SEPTEMBER 7, 2009: Concerns over LRA in DRC

Ugandan Rebels: A Missionary Voice from DR Congo

There is great concern for civilians in the region of Haut-Uélé (Eastern Province); in 2009, they have endured several attacks from the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) bandits.

"People are discouraged by the loss of lives and the constant insecurity" said father Eliseo Tacchella, Comboni missionary, who just returned from the area.

"The villages – said father Tacchella – are disappearing: they have dropped from 25 to five in the area near the mission of Dungu; around the Duru mission, villages have dropped from 50 to seven.

It is estimated that over 70% of the villages have disappeared, been abandoned or destroyed, while many have moved to urban centers: Doruma has gone from 6,000 to 30,000 inhabitants, Dungu from 30,000 to over 60,000, creating added difficulties for residents and refugees".

Tacchella also heard witness accounts from survivors of the attacks, suggesting that entire families were killed, girls raped, property looted and dozens kidnapped to help carry the booty or to be enslaved to serve the commanders or fight; 12-18 year old boys are drugged and forced to fight and all are taught, it is said, to speak Acholi, a northern Ugandan language.

Some humanitarian groups have arrived in Haut-Uélé to offer aid in this remote region.

"It is good – said Tacchella – but this type of aid cannot be considered a solution, unless we want to turn these people into life long beggars. Fearing attacks from the LRA, people do not go to the fields and if they don't do this now, they will have nothing to eat next year".

Since last September, it is believed that at least 1300 civilians were killed by the LRA, which kved its bases from northern Uganda to the Garamba park in northeastern Congo, where regular Congolese troops and MONUC 'peacekeepers' have not been able to neutralize about 1000 fighters, raising several issues and popular malcontent; the Ugandan army, authorized to operate in the region until not long a go, appears to have been more active in tracking the LRA bandits.

The most recent information concerning the LRA leader, suggest he is hiding in the border region between Congo and Central African Republic, where the Ugandan army has just been handed a mandate to operate. [AB]