South Sudan state disarms as Ugandan rebels leave
TORIT, Sudan, Aug 13 (Reuters) Disarmament has finally started in south Sudan's state of Eastern Equatoria under a 2005 peace deal now it has been made possible by the departure of Ugandan rebels, a security official said.
Authorities had previously been reluctant to take guns from heavily armed south Sudanese, who complained of looting and abductions by Ugandan fighters of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) taking refuge in the region.
But the rebels have now moved to assembly points on the borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo following Ugandan peace talks in Juba, capital of south Sudan's semi-autonomous government.
''We didn't want to make people vulnerable to the LRA without their guns,'' said Eastern Equatoria's security advisor Marcello Dominic. ''But now we're doing selective disarmament.'' South Sudan's civil war has raged on and off since independence in 1956. There was heavy fighting in eastern Equatoria between south Sudanese rebels and the northern government.
Disarmament under the 2005 peace deal has already begun in two other states of south Sudan.
Dominic told Reuters on Saturday the last Ugandan LRA fighters left eastern Equatoria in June, allowing some disarmament to begin there. Four villages there have now been disarmed, he said.
''This has been a real, long political fight,'' he said. ''Even since the peace talks began, the LRA continued to kill and abduct our people. We still consider them our enemy.'' Dominic said the state government believes at least 300 people have been killed by the Ugandan rebels since the LRA was first reported in the state in 2004. The LRA has in the past denied attacking south Sudanese.
Tribal violence between roaming cattle herders has also contributed to violence in the state.
In May, at least 54 people, most of them women and children, were killed in tribal clashes in the state.
Tribal chiefs say their powers were destroyed by the proliferation of guns in the area, where there was heavy fighting between the north and south during Sudan's civil war.
But Dominic said armed cattle herders from neighbouring Ugandan and Kenyan who roam across the porous borders were also an obstacle to a full disarmament campaign.
''The government fears our people will be made more vulnerable if disarmed,'' he said.
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