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Ugandan villagers reel from mudslide tragedy
by Staff Writers
Mabono, Uganda (AFP) Aug 30, 2011

Nathan Gimei stares in shock at what used to be his village, a small Ugandan settlement ripped apart by a mudslide that submerged homes and killed entire families.

"There were fifteen houses here, two shops, banana trees and coffee plants; now all that is gone," he said, pointing to the churned up mud and shattered houses, running for several hundred metres (yards) down the mountainside.

Following almost two days of heavy rain, in the early hours of Monday morning an avalanche of mud and rocks tore through the centre of Mabono, a small village perched of Ugandas mountainous eastern border with Kenya.

"We heard the mud begin to fall from above," Gimei, the village chairman, said sadly. "A boy started shouting an alarm and some people managed to escape, but 16 others died."

At least 30 people died in Mabona and six other villages in the area where mudslides were also triggered by the rain, the Ugandan government said.

By the time Red Cross rescue workers and the army arrived, local men had already dug most of the bodies out from the mud using hoes and their bare hands.

On Tuesday, young men sifted through the shattered remains of several houses, trying to salvage what few basic possessions were left -- a shoe, some old mathematics schoolbooks, a bedpost.

The main job left was to bury the dead. In nearby Bugwa Catholic Church the body of Louis Masiga, 70, lay next to three generations of his family.

Mourners wept as they knelt over the bodies of the nine victims, including a two-month-old baby in a yellow jumper suit.

"This is the biggest tragedy. That is my father, younger brother, his wife and their children," Frederick Gimei said, standing outside the church.

"My sister managed to escape and my mother was away, but all the others are gone," Gimei said.

Several horrific mudslides have hit this region in recent years.

In one of the worst natural disasters to hit the east African region in years, some 350 people were killed last year when a mudslide swept through a village in the country's eastern Mount Elgon region.

The region that straddles Kenya and Uganda often receives high rainfall which can devastate villages on the mountain slopes.

But Gimei said his family had never considered leaving their village.

"We never thought to move," he said. "We thought we were living in such a comfortable place."

Now however, residents in the area are grappling to come to terms with the tragedy and anxious about the future, local leaders said.

"It is psychologically torturing the people, because they do not know when it will happen again -- and what they can do next," said local priest Raphael Owor. "No one really expected this to happen."

Local officials said that deforestation, with growing populations and torrential rains, mean landslides are becoming an increasing problem.

"The area is highly populated, and the land is small, so people are cutting down trees to clear land," said Agnes Mukoya, local head of the Red Cross.

"There are many areas that have cracks and are at high risk."

Following other landslides in eastern Uganda, the government has relocated entire villages to lower lying areas, and officials have already begun talking about moving those living in Mabono and the surrounding areas.

"We want to leave as there are very many cracks in the mountains, and we are fearing now because we have lost so many of our people here," said Sam Nabugomu, a local resident.

"It is a big shift but we have to go, now and forever."

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US urges Sudan to adhere to its own ceasefire
Washington (AFP) Aug 30, 2011 - The United States called Tuesday on the Sudanese government to respect its own truce in South Kordofan state after rights groups said Sudanese warplanes heavily bombed the area.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on August 23 declared a two-week ceasefire in South Kordofan, which has been rocked since June by violent clashes between the Sudanese army and Nuba rebels.

"The United States is deeply concerned about reports of continued Sudanese Air Force bombings of civilian areas in Southern Kordofan," despite the truce, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Two leading human rights groups said on Tuesday the Sudanese armed forces have carried out deadly air raids on civilians in rebel-held areas of the Nuba Mountains that may amount to war crimes.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said that during a week-long visit to the region, their researchers saw almost daily bombing raids by government aircraft on villages and farmland.

Reading a statement, Nuland also renewed US calls for the Nuba rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement to declare a two-week truce of its own.

"We further call on both sides to allow unfettered humanitarian access to affected populations in the state," Nuland added.

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Radical Tuareg rebel chief dies in Mali
Bamako (AFP) Aug 27, 2011
Mali's most radical Tuareg rebel chief Ibrahim ag Bahanga, who never agreed to disarm, died Friday in an accident in the northeast of the country and was immediately buried, his family said. Family member Bay ag Alhassane, who broke the news to AFP, did not give details of the accident but it was confirmed by several councillors in the Kidal region. Ibrahim ag Bahanga never totally joine ... read more

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