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Lord’s Resistance Army’s Sends Chilling Threatto Congolese Civilians: ‘We Will Celebrate Christmas With You’
WASHINGTON, D.C– Enough, the anti-genocide project at the Center for American Progress, released the following statement today regarding incursions by the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group against civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo:
Enough calls on the United Nations Security Council and member states, including the United States as the greatest contributor to U.N. peacekeeping, to put immediate pressure on the Congolese government and the U.N. peacekeepers to improve civilian protection in the north-eastern reaches of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Recent interviews conducted by Enough Project researchers traveling in Haut Uele and Bas Uele in Province Orientale, in northern Congo, suggest that the Lord's Resistance Army--a transnational terrorist group with a 20-year record of atrocities--is threatening to repeat the massacres it committed during Christmas 2008, in which over 800 Congolese civilians were brutally murdered.Meanwhile, Congolese army units deployed to protect local populations from the LRA continue to commit grave abuses against Congolese civilians.
The LRA have killed nearly 1,500 Congolese civilians and abducted 3,000 more (including at least 700 children) since the Ugandan army launched an offensive against the LRA in December 2008. The presence of 6,000 Congolese soldiers in Province Orientale--many of them integrated brigades of former rebels and local militia from the troubled Kivu provinces in eastern Congo--has actually made matters worse. The U.N. Mission in the Congo, or MONUC, has deployed to the affected region, but peacekeepers conduct only limited patrols in some LRA-affected area that provide little deterrent against LRA attacks and Congolese army abuses. A battalion of Tunisian reinforcements that was supposed to deploy in June 2009 has yet to arrive.
"Civilians in Haut Uele and Bas Uele not only face the threat of LRA attack, but are also subject to the predations of the Congolese soldiers sent to protect them," said Enough policy advisor Colin Thomas-Jensen. "The international community must press the Congolese government and the United Nations peacekeepers to better protect civilians from attacks."
During a research mission in Haut Uele last week, an Enough field researcher spoke to Congolese civilians who had received direct warnings from the LRA of fresh attacks against the villages of Ngilima, Bangadi and Niangara."Residents of Bangadi and Niangara, as well as local and international relief organizations, also reported having seen letters from the rebels threatening mass killings during the upcoming holiday period," recounted Enough field researcher Ledio Cakaj. "We spoke to former captives of the LRA who recently escaped. They frequently heard the rebels talk about 'celebrating' Christmas with the people of Ngilima, a clear reference to LRA attacks of last Christmas."
The LRA might be planning fresh Christmas attacks as a response to recent claims by the Congolese and Ugandan governments that the rebels are finished. Recent LRA attacks against Ngilima, Bangadi and Niangarademonstrate that the insurgency is far from over, and that the LRA is as brutal as ever. On November 26, a family of eight was burned alive by the LRA in their hut close to Bangadi. Similar attacks reported in the villages of Ngilima and Niangara have left more many dead. On December 2, LRA rebels captured and cut off the ears and lips of a man near Bangadi.On December 12, two men and a woman were mutilated by LRA rebels in Ngulu, 25 km southeast of Bangadi.
Although Congolese soldiers are stationed in a few LRA-affected areas, these forces are raping, killing, and looting the very population they are supposed to protect. “Living with the Congolese army is like living with a viper,” a local resident told Enough. “I have never seen worse behaving people throughout my life.”
U.N. peacekeepers are absent in the villages where the threat of LRA attacks is most acute. Humanitarian organizations have called for increased U.N. troops to provide civilian protection for the last two years. A new battalion of Tunisian peacekeepers was approved by the U.N. Security Council in November 2008, butthese badly needed reinforcements will not arrive in Orientale until at least February 2010.
The recurrent violence and inadequate U.N. protection have forced humanitarian organizations to suspend distribution of food in the hardest hit areas. Unable to cultivate their lands or access humanitarian aid, the residents of Bangadi, Ngilima and Niangara have grown desperate. "We are being exterminated by the LRA and from hunger," a resident of Bangadi told Enough.
"The status quo in northeastern Congo and other LRA affected areas is a miserable failure with an appalling human cost." said Enough Co-Founder John Prendergast. "As a matter of urgency, the United Nations Security Council must work with regional governments and other concerned nations to put in place a more effective counter-insurgency strategy to end the LRA threat once and for all."
Visit theEnough Project’s blog, Enough Said, for updates on this issue.
Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on crises in Sudan, Chad, eastern Congo, northern Uganda, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. The RAISE Hope for Congo campaign aims to build a permanent and diverse constituency of activists advocating for effective change in eastern Congo, including an end to the long-running conflict and the resulting sexual violence against women and girls, and reforms to reduce trade by rebel groups in conflict minerals. To schedule an interview, please contact Eileen White Read at firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 202 641 0779.
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