News / Africa

Eastern Congo: Fear of Another Christmas Massacre Spreads


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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

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

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs