In Northeastern DRC, Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels have sharply increased their attacks against civilians. The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, says it’s “alarmed” by the upsurge in violence near the Sudan border.
Spokesperson Celine Schmidt, in the capital Kinshasa, says, “Since January, we have received many reports about new attacks by the LRA…in the Orientale Province, killing many people, abducting others and displacing more than 17,000 persons.”
Change of tactics
Schmidt says the rebels are getting bolder, attacking more populated areas instead of isolated villages. For example, a recent attack near the town of Faradje forced aids workers to evacuate “and to leave the people there by themselves.”
Other towns in Orientale Province attacked by the LRA of late include Niangara, Dungu, and Ango in the Haut and Bas Uele districts.
“The latest attack reported to us,” she says, “happened on the 24th of February. The name of the town is Banangana. And it was reported to us that 8 persons were killed…30 persons were abducted. And all houses in the town were visited by the LRA.” A 14-year-old girl is reported “barely alive” after being shot in the chest.
The attacks have affect ted humanitarian operations in the province.
“First of all, it’s hampering the access we have to the civilian population. So we can see that the humanitarian space is shrinking,” she says.
The LRA has a long history of murder and abductions and the use of child soldiers. What’s happened in Orientale Province is an example of what’s occurred in many areas.
“Since December 2007,” says Schmidt, “according to the data we have, some 2000 people have been killed, more than 2,500 people have been abducted, including some 900 children. These people have been abducted during attacks against civilians in the Orientale Province.”
And the fate of those abducted? Schmidt says, “The people …are often used as porters. They are forced to work in the fields. Women are used as sex slaves. Young men can be used as new recruits for the LRA. The attacks are often accompanied by extreme cruelty.”
UNHCR is working with the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the DRC to regain access to areas.
The LRA is now believed to be operating through as many as 10 separate small groups, making them difficult to track down. The rebels, originally from northern Uganda, have launched attacks in CAR and southern Sudan, as well other parts of the eastern DRC.