On May 6, a group from the Lord’s Resistance Army attacked a truck in Mbomou prefecture in the Central African Republic on the main national road connecting the remote southeastern town of Obo and the capital of Bangui, 750 miles apart. According to sources on the ground who spoke to Enough, three people died and two were severely wounded. The truck, hired by the World Food Program, had delivered food to Congolese refugees and internally displaced people in Mboki and Obo and was on its way back to Bangui when it was attacked by the rebels. The attack took place between the towns of Dembia and Rafai, close to the village of Guerekindo.
This is the not the first time vehicles were attacked in Guerekindo. On April 3, a commercial truck travelling from Bangui to Obo was attacked on the same spot by a large LRA group. Eight people were believed to have been killed, although the real number remains unclear as many were burned when rebels set the truck ablaze. At least two more people are still suffering from serious wounds. One of the injured has a bullet lodged in his chest and is in critical condition. Enough sources in the town of Zemio say that the number of people killed on April 3 might exceed 10.
LRA attacks targeting vehicles travelling on national roads in CAR have been frequent. A similar attack took place on September 21, 2009 when a truck belonging to the Italian non-governmental organization COOPI was attacked between Mboki and Obo. There were seven people in the truck, which was carrying construction materials for a school in Obo. According to two surviving witnesses, one person was shot during the attack while two others, including the driver, were killed later by the LRA. Of the four remaining passengers, one 10-year-old boy was released while the other three were assigned to different LRA groups. One of the abducted, a 14-year-old boy, tried later to escape but was caught and killed by an LRA commander. “The LRA commander crushed his skull with a big club,” one of the surviving witnesses told Enough.
The attack on the COOPI truck and the subsequent attacks targeting vehicles travelling on national roads have caused a state of paralysis in the Haut Mbomou and Mbomou prefectures in the Central African Republic. Humanitarian aid, already limited before the arrival of LRA groups in January 2009, has been severely affected. The World Food Program delivered food to over 5,000 Congolese refugees in Zemio, Mboki, and Obo months after it had promised to do so. Insecurity was the primary reason, and the attack of May 6 will certainly delay badly needed aid for much longer.
Trapped in towns, unable to harvest their produce from their fields for fear of LRA attacks, the population of Haut Mbomou and Mbomou are now deprived of the only remaining way to secure food and aid – from the Bangui road. “The situation is dire,” a source in Mboki told Enough by telephone. “We are facing starvation and need help urgently.”
However, the CAR government has shown little interest in addressing the conflict choking a region more than 600 miles from the nation’s capital. Rumor has it that a CAR government official from the interior ministry who happened to come across the injured in Guerekindo on May 6 returned to Bangui and made an impassioned speech calling for help from the government – and French commandos – to pursue the rebels and assist the civilians in areas targeted by the LRA. He was apparently immediately demoted.