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Fighting Displaces Civilians in Central African Republic

Ugandan troops are fighting alongside soldiers from the Central African Republic against the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, which has crossed into the Central African Republic from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Instability sparked by ethnic violence in northeast Central African Republic has been made worse by the presence of Lord's Resistance Army rebels in the southeast.

Those rebels, driven from Uganda into neighboring Congo, are now facing a joint operation by Ugandan defense forces and troops from the Central African Republic.

Aminata Gaye represents the U.N. refugee agency in Bangui.

CAR has its own problems in the northern part. They have no capacity to handle an LRA presence in the southeast. And I think this is why they have this agreement to, jointly with the Ugandan troops, try to address the issue," said Gaye.

Violence between the ethnic Goula and Kara communities in the north earlier this year subsided when rebels from the largely Goula Union of Democratic Forces for Unity began fighting alongside government troops to regain control of the city of Birao, near the borders of Chad and Sudan.

The U.N. World Food Program says it needs $500,000 to bring 250 metric tons of food to Birao next month because supplies that were pre-positioned earlier in the year are not sufficient to meet greater demand.

The emergence of the Ugandan rebel LRA in the south is stretching thin both relief agencies and Central African Republic security forces.

Those rebels chased several hundred Congolese across the river into the Central African Republic. Given what she calls a "volatile security situation," Gaye says the United Nations decided against setting up refugee camps.

"Nobody could ensure the protection of the camp. So we decided it would be better not to settle a camp and leave these refugees to settle by themselves," Gaye said.

LRA raids in the Central African Republic have also displaced thousands of civilians, disrupting agricultural production and increasing food insecurity.

"The LRA groups are very small groups. They are looting and trying to have access to food and other basic needs. And they use the people in the effected villages to carry their food or whatever item they have taken," added Gaye.

During a meeting with Congolese President Joseph Kabila earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed the need for continued cooperation between Ugandan, Congolese, and Central African Republic troops battling LRA rebels.

The Lord's Resistance Army began in 1987 in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. It is accused of widespread human rights violations including murder, mutilation, abduction, sexual enslavement and the conscription of child soldiers. Its leader, Joseph Kony, is wanted by the International Criminal Court.