Lt. Gen. Omar al-Bashir: "Frictions and conflicts have always existed between the tribes", he states. According to the President, the entire "Darfur problem" is fabricated and exaggerated by foreign parties.
Click here and read these and other statements made by President al-Bashir in a recent interview published in the Asharq Alawsat Newspaper. The link is to an excerpt at the weblog Sudan Watch published Saturday Feb. 17.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Down the Wrong Road?

A quick glance at todays headlines in the newspaper South Sudan Nation is not encouraging. We are reminded that according to the schedule of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) from January 2005, Southern Sudan should have tarmacked roads within the first 18 months of forming the government, with a reliable road network in place by 2008. It is clear for anyone who has been to South Sudan recently that this is not happening.
Another main story concerns US$ 60 mil. that apparently vanished after being paid to the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) by the central Government in Khartoum back in January 2005.

On a lighter note, we are informed that in Egypt, an SPLM/A official sent by the GoSS to facilitate the repatriation of Southerners from that country spent only one tenth of the money, criminally pocketed more than US$ 300,000 and then returned to Sudan!

The stories go on. In SHRA we find them worrying because the lack of transparent governance in South Sudan is likely to have a negative impact on the repatriation and re-integration of the refugees currently returning to their country.
(The cartoon above is also from South Sudan Nation - see more here).

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

SHRA Partner Launches Democracy Focus

For the past few years SHRA has partnered up with MS-Uganda, a worldwide Danish NGO. In particular, MS-Uganda supports SHRA in training Paralegals in Northern Uganda and South Sudan.

Last weekend MS launched its new worldwide focus on democracy. This happened during the Annual Meeting in Jinja, Uganda, which saw the presence of 140 delegates from all 35 MS partners in Uganda.

Arguably, there is not much new in the "new" focus since MS has promoted democracy and good governance for many years. Still, it is a serious attempt to mainstream democracy in a more conscious way in all MS activities around the world. The new criteria will also be used to assess present and potential partners - not only in terms of what they do, but also in terms of how they govern themselves. In SHRA, we look forward to this challenge.