UNHCR field offices reporting rise in LRA attacks, displacement in CAR

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 14 May 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is alarmed by reports we are receiving from our field offices of a dramatic rise in the frequency and brutality of attacks by the the Ugandan armed group known as the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) against civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and the Central Africa Republic.

Between March 20th and May 6th, there were at least ten LRA raids in southern CAR's Haut-Mbomou province on the villages of Mboki, Agoumar, Guerekindo, Bouete, Kitessa and Miskine. Thirty-six people were killed, houses were burned, and 10,000 people were uprooted with 411 people fleeing across the border into DRC. The newly displaced are concentrated in the towns of Bangassou, Rafai, and Zemio and also in Mboki.

In the DRC, the latest large-scale LRA attack is reported to have occurred between 22 and 26 February in Kpanga, some 60 km north Niangara, in Bas-Uele district of Orientale province in eastern DRC. The LRA is reported to have killed up to 100 men, women and children. This is an area that has repeatedly suffered from LRA violence.

In Sudan, LRA attacks have centred on the Central and Western Equatoria regions, bordering Uganda, DRC and the CAR. Since August 2009, the LRA has carried out renewed incursions, which have forced the relocation of refugees, the displacement of the local population and seriously disrupted the movement of humanitarian assistance. On 6 April, the group raided the Ezo Napere refugee settlement in Western Equatoria, killing a male refugee and injuring another. The attack was repulsed by members of the South Sudan police force.

Roving bands of LRA combatants often prey on unprotected villages in remote areas with very poor roads and communications. As a result, some of the group's atrocities remain unknown for long periods.

The epicentre of LRA atrocities is the two districts of Haut-Uele and Bas-Uele in Orientale province in the DRC, where since December 2008 it has killed over 1,800 people, abducted some 2,500 others, and displaced 280,000 people, the majority of them in 2009. It has also forced nearly 20,000 Congolese to seek refuge in Sudan and the CAR.

In Sudan, the LRA is said to have caused the deaths of some 2,500 people and internally displaced another 87,800, mostly in Central and Western Equatoria.

The LRA sprung up in Uganda in 1986, established its first base in Sudan in 1993, and spread to the DRC in 2005, before moving further north into the CAR in 2009.

In the CAR, the UN Taskforce on IDPs, of which UNHCR is a member, is making arrangements to deliver as quickly as we can water and sanitation facilities and services, food, plastic sheets, blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, kitchen sets, sanitary kits and soap to the newly displaced in Haute-Mbomou province. An assessment mission will be on its way to Zemio this weekend, where we have IDPs on one side and refugees from the DRC on the other.