Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lord's Resistance Army: UN, governments to meet on regional strategy against LRA

UNHCR visits civilians in South Sudan displaced by Lord’s Resistance Army. Photo: UNHCR/T.Garrett

13 March 2012 –
United Nations and government officials from central Africa will meet in Uganda next week to finalize a comprehensive regional strategy on combating the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the rebel group that gained notoriety for its atrocities in Uganda, but which has in recent years extended its violence to neighbouring countries.

The meeting in the Ugandan city of Entebbe on Thursday and Friday next week follows a previous one in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kinshasa, in January, when African countries affected by the LRA agreed to toughen measures against the group.

Abou Moussa, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), told a news conference in Libreville, Gabon, that the meeting in Entebbe will also be in pursuance of the mandate given to UNOCA by the Security Council last year to develop, in cooperation with UN missions and the African Union, a regional strategy for international humanitarian and development assistance, as well as peacebuilding in areas affected by the LRA violence.

The LRA carried out the worst of its atrocities in northern Ugandan in the 1990s, but had by 2004 largely been driven of the area through a sustained military effort. However, remnants of the insurgency continued to attack civilians in South Sudan, the Central African Republic and DRC.

The group is notorious for carrying out massacres in villages, mutilating its victims and abducting boys for use as child soldiers, while girls are forced into sexual slavery.

“I would like to reaffirm the support of the United Nations for the African Union’s regional cooperation initiative against the LRA,” said Mr. Moussa.

“After the meeting in Entebbe, one of the milestones of our commitment will be the presentation to the Security Council of the Secretary-General’s report on UNOCA activities, including measures taken to combat the LRA and ensure development in the affected areas,” he added.

Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) voiced concern over the recent displacement of several thousand people as a result of fresh attacks by the LRA in DRC’s north-eastern province of Orientale.

After a lull in LRA raids in the second half of last year that resulted in improved security, new attacks on civilians have been reported in the territories of Dungu, Faradje, Watsa, Niangara, Bondo and Ango in Orientale. The fresh attacks have caused 3,000 people to flee their homes.

There have been 20 new attacks in Orientale since the beginning of this year, with one person killed and 17 abducted, according UNHCR.