MARCH 8, 2010: LRA & Congolese Army Attacks Against Civilians

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: LRA Attacks and Congolese Army Abuses in Northeastern Congo

By Ledio Cakaj
The Lord's Resistance Army, or LRA, continues to pose a severe threat to civilians in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.[1] Since the LRA began attacking civilians on Congolese soil in September of 2008 through the end of 2009, it has killed approximately 1,800 civilians, [2] with 300 deaths during December 2009.[3] More than 100 people were killed during January 2010.[4]

Units from the Congolese national army, or FARDC, sent to protect civilians and fight the LRA have shown little interest in either task. Congolese soldiers largely refuse to engage LRA while constantly harassing the local population. Incidents of rape, looting, beatings, and even killings of innocent civilians by Congolese soldier abound. There were 116 reported cases of rapes allegedly committed by Congolese soldiers last October in just one neighborhood near the Congolese army base in Dungu.[5] Meanwhile, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, or MONUC, is stretched too thin to adequately protect civilians in the vast region where the LRA operates, often in diffuse cells.

The movement of some LRA elements into Darfur should alarm policymakers and spark revitalized international efforts to deal with the militia.[6] But these efforts should not neglect the LRA's continuing ability to wreak havoc in northeastern Congo. Both the Congolese army and MONUC should urgently prioritize the protection of civilians. The Congolese army should take swift action to deal with abuses committed by its soldiers, prosecuting those who commit abuses with a focus on command responsibility. Moreover, a credible investigation into the embezzlement of U.N.-provided rations and supplies for the Congolese army is urgently required. The misuse of such materials contributes to the army's bad behavior and is an obstacle to more effective efforts to deal with the LRA.