March 30, 2012
The Lord’s Resistance Army is stepping up attacks in Central Africa, displacing thousands of people. The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, says LRA attacks have been on the rise since January in both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.
Since the beginning of the year, 33 attacks have occurred in DRC’s northeastern Orientale Province. Some 4,000 people have been displaced. The province borders CAR, Uganda and South Sudan.
UNHCR spokesperson Celine Schmitt says many of the LRA attacks have occurred in March.
“People have been displaced again during the last two weeks. Since the beginning of March, now we have recorded more than 13 attacks against civilians in the DRC’s Orientale Province,” she said.
Too scared to go home
Schmitt is in the province’s Dungu territory, scene of the recent LRA activity. She says at least two people were killed and 13 abducted, including a child. More than 1,100 people have been displaced in the past two weeks alone.
“I met with people. They told me that they had to flee in the middle of the night because of the attacks. The rebels came to the villages. They burned the houses. They looted the houses. And they had to flee in order to avoid being kidnapped, abducted. So they fled towards Dungu. They walked in the middle of the night,” she said.
The displaced are staying with host families and in small displacement camps. UNHCR, the World Food Program and other agencies are providing food, shelter and other items.
Schmitt said, “What they are telling us is that they don’t want to go home because they’re scared. So they prefer actually staying in Dungu, staying with families here even though their living conditions are difficult because sometimes you have 20 people sitting in one room in one house.”
In the Central African Republic, LRA attacks resumed in January after a lull of nearly a year. Eleven attacks were reported in the southeastern part of the country. Four people were killed and more than 30 abducted.
UNHCR describes the situation in southeastern CAR as extremely fragile. It says the one exception is the city of Obo where U.S. troops have been deployed since last October. They’re supporting efforts by Uganda and CAR armed forces against LRA rebels.
No LRA attacks have been reported recently in South Sudan. Nevertheless, the UNHCR spokesperson said the country still feels the effects of what’s happening in neighboring countries.
“South Sudan is receiving regularly groups of refugees fleeing LRA attacks in the DRC and CAR. For example, now South Sudan is hosting more than 22,000 refugees from the two countries, including 700 who arrived this year,” she said.
South Sudan is expected soon to host African Union forces as part of the regional effort to eliminate the LRA. The LRA is no longer believed to be a single fighting force, but rather numerous small groups made up of perhaps two or three men. The location of the group’s founder Joseph Kony remains unknown.