A series of LRA attacks in the Dungu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo this month force us to question the view that the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army is struggling to survive. The apparent level of coordination of the attacks and the victims targeted – including high-ranking officers in the Congolese army – suggest that the LRA may include a larger number of fighters, operating more strategically than Congolese officials have indicated in interviews. These recent attacks also raise a harrowing question for civilians vulnerable to the rebels’ attacks: if the soldiers who are there to protect them are now the ones being targeted and killed, who is left to protect civilians?
Through multiple sources, we learned that about 19 people were killed in LRA attacks in Dungu from March 12 to 14. The LRA is known for its brutality toward civilians, but sources report that eight of the victims in these recent attacks were Congolese soldiers, suggesting a level of confidence on the part of LRA fighters that one would not expect from a militia rumored to be dying out. Moreover, the attacks reportedly took place in the towns of Duru, Bangadi, and Doruma during a short span of time, demonstrating that the group is able to carry out simultaneous, possibly coordinated attacks.
The first in this string of attacks in mid-March was an LRA ambush of Congolese troops in the village of Limbidia, which left two soldiers dead. On the same day, four civilians and two soldiers were killed in the village of Ndorenzi, and a battalion commander and his body guard were killed in Banangbala. On March 13, a family of five was abducted from the village of Nambia; three of the five were killed shortly after their abduction. The next day in the same village, two Congolese soldiers and one female civilian were killed by the LRA when the militia began looting. The attacks have continued in the same areas in Congo where Enough recently documented a series of LRA attacks and abuses by the Congolese army against civilians.
Just days before these attacks occurred in the Dungu region, the U.S. Senate passed a landmark bill that calls for the U.S. to devise a strategy for neutralizing the LRA. But the recent reports are a painful reminder that it will take some time for the legislation to have a positive impact for the villages in the path of the LRA. A first surmountable hurdle is for the House of Representatives to pass a companion LRA bill, which we hope will happen quickly, riding on the momentum of the Senate vote. Meanwhile, communities across eastern Congo, Central African Republic, and southern Sudan will continue to suffer.
Laura Heaton and Amy Doherty contributed to this post.
Photo: LRA fighters in Congo