The United Nations refugee agency today expressed concern over population displacement resulting from attacks perpetrated by the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in the Central African Republic and neighbouring countries.
The latest raid occurred in the town of Birao in the north of the Central African Republic (CAR) last Sunday, during which the rebels abducted a number of girls, looted property and set shops on fire, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva.
“The LRA’s campaign of terror against civilians has intensified since September,” with attacks in the CAR, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and southern Sudan, he said.
Northeastern DRC has seen at least six attacks and three ambushes in the last few weeks, all in Haut Uélé district. In a single village, Nambiongo, 21 people were killed and were 2,500 displaced, while fear prompted 2,000 people to flee Dungu, the district headquarters.
In southern Sudan, the LRA also attacked the villages of Ribodo and Nahua in Western Equatoria state on 4 September, killing eight people and displacing 2,600.
So far this year, the group, whose origins are in Uganda, has carried out more than 240 deadly attacks against civilians in the countries where it is active. At least 344 people have been killed.
People living in remote villages are often the victims of the group’s violence, including indiscriminate killings, abductions, rape, mutilation, looting and destruction of property.
Insecurity and poor infrastructure hamper the carrying out of needs assessments and the delivery of aid to affected communities. Many people are traumatized and too scared to return to their farms to cultivate their land, rendering them dependent of humanitarian aid, according to UNHCR.
“This means they will continue to depend on outside help for the foreseeable future,” Mr. Edwards said.
Since December 2008, the LRA has murdered 2,000 people, abducted more than 2,600 and displaced over 400,000, UNHCR said. An estimated 268,000 remain displaced in Orientale province in northeastern DRC, over 120,000 in Western Equatoria in southern Sudan and 30,000 in the southeast of the CAR.
There are also more than 24,000 civilians who have been forced into exile.
UNHCR assists those uprooted by LRA violence by providing emergency shelter, healthcare and psycho-social counselling. The agency supports host communities with water and sanitation facilities.