News / Africa

Eastern Congo: Fear of Another Christmas Massacre Spreads

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

Nearly 20 humanitarian organizations are calling on the U.N. and international community to prevent another Christmas massacre in the eastern DRC.

They released a new report Tuesday called Ghosts of Christmas Past, which details attacks by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).  The LRA, originally based in Uganda, has a long history of child abductions, rapes and killings.

Marcel Stoessel, head of Oxfam in the DRC, is in the town of Niangara in Orientale Province in northeast Congo, near the Sudan border.  “The Lord’s Resistance Army, the LRA, is the most brutal rebel force in Africa,” he says. “They have killed a thousand people in the last year alone.  And there were these horrendous Christmas massacres both in 2008 and 2009.”

In 2008, over a three-week period, the groups say 865 women, men and children were beaten to death and hundreds more were abducted.  In 2009, more than 300 people were killed around Christmastime.

Feeling abandoned

Niangara, he says, is in the heart of LRA territory.

“The people are afraid.  The people are telling us that they are worried that such a thing could happen again to them. There are brutal attacks.  There are rapes still happening.  As recently as last Friday, two kilometers from where I am right now, there was an incursion by the LRA and they looted some food.”

The LRA attacks are also affecting humanitarian operations in the Eastern DRC, making it difficult to access many areas.

In eastern DRC, a victim of an LRA attack
In eastern DRC, a victim of an LRA attack

Stoessel says, “In short, the people are telling us we really feel not protected.  We don’t feel that anybody is thinking about us….  We don’t feel that the Congolese army or the U.N. peacekeepers or anybody else, for that matter, is concerned about our fate.”

There are some troops in the Niangara area.  “We see Congolese army troops patrolling,” says Stoessel.  “As far as the U.N. troops are concerned, very frequently we see them only on the road.  And the communities are telling us they would wish they would get out of their vehicles and be more close to the population because this is a very remote area and along the main roads is not necessarily where the protection is most needed.”

He says the U.N. mission in the DRC, known as MONUSCO, is the biggest in the world.  But he adds, “There are only a little more than 600 troops here out of the 18,000 troops in country.  So, it’s very, very disappointing.  At the same time, it’s the responsibility of the Congolese government to protect their citizens and we should not forget that.”

Desperate rebels

The LRA is no longer one fighting force.  In recent years, it’s split into many smaller groups that have terrorized the region.

“They are quite desperate,” Stoessel says.  “This is the time of the year where the main river here is quite low, so they have easier access to the towns like Niangara, where I am now.  And also, it’s the time of harvest.  So the population generally is quite hungry at this time.  It’s the same for those LRA units of small groups that are roaming around the bush.  It’s very, very unpredictable where they will strike next and that’s why people are so afraid.”

What can be done?

“The international community must renew its attention to this forgotten crisis here in Central Africa in the northeast of Congo.  And the regional governments in Sudan, in Uganda, in Central African Republic and here in the DRC…must get together to combine their forces and find a solution for this horrendous problem of the LRA,” he says.

The humanitarian groups are making an urgent appeal to U.N. forces in the DRC to make northeastern Congo a priority and “to prevent another Christmas massacre.”

The LRA has also launched attacks in Sudan and the CAR.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid