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UN: Thousands of Congolese Flee LRA Attacks

By Lisa Schlein
Geneva
07 August 2009

The UN refugee agency reports attacks by the Ugandan rebel group Lord's Resistance Army have forced about 12,500 Congolese civilians from their homes in the past month. It says attacks have been growing in number and ferocity over the past few months. The agency reports there were 23 attacks in May, 34 in June and 55 attacks in July.

Civilians in Faradje area, some 100 kilometers west of the Democratic Republic of Congo's border with South Sudan, have borne the brunt of these attacks. UN refugee agency spokesman Andrej Mahecic says thousands of civilians in villages in the Dungu district also have been targeted by the LRA rebels.

"Since September 2007, the LRA has killed 1,273 people and abducted 655 children and 1,427 adults. The internally displaced people also tell UNHCR that many women have been raped by the rebels and their households looted and torched," Mahecic said. "More than 226,000 people have been displaced in Haut-Uele territory alone and another 42,000 in Bas-Uele, according to our estimates."

Mahecic says most of the victims are unable to return home. He says they sleep in schools and churches and other public buildings. Some have found shelter with family and friends.

He says there are no camps to house internally displaced people in this area. So they keep moving to areas where they feel safer. He says many head for places where the Congolese army or UN soldiers are present.

He says the LRA is a very mobile, flexible group, capable of mounting attacks in numerous places, not just in the Congo. He says the rebels also have attacked in South Sudan and in the Central African Republic.

"Their trademark seems to be, yes indeed, the very vicious attacks. You may remember the situation on Christmas last year when Faradje was heavily attacked, numerous people killed," Mahecic said. "The local population still remains traumatized by the severity of the attacks and by the atrocities committed."

Majecic says the UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies have managed to reach some 45 percent of the displaced with basic assistance, including food, blankets, sleeping mats and cooking sets.

But, he says insecurity and poor roads are preventing larger scale deliveries of humanitarian aid. He adds the only way to reach some of the displaced people is by air.



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