Saturday, May 15, 2010

Uganda: Lord's Resistance Army steps up frequency and brutality of attacks

The United Nations refugee agency today sounded the alarm at the dramatic rise in both the frequency and brutality of attacks against civilians by a notorious Ugandan rebel group operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Between 20 March and 6 May, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) carried out at least ten raids in Haut-Mbomou Province in CAR’s far east, claiming 36 lives. Some 10,000 people were uprooted, with more than 400 fleeing across the border into the DRC.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is working to deliver water, food, plastic sheets and other supplies to the newly-displaced in Haute-Mbomou province.

“Roving bands of LRA combatants often prey on unprotected villages in remote areas with very poor roads and communications,” agency spokesperson Melissa Fleming told reporters today in Geneva.

“As a result, some of the group’s atrocities remain unknown for long periods,” she added.

The epicentre of LRA atrocities is in the Haut-Uele and Bas-Uele districts of Orientale Province, in western DRC. Since December 2008, more than 1,800 people have been killed, 2,500 abducted and 280,000 forced to flee the violence. The violence has also driven 20,000 Congolese to see refugee in Sudan and CAR.

Earlier this month, the top UN humanitarian official, during a visit to the DRC, heard first-hand accounts from survivors of LRA violence, including one woman whose lips and ear had been torn off two days ago in a typically barbaric and inexplicable attack.

“This is unacceptable. We need a rapid solution to what has become a regional crisis,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes emphasized at a stop in Niangara, an area in Orientale Province near the DRC’s border with Sudan and CAR.

Since August 2009, the groups has carried out increased incursions, forcing refugees already sheltering in the region to relocate, displacing the local population and hampering the provision of much-needed aid, UNHCR said today.

On 6 April, the LRA raided the Ezo Napere refugee settlement in Western Equatoria in South Sudan, but the attack – which killed one refugee and injured another – was repulsed by police.

The LRA – notorious for abducting children as soldiers and sex slaves – was formed in Uganda in 1986. It set up its first base in Sudan in 1993, spreading to the DRC in 2005 and to CAR in 2009.

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