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Aid groups fear Christmas massacre in Central Africa

Eva Krafczyk

An alliance of 19 international aid organisations on Tuesday called for more to be done to prevent another Christmas massacre by rebels from the LRA.

An alliance of 19 international aid organisations on Tuesday called for more to be done to prevent another Christmas massacre by rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The rebel group has to be stopped after more than 20 years of bloody attacks on helpless civilians, according to the groups including Oxfam, Pax Christi and World Vision.

The rebels based in the north-eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo killed more than 860 people in attacks on villages in the region at Christmas 2008.

Last year, LRA soldiers killed around 300 men, women and children shortly before Christmas.

According to a report published by the aid groups on Tuesday, LRA rebels killed or kidnapped more than 1 000 people in around 200 attacks last year in Congo.

The rebels, infamous for their widespread use of child soldiers, also attacked villages in southern Sudan and the Central African Republic.

“It is unbelievable that world leaders continue to tolerate brutal violence against some of the most isolated villages in central Africa and that this has been allowed to continue for more than 20 years,” said Marcel Stoessel, Oxfam’s director in Congo.

He said that despite that largest United Nations (UN) peacekeeping contingent in the world people in north-east Congo would live in fear of massacre at Christmas.

Stoessel accused the UN of neglecting the problem of the LRA for too long.

For almost 20 years the LRA fought a bloody insurgency in northern Uganda, where its leader and war crimes suspect Joseph Kony wanted to set up a theocracy.

Since being driven out by Ugandan army troops, the LRA has carried out attacks from their hideout in Congo’s rain forest.

According to estimates, the rebels have kidnapped and enslaved at least 30 000 children over the years.—AFP-DPA

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