Thousands flee, many killed as Lord's Resistance Army steps up attacks
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency said Friday it was alarmed at reports of a dramatic rise in the frequency and brutality of attacks by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) from Uganda against civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR).
Between March 20 and May 6 this year, there were at least 10 LRA raids on villages in southern CAR's Haut-Mbomou province. Thirty-six people were killed, houses were burned and 10,000 people were uprooted, including 411 who fled across the border into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The newly displaced are concentrated in the towns of Bangassou, Rafai, Zemio and Mboki.
In the eastern DRC, the latest large-scale LRA attack is reported to have occurred between February 22-26 at Kpanga in Bas-Uele district of Orientale province. The LRA is reported to have killed up to 100 people, including 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 Central African Republic. Since August 2009, the LRA has carried out renewed incursions, which have forced the relocation of refugees and the displacement of the local population as well as seriously disrupting the movement of humanitarian assistance.
On April 6, the rebel group raided the Ezo Napere refugee settlement in Western Equatoria, killing a male refugee and injuring another. The attack was repulsed by the South Sudan police force.
Roving bands of LRA fighters often prey on villages in remote areas. As a result, some of the group's atrocities remain unknown for long periods.
The epicentre of LRA atrocities is in the two districts of Haut-Uele and Bas-Uele in Orientale province, where, since December 2008, it has killed more than 1,800 people, abducted some 2,500 and displaced 280,000 people. 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 forcibly 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 Central African Republic in 2009.
In the CAR, the UN Taskforce on IDPs [internally displaced people], of which UNHCR is a member, is making arrangements to deliver aid to the newly displaced in Haute-Mbomou province as quickly as possible. An assessment mission will travel to Zemio this weekend to asses the needs of the internally displaced and refugees.
By Yusuf Hassan in Nairobi, Kenya