The Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group infamous for terrorizing northern Uganda, eastern Congo, and southern Sudan, is on the move. An article from the BBC recently highlighted the plight of villagers in southern Central African Republic who have left their homes to escape attacks by the LRA. Displaced families have fled to Obo, the regional capital of the southeastern region of Haut-Mbomou, where about 3,000 villagers live in makeshift camps. Hundreds of Congolese refugees who have fled LRA attacks have also settled there.
A local chief living in a camp near Obo told the BBC of the uncertainty that the villagers live with. He refers to the LRA as the Tongo Tongo:
"Every day you hear of shots being fired and that means the Tongo Tongo are still in the area. We hold meetings to decide what we should do. No-one wants to be here in these pitiful conditions, but we cannot go back to our village for now."
Villagers live in temporary shelters made out of branches and plastic sheets, constantly beleaguered by insecurity. Even the search for food and water can be dangerous. Though CAR soldiers have recently been sent to Obo, their inability to pursue the LRA and to protect civilians is evidenced by the country welcoming in Ugandan troops. But, the Ugandan army has thus far failed to round up the LRA.
Another village chief expressed his frustrations with the continuing insecurity:
“The UPDF [Ugandan army] are doing their work. But to sort this problem out you need a stronger force. Why can the French or the Americans not intervene here?”
With neither CAR nor Ugandan forces able to finish off the rebel group, it is time the international community commit itself to halting the LRA once and for all. A strategy focused on apprehending top LRA leaders and protecting civilians is past due.
Photo: LRA leader Joseph Kony (AP)