Attacks by the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are spreading fear and the threat of famine through previously undisturbed tracts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the head of the United Nations children’s agency, Unicef, warned this week.
As many as 320 000 people in the north of the country have been displaced by the LRA as it extends its abduction and terror raids across the region, according to the agency.
Unicef’s executive director, Ann Veneman, returned this week from the town of Dungu, in north-eastern Oriental province, where rescued child victims of the LRA are being helped.
Although the surrounding land is fertile and lush, Veneman said, farmers were afraid to plant crops.
“These people were living relatively peaceful lives, sending their children to school — and then the LRA came,” she said.
At least 1 200 civilians are estimated to have been killed in the area in two years. In one raid last December LRA fighters attacked a church, hacking worshippers to death.
“The population of Dungu lives in constant fear of attacks from the LRA, who have inflicted 20 years of terror in Uganda and neighbouring countries,” said Veneman. “The LRA is notorious for kidnapping children, forcing them to kill and maim innocent victims and enslaving young girls as their concubines.”
The LRA was formed in northern Uganda in 1987 and has expanded its operations into neighbouring Sudan, the DRC and the Central African Republic.
Despite hopes that its leader, Joseph Kony, might negotiate a ceasefire, the LRA has recently stepped up its violence. —