Civilians in the volatile south Sudan region will be armed with guns to fight off looming attacks from rebels of the Lords Resistance Army, a state governor in south Sudan has announced.
According to the United Nations, attacks by rebels of the Lords Resistance Army have forced some 25,000 Sudanese from their homes this year.
The people of Western Equatoria have in the past defended themselves with knives and arrows, but State Governor Joseph Bakasoro has pledged to spend $2 million on guns to arm the villagers, and vigilantes so they can protect themselves.
“The home guard units will be trained and armed so that they can provide effective defense until the regular forces can intervene. Some $2m (£1.3m) will be spent arming the Arrow Boys vigilantes,” Mr Bakasoro was quoted.
The head of the Southern Sudan government’s humanitarian agency for Western Equatoria, Lexson Wari Amozai, suggested that the rise in attacks was carefully timed.
The LRA is notorious for its brutality, and local vigilante forces, known as the Arrow Boys, have failed to fight off the latest series of LRA attacks.
Some southern Sudanese believe northern Sudanese politicians opposed to the south’s independence of arming the LRA but this has been denied in Khartoum.
The promise to arm civilians comes amidst fears that violence could increase in Southern Sudan, ahead of January’s referendum on the region’s independence.
In May, the US passed legislation requiring Washington to come up with a strategy to work with regional governments to protect civilians from LRA attacks.
US-based Human Rights Watch accused the rebels of going on a massive recruitment campaign.
LRA leader Joseph Kony began his rebellion 20 years ago, claiming to want to install a Bible-based theocracy in Uganda.
Currently, he is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), but has maintained an peripatetic life, crossing between Sudan and the Central African Republic.
In 2008, reports claimed that Mr. Kony was close to signing a peace deal, negotiated by Southern Sudan, but refused to lay down his arms in the last minute.