The United Nations refugee agency today voiced concern over the recent displacement of several thousand people as a result of fresh attacks by the notorious Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Orientale province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
After a lull in LRA raids in the second half of last year that resulted in improved security in the north-eastern province, new attacks on civilians have been reported during the past few weeks in the territories of Dungu, Faradje, Watsa, Niangara, Bondo and Ango.
The fresh attacks have caused 3,000 people to flee, according to Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
There have been 20 new attacks since the beginning of this year, with one person killed and 17 abducted, she told reporters in Geneva.
The most recent attacks took place in the village of Bagulupa, 55 kilometres east of Dungu. The village was attacked on 10 February and again on 24 February, forcing most of the residents to flee on foot towards Dungu, the main town in Haut Uele district, Ms. Lejeune-Kaba said.
According to information gathered by UNHCR field staff, most newly-arrived internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Dungu have previously been displaced by LRA attacks.
Ms. Lejeune-Kaba said the humanitarian conditions for the displaced are harsh, with IDPs in and around Dungu sleeping in makeshift settlements. They lack clean drinking water and basic sanitation facilities.
To alleviate the suffering of the IDPs in Dungu territory, UNHCR recently distributed basic emergency items, such as plastic sheeting, sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets and kitchen sets to some 200 newly-displaced people. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) distributed food, while several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) provided medical care and farming tools.
Between 2006 and 2011, a total of 831 attacks against civilians were reported in the northern part of Orientale province. The majority of attacks were blamed on the LRA. More than 2,000 people are known to have been killed and 2,832 abducted, including 1,109 children, according to UNHCR.
LRA activities in Orientale have caused the displacement of an estimated 320,000 people since 2008. Over the same period, 30,000 Congolese refugees were forced to flee to the neighbouring Central African Republic and South Sudan.