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LRA Remains a Serious Threat in Central African Republic - Human Rights Watch

An international human rights group has accused the Uganda Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group of increased attacks in the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Human Rights Watch says the attacks have increased since the beginning of 2012 and are putting civilians in affected areas in need of urgent protection.

In a recently released report Human Rights Watch says the increase in attacks shows that the rebel group is not a spent force and remains a serious threat to civilians.

“Joseph Kony, and the LRA,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, “has been a threat for over 25 years now to civilians who live in the areas where they operate.”

She said attacks by the LRA rebels on civilians in CAR have increased since the beginning of this year which is where the rebels are largely based at the moment.

“Between January and March 2012 we documented over 53 new attacks,” she said, which was a dramatic increase compared to the previous year when attacks by LRA had been reduced dramatically.

Van Woudenberg said HRW had been in south western CAR and talked to victims and witnesses who were able to identify their attackers as LRA.

It is true, she said, there are other armed groups that are beginning to operate in this part of the CAR, “but the attacks we have documented were not by these other armed groups; they were clearly LRA attacks and bore all the hallmarks of an LRA attack.”

She said the LRA leader – with a small group of his followers, including some of the abductees- is believed to have crossed the border from CAR to Southern Darfur, but two of the other LRA top leaders, also sought by the international criminal court, (Dominic Ongwen and Okot Odhiambo) are still in the CAR.

Van Woudenberg noted that although LRA is certainly smaller than it has been in the past – about 150 -300 combatants plus hundreds of abductees – the group still has the strength to abduct and to kill and remains a serious threat to the people who have the misfortune to live in this area [CAR].

One of the things missing here, she added, “are concrete proposals of how people are going to be protected.”

She was optimistic that the 100 United States military advisors that the U.S. sent to the region last year and the African Union decision to put up a regional task force of 5000 troops might help in the apprehension of the leaders of the rebel group.
“The Uganda army has tried for over 20 years and has not been able to apprehend the senior leaders of LRA,” she said.

Van Woudenberg called for strengthened effort to both apprehend Joseph Kony and other rebel leaders, to rescue those in the ranks of LRA, and ensure civilians are protected, and to help with rebuilding the areas so devastated by LRA attacks.