MARCH 29, 2010: UPDF Disputes Report on LRA KIllings

Uganda Army Disputes Report On LRA Killings
SOURCE: Monitor

By Benon Herbert Oluka

Kampala — The army has disputed a report that recent massacres allegedly committed by the Lord's Resistance Army in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo proves that the rebel group remains a force to reckon with.

The report, which was released yesterday by Human Rights Watch, says the LRA killed at least 321 civilians and abducted 250 others, including at least 80 children, during a previously unreported four-day rampage in the Makombo area of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in December 2009.

According to the 67-page report, titled "Trail of Death: LRA Atrocities in Northeastern Congo," LRA forces attacked at least 10 villages, capturing, killing, and abducting hundreds of civilians, including women and children. It paints pictures of gruesome murders, where the victims were tied up and then hacked to death with machetes or had their skulls crushed with axes and heavy wooden sticks.

"The four-day rampage demonstrates that the LRA remains a serious threat to civilians and is not a spent force, as the Ugandan and Congolese governments claim," said Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

But Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, the UPDF and Defence ministry spokesman, took issue with the findings of the Human Rights Watch fact-finding mission, which visited the massacre area in February.

Scattered population

"The population in DRC is not concentrated. So, for the LRA to get time to collect 300 people and kill them, they need days not hours to do so," he said, adding: "In Barlonyo, they were able to kill about 200 because people were in an IDP camp. What about people settled in their villages in a forested region?"

Col. Kulayigye wondered whether the Congo army would not have got wind of LRA activities within those four days and gone to rescue its people. He said the UPDF intelligence indicates that the LRA has less than 200 fighters who have no capacity to kill with impunity.