When a shaky peace deal ended the war southern Sudan in 2005, Mundri had been thoroughly battered. An historic stronghold of the rebel Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), this small trading center in Western Equitoria endured daily bombing sorties by the northern air force. Many of the civilian inhabitants took refuge in neighboring areas, ceding Mundri to the warring factions.
During years of heavy fighting in 2002-2003, the northern Sudanese air force dumped payloads of cluster munitions on SPLA positions along the Yei River. Many of these cluster strikes took place during the rain season when the ground was swampy and soft. Because of the weather conditions, a great number of cluster sub-munitions, or bomblets, submerged in mud and failed to explode. Consequently, the riverbanks remain littered with these extremely dangerous items.
During the current period of relative calm, many displaced persons have returned to their homes in Mundri. As the population surges, the demand for land is rising. Returnees are eager to cultivate and developed available land, such as that along the river.
The men pictured here are members of an Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team, assigned to clear the riverbanks of sub-munitions. Their work is grueling and dangerous. Since beginning clearance operations in October 2009, the team has uncovered and destroyed 76 cluster sub-munitions from the area. They continue to discover bomblets on a daily basis. During excavation operations this afternoon, they uncovered four more sub-munitions. The location of these discoveries requires that they expand their area of operations. They will be at it for longer than I care to think about.