- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2006

GARBO, Sudan — The screams of women were audible long before the thatched roofs of their huts were visible through the long grass. One mother, her face smeared with dirt, embraced the freshly dug grave of her son; nearby, a toddler sat in a pool of bloody water until a Sudanese policeman led the woman away.

Last week’s massacre did not happen in Darfur, the war-torn western region of Sudan, but in the south, where a hard-won peace deal was signed nearly two years ago.

Two million Sudanese died in the conflict between the Muslim north and Christian-animist south, which ended under pressure from human rights activists. The Christian lobby in America also helped bring Africa’s longest-running war to an end.

But the past two weeks have seen a surge in violence as families were attacked in their homes and commuters were burned alive in their vehicles.

Scores of people have been killed, some barely a stone’s throw from a major U.N. base in the city of Juba, but no one is sure who is responsible for the attacks. In the worst incident, a busload of villagers, including women and children, were set on fire.

Some say the ferocity is characteristic of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Sudanese government-backed rebel group active in southern Sudan and northern Uganda, which is infamous for the recruitment of child soldiers and the mutilation of civilians.

But the LRA, engaged in peace talks, denies involvement, and the arrest of 15 of its members last week failed to end the violence. Observers fear it could be any one of countless proxy militias that sprang up during the war.

In the village of Garbo, near the southern capital of Juba, five persons were shot in an attack last Thursday. Justinta Keji, a mother of four whose husband was killed, said that the attackers wore army uniforms and demanded cash before shooting some of the men in the village.

“The last one, he was about this big,” she said, motioning to a young boy by her side.

Behind her, the family of another victim piled flip flops, pots and clothes into sheets, preparing for the long walk into town.

“No one will sleep here today. They are all afraid,” said Viola John, 20, wiping away a tear with the corner of her scarf.

Despite the violence, there has been some progress. Although security remains a problem — two U.N. vehicles have been attacked in the past two weeks — the war is over.

Most people in the south remain deeply impoverished, but better communications and infrastructure have reunited families that had been separated for decades. A clutch of new restaurants, largely catering to aid and oil workers, has sprung up around Juba.

“We have had some minor security incidents, but nothing like last night or the past two weeks,” said Philip Ward, the British operations officer for oil company White Nile Ltd.

He said European companies are lining up to invest in south Sudan while Americans are prevented from investing by sanctions. The country exports only a comparative dribble of oil at 330,000 barrels a day after decades of conflict, but Mr. Ward said recent seismic tests have been “very positive.”

The problems of rebuilding have been made more difficult by the diversion of resources to the war in Darfur, the increasing marginalization of rebel leaders and the renewed violence.

“The most dangerous [is the government’s] non-implementation of the Abyei [oil field] agreement, lack of transparency and cooperation in the oil sector, and delays in demarcating the North-South border,” said David Mozersky, an analyst with the Brussels-based think tank International Crisis Group.

Transforming a rebel movement into a government is also proving difficult, he said, and some southern Sudanese say privately that the new administration has done little but refurbish its buildings and drive around in new cars.

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