Troops of the guerilla Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have massacred over 900 people since Christmas in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, reports Catholic News Agency. The news reports from missionary media sources, which are not attracting attention in Europe and America, lament the inaction and “impotence” of the United Nations forces in the area.
Fides news agency reports that the LRA is a Ugandan group mainly composed of child soldiers kidnapped and forced into service. For decades the group has ravaged the land in northern Uganda and is active in Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic.
The armies of Uganda, Congo and South Sudan formed a joint military operation in late December 2008 to try to stop the LRA. They moved against the LRA general headquarters in the Garamba Forest in the Congo with the backing of the U.N. and the United States.
However, the operation failed to capture the guerilla leaders, who are wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
The LRA has responded with violence against Congolese civilians, sacking and destroying entire villages and killing entire families.
Fides, which is a missionary news agency, accused the U.N. Mission in Congo (MONUC) of being “yet another one of the acronyms that has become synonymous with the impotence of the international community.”
Fides claimed that MONUC members seem to be “mere spectators in the massacres of these people whom they should be defending.”
Report from the Christian Telegraph
Uganda’s army is accusing rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army of hacking to death 45 civilians in a Catholic church in the Democratic Republic of Congo, reports Michael Ireland, chief correspondent, ASSIST News Service.
A story on the BBC website quotes Ugandan Army Capt Chris Magezi who said the scene was “horrendous… dead bodies of mostly women and children cut in pieces.” The attack happened on December 26.
A rebel spokesman has denied responsibility for the killings, which follow a collapse in the peace process, the BBC said.
It also reports the UN saying that at least 189 people were killed in several attacks last week. Some reports say more than 100 people were killed in the church alone.
The BBC said the armies of Uganda, South Sudan and DR Congo carried out a joint offensive against the rebels in mid-December after LRA leader Joseph Kony again refused to sign a peace deal.
The BBC reported the LRA leader, who has lived in a jungle hideout in north-eastern DR Congo for the last few years, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
It also says Uganda’s government had been involved in lengthy peace negotiations with the LRA, hosted by the South Sudanese government. But LRA leader Kony has demanded that arrest warrants for him and his associates be dropped before any agreement can be struck.
Meanwhile, the UN peacekeeping mission in DR Congo says one of its troops accidently shot and killed a Ugandan soldier in the nearby town of Dungu.
The BBC said that aid officials requesting anonymity near Doruma, which is about 40km from the border with South Sudan, confirmed to Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper and to the AFP (Agence France Presse) news agency that the massacre had taken place.
“Bodies of the women and children, with deep cuts are littered inside and outside the church,” an aid official told The Monitor.
Witness Abel Longi told The Associated Press (AP) news agency that he recognized the LRA rebels by their dreadlocked hair, their Acholi language and the number of young boys among them.
“I hid in bush near the church and heard people wailing as they were being cut with machetes,” he said.
However, LRA spokesman David Nekorach Matsanga has denied that the rebels are behind the killings, the BBC reported.
“Reports about the LRA killing innocent civilians is another propaganda campaign by the Uganda army,” he said.
“I have it on good authority from the field commanders that the LRA is not in those areas where the killings are reported to have taken place.” He said the massacre may have been carried out by Ugandan soldiers.
“They want to justify their stay in DRC [Congo] and loot minerals from there like they did before,” he told the AP.
The BBC reports that Capt Magezi said that on Saturday the army had killed 13 of the rebels behind the alleged attack and were pursuing the rest of the group.
The UN’s humanitarian agency Ocha says 40 people were killed in attacks in DR Congo’s Faradje district, 89 around Doruma and 60 in the Gurba area, according to the BBC report.
The BBC story also says that many thousands of Congolese villagers fled their homes after LRA attacks near Dungu in October.
It explains that countries from Uganda to the Central African Republic have suffered 20 years of terror inflicted by the LRA. Tens of thousands of children have been abducted to be fighters and sex slaves.
Uganda’s government said the joint offensive had destroyed some 70 percent of the LRA camps in DR Congo.
The BBC’s Africa analyst, Martin Plaut, says that LRA leader Kony’s force is relatively small, about 650 strong. However, the difficulty is that when it is hit, it scatters and then regroups.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
Christian emergency response organizations have expressed alarm at a deteriorating situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province and about brutalities innocent civilians are facing in a potential humanitarian catastrophe, reports Ecumenical News International.
The Geneva-based ACT International (Action by Churches Together) said in a statement on 30 October that it had accounts from aid workers of looted shops and dead bodies on the pavements in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
The civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo is fast approaching the same level of crisis as the Rwanda genocide. Rwandan-backed Tutsi rebels have now closed on the Congo city of Goma. There are reports that there are now some 250 000 displaced persons in the Congo.
Once again it is the civilian population that is bearing the brunt of the civil war with tens of thousands fleeing the fighting, looting and raping that is being conducted on a widespread scale.
Tutsi rebels have now forced some 50 000 refugees from their refugee camps and burnt the camps to the ground.
United Nations peacekeepers have increasingly become irrelevant as the conflagration grows.
The civil war has come about because of the Congolese government’s inability/failure to disarm Hutu militants who fled Rwanda and took refuge in the forests of eastern Congo following the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The Tutsi rebel leader is Laurent Nkunda, a former Congolese general who is fighting for Tutsi rights. The Rwandan government is backing the rebels.
The rebel leader is said to be an Evangelical Christian, yet he is a brutal warlord responsible for the same manner of atrocities as those of the government troops in Goma.
A truce had been reached in 2003 after some 5 million deaths and a war involving some 8 African countries, but this has now been destroyed with the latest round of fighting which began in August 2008. There has been a ceasefire in force since last Wednesday, but it is unsure if this will hold for much longer with government troops going on a rampage through Goma, raping, looting, burning and killing civilians. There is no reason to expect it will be any different should the rebel army move on Goma as well.