Thursday, January 15, 2009

UNHCR concerned about displaced Congolese and continuing LRA attacks

On 13 January 2009 the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR published a news story about the humanitarian situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The UNHCR estimated that 537 people had been killed in LRA attacks since September in Oriental Province, which borders Uganda and South Sudan.

On the same day, Joe Bavier of Reuters reported UN-"officials said the security and humanitarian situation in Democratic Republic of Congo's Oriental Province had sharply deteriorated since the military operation started on December 14. Uganda, Congo and South Sudan launched the joint offensive against the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Congo's Garamba National Park."
"We are increasingly concerned about the humanitarian situation and continuing attacks by ... the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)," said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond. "Rough estimates of the number of forcibly displaced in this part of the Democratic Republic of Congo have now surpassed 104,000 in this conflict with the LRA," Redmond said.

On 12 January 2009 ABC news reported that according to a local official "Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels have killed 22 people during weekend raids in north-east Democratic Republic of Congo."

In a press release of 31 December 2008 the UN peace keeping mission in the Congo, MONUC, has condemned the attacks of the LRA on the civilian population in Faradja during Christmas 2008. The press release of 30 December 2008 quotes that "UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon condemned in the strongest possible terms the appalling atrocities reportedly committed by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in recent days in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and southern Sudan. He demanded that the LRA respect all rules of international humanitarian law."

The LRA has been fighting a 20-year war against the Ugandan government, but has also become a threat in the DRC, Sudan, and the Central African Republic. The rebel group is notorious for killing and mutilating civilians and kidnapping children for use as soldiers and sex slaves.

Joseph Kony and his commanders, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, are wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. More information about the indictments is available in the Statement by the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, mr L. Moreno-Ocampo on the Uganda Arrest Warrants (14 October 2005) [PDF]

Fortunately the coalition forces are making some progress: the article of Henry Musaka of 13 January shows that the Ugandan amry (UPDF) has captured more Kony rebels. "This brings to eight the number of LRA fighters captured and 38 killed since the offensive was launched on December 14, 2008. Over 21 rebels have surrendered to the allies in various parts of Congo and South Sudan and nine captives rescued."

Mr Denis H. Obua (Youth MP, Northern Uganda) rightfully argues in his article in Monitor Online that "it is important to note and know that the problem of Kony is no longer a Ugandan issue but a regional as well as an international agenda. This emanates from the deplorable and unacceptable human devastation LRA is causing in Southern Sudan, DR Congo and the Central African Republic."

Hopefully warlord Kony c.s. will be brought to justice very soon and the coalition and MONUC will be able to gain control over the situation in the region; after all the DRC has the potential (natural resources) to develop into a booming economy.

Suggestions: interesting blog post on Congowatch

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