The Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, killed as many as 100 civilians in an attack in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in February, according to the United Nations.
The killings took place around the village of Kpanga in Congo’s northeastern Orientale province two months after the LRA killed hundreds in a series of attacks in the same region, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told reporters in Kisangani, the capital of Orientale.
“Between 80 and 100 people were killed,” Holmes said yesterday after visiting the region. MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, is investigating the killings, he said.
The LRA has killed almost 1,800 Congolese civilians since 2007, including 407 since December, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The February attacks could bring the total above 500, it said.
A joint military operation against the rebels by the Congolese and Ugandan armies began in December 2008, with the Ugandans getting support and training from the U.S. The offensive has weakened and scattered the LRA throughout northeastern Congo, southern Sudan and the Central African Republic, Holmes said. “Unfortunately, this scattering makes it even more dangerous than before,” he said.
The rebels are now traveling in groups of five to 10, attacking villages and threatening civilians, Holmes said. As many as 300,000 people have been displaced by LRA attacks and hundreds have been kidnapped, according to the OCHA.
Leotine Masini, a 25-year-old civilian, was taken by the LRA last June. “We did terrible things day and night,” she said in an interview in Niangara, Orientale province, where she lives in a camp for people who’ve fled the rebels.
The LRA and their captives would walk long distances to a village, where they would force their hostages to attack civilians with bricks or pieces of wood.
“If you didn’t kill the person, they would take the brick and hit you instead,” she said. “I saw it happen more times than I can count.” Masini escaped from her captors in January.
The region where the rebels operate is remote and hard to access, complicating efforts by the army and peacekeepers to secure villages and provide aid to the displaced.
The Congolese government has asked the UN peacekeepers to leave the country by 2011, something Holmes said would be detrimental to the fight against the LRA. “The presence of MONUC in the territory is essential in terms of protection of civilians,” he said.
“We’ve tried to finish this movement militarily many times. We’ve tried politically with a peace accord that wasn’t signed,” he said. “It’s up to the international community to come up with a solution to end this reign of terror.”