Thousands displaced by military activity


Intense military activity in Western Bahr el Ghazal since last May has displaced an estimated 57, 000 people who are now in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

Speaking on June 13 on arrival from Raja, which the SPLA/M captured from the government on June 2, 2001, the Catholic Bishop of Diocese of Rumbek, Ceasar Mazzolari, described as very desperate the humanitarian situation in the affected region.

My first appeal is for food to be dropped at Raga to help attract the desperate civilians now scattered in the surrounding areas to return to their homes (in Raga), said Bishop Mazzolari.

I have seen the place and can confirm that there is so much suffering. I appeal to all people of goodwill to seize the earliest opportunity to help save as many lives as possible.

NGOs should move in to assess the situation with a view to setting up temporary bases to serve as feeding centres and to offer medical services.

Since the capture of Raja, huge civilians populations have fled the town in fear for their lives. Many have been reported to be heading northwards, a largely desert area where water and food are difficult to come by.

Others, mostly of Arab origin, began deserting the town much earlier as rumours about the imminent SPLA attack spread. It is reported that at some stage, the two groups on the run met and the Arabs turned on their southern compatriots, killing several of them.

The Bishop expressed fear that Khartoum many southerners headed northwards, particularly the children, would die of hunger and thirst.

The SPLA, noted the Bishop, has been doing a commendable job in trying to call back to Raja the civilians trying to escape towards the desert in the north.

The church has left a team of its personnel on the ground to run our very small and run-down dispensary and we appeal for assistance to help beef up our medical and relief activities.

Angered by the SPLA triumph, Khartoum has bombed Raja several times since it was captured.

On the morning of June 3, a Russian Antonov bomber dropped six to eight bombs on the town some of which hit the Church-run Comboni Secondary School. A day later, another Antonov bomber hit the city, apparently aiming for the bridge on Raga River.

On the morning of June 6, three bombs were dropped at Raja. Details of casualties were not readily available. A day later a plane with its lights off, dropped bombs on a heavily populated part of Raja in the neighbourhood of the airstrip, killing at least four people. Several others were injured. Among the dead were the wife and a child of a Church community leader.

Since its capture, no humanitarian agencies have moved to Raja to assist the civilians.

In his appeal, Bishop Mazzolari said the Catholic Church could organise for temporary accommodation for any agency willing to assist the people of Raja. The town can be accessed by humanitarian agency through Kenya (Lokichoggio), Uganda, Central Africa Republic or Sudan s western Equatoria.


Charles Omondi<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Editor, Sudan Catholic Information Office

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