afrol News, 14 May - There is now "a dramatic rise in the frequency and brutality of attacks" by the Ugandan armed group known as the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) against civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and the Central Africa Republic. Uganda is asking neighbours to be allowed to take action.
This was reported today by spokeswoman Melissa Fleming of the UN's refugee agency UNHCR during a press conference in Geneva today. Ms Fleming said UNHCR was strongly "alarmed" by the reports the agency was receiving from its field office in the region.
The UN agency thus is now able to confirm many reports about an increasingly brutal wave of attacks by the Ugandan rebels in the remote region. Local human rights groups earlier had presented occasional documentation on single LRA attacks on local villages.
Ms Fleming reports that, between 20 March and 6 May, there were at least ten LRA raids in Haut-Mbomou province in southern Central African Republic, on the villages of Mboki, Agoumar, Guerekindo, Bouete, Kitessa and Miskine. 36 people were killed, houses were burned, and 10,000 people were uprooted with 411 people fleeing across the border into Congo Kinshasa (DRC).
In the DRC, the latest large-scale LRA attack is reported to have occurred between 22 and 26 February in Kpanga in Bas-Uele district of Orientale province in eastern DRC. The LRA is reported to have killed up to 100 men, women and children. This is an area that has repeatedly suffered from LRA violence.
In Sudan, LRA attacks have centred on the Central and Western Equatoria regions, bordering Uganda, DRC and the CAR. Since August 2009, the LRA has carried out renewed incursions, which have forced the relocation of refugees, the displacement of the local population and seriously disrupted the movement of humanitarian assistance, according to Ms Fleming.
On 6 April, the group raided the Ezo Napere refugee settlement in Western Equatoria, killing a male refugee and injuring another. The attack was repulsed by members of the South Sudan police force.
"Roving bands of LRA combatants often prey on unprotected villages in remote areas with very poor roads and communications. As a result, some of the group's atrocities remain unknown for long periods," Ms Fleming said.
The epicentre of LRA atrocities is the two districts of Haut-Uele and Bas-Uele in Orientale province in the DRC, where since December 2008 it has killed over 1,800 people, abducted some 2,500 others, and displaced 280,000 people, the majority of them in 2009. It has also forced nearly 20,000 Congolese to seek refuge in Sudan and the CAR.
In Sudan, the LRA is said to have caused the deaths of some 2,500 people and internally displaced another 87,800, mostly in Central and Western Equatoria.
Uganda seeks permission to persue LRA
Uganda's minister of Defence, Crispus Kiyonga, this week announced that the Ugandan army wants to keep up its hunt of LRA rebels and its leader, Mr Kony, wherever they are, until they are all "captured or killed."
The Ugandan government has on some occasions obtained permission from the DRC and CAR governments to pursue LRA rebel groups on their territory, being able to neutralise some minor groups. Minister Kiyonga now asks his colleagues for an extended permission to hunt down the LRA in their countries.
The LRA sprung up in Uganda in 1986, established its first base in Sudan in 1993, and spread to the DRC in 2005, before moving further north into the Central African Republic in 2009.
Joseph Kony, the leader of the brutal rebel group, is accused of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has placed him on its most-wanted list.
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