On the eve of the anniversary of last year’s Christmas Day massacre of at least 477 civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by the rebel Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the top United Nations humanitarian official called for stronger measures to protect civilians still vulnerable to attacks.
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes noted that unconfirmed reports indicate that three attacks in just one week this month, between 14 and 20 December, resulted in 47 deaths.
Mr. Holmes call followed the release two days ago of a reports by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) charging the LRA with killing at least 1,200 people, abducting 1,400 and displacing some 230,000 others in DRC’s Orientale province over a 10-month period from September 2008 to June 2009.
Dozens of attacks on towns and villages involved mutilations and torture. Women and girls were often raped before being killed, and many of those who were abducted “were forced to marry LRA members, subjected to sexual slavery, or both,” said the report, jointly issued with the UN Mission in DRC (MONUC).
The LRA was formed in the late 1980s in Uganda and for over 15 years its attacks were mainly directed against Ugandan civilians and security forces, which in 2002 dislodged the rebels, who then exported their rampage to Uganda’s neighbours. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for LRA Commander-in-Chief, Joseph Kony, and other senior officers on 33 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The Christmas Day massacre was the most devastating of the LRA’s wave of synchronized attacks in the DRC, with two groups of between 100 and 150 LRA fighters each killing at least 477 civilians and abducting hundreds of others in two clusters of locations some 400 kilometres apart. It followed a MONUC-supported joint military offensive by Congolese, Ugandan and Sudanese troops and the LRA.