With attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic continuing unabated, conflicting reports are made on how many rebel fighters are on the ground. The United Nations calls for an end to the LRA recruitment and abuse of children and calls for a concerted effort to stop the rebel activity.
The report is the result of a UN Security Council meeting held in late February. It strongly condemns the LRA’s recruitment and abuse of children in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It also expresses deep concern that the LRA and other armed forces in the DRC continue to perpetrate violations against children.
Among the listed crimes committed by the LRA are the killing and maiming of civilians, sexual violence against children, abduction and forced displacement.
The forces of the LRA are built on the forced recruitment of children. During its 20-year war in northern Uganda, thousands of minors were abducted, brutalized and forced to turn their guns against family members and friends. A large number of girls were used as sex slaves by commanders of the LRA.
Although several of the recruits returned home to a difficult reintegration with their families, many more remained in captivity and were indoctrinated to become leaders within the LRA.
The UN report urges all non-State armed groups to immediately stop the recruitment and use of children. However it is doubtful that the LRA and other rebel groups in the DRC will heed to this call.
A major problem of dealing with the LRA in the DRC, South Sudan and the Central African Republic is that states involved in the conflict are unsure about how many rebels are in hiding and where exactly they are located.
Radio Okapi, the UN-supported station in the DRC, reported on Sunday that the Congolese government and residents of the LRA-affected district of Haut Uele are sharply divided about the LRA threat.
During a visit to the district last Friday, the Congolese Minister of Defence, Mwando Simba, said there are no more than a dozen LRA in the area. He said Congolese government reports indicate that there are only about ten or 20 LRA fighters in the area.
The local civil society organizations contest this report.
Abbot William Abiandora, president of the civil society organizations in Haut Ulele, says residents cannot travel beyond five kilometers of their homes because of fear of attack from Joseph Kony’s forces. He notes that this month alone 11 cilivians were killed, 24 were injured and 13 were abducted.
Abiandora says it is highly unlikely that this among of violence is the work of 10 rebels.
In the Central African Republic, there are similar controversies.
The French press agency, AFP, reports that six people were killed and dozens abducted during an attack by the LRA on a village in the Central African Republic.
The attack took place in the central mining town of Nzako last Sunday.
Overall details of the attack remain sketchy but a military source close to the investigation said six people were killed in the town, including four soldiers, and between 30 and 50 abducted by the rebels.
The attack on Nzako comes just over a year after rebels repeatedly attacked the town. On one day they occupied the town for several hours and looted shops and homes, before withdrawing with a few dozen hostages.