NAIROBI (AlertNet) – Indiscriminate attacks on civilians by Ugandan rebels have uprooted more than 125,000 people in the last three weeks on the borders of three central African countries, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says. Attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) on villages and towns in southern Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic have displaced thousands and forced aid agencies to evacuate their staff to safety in some places. “This is, by all means, the worst crisis unfolding in Congo, where more than 125,000 people have been displaced by LRA attacks in the last three weeks,” David Nthengwe, a UNHCR spokesman, told AlertNet by telephone from Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in northeastern Congo. The rebels, who have abducted tens of thousands of children to serve as child soldiers or sex slaves and force them to turn on their own communities, have been accused of carrying out massacres, rape and looting. “In July alone the LRA carried out 55 attacks in Congo and these include rape, torching houses, abductions and looting,” said Nthengwe. Rebel attacks have spread from Bas-Uele to Haut-Uele districts of Congo Orientale province in the northeast of the country. In southern Sudan’s province of Western Equatoria, the rebels raided Ezo, a town close to the border with Central African Republic. They have also been accused of abducting 10 girls from a local church, UNHCR said. As a result of the intensifying LRA attacks, the U.N. suspended all humanitarian activities in southern Sudan and evacuated 29 humanitarian workers, including seven UNHCR staff. The U.N. estimates about 28,000 displaced people and refugees in Ezo and Yambio were left without protection or assistance. The rebels also attacked Bereamburu village, some 35 km from Yambio, the regional capital, burning the local church and a health centre and looting medical supplies, according to UNHCR. Since the start of this year some 360,000 Congolese have been uprooted in successive LRA attacks in Congo’s Orientale province, while some 20,000 others have fled to Sudan and Central African Republic, according to UNHCR estimates. The rebels, which have bases in all three countries, according to UNHCR, have waged a bloody rebellion against the Ugandan government since 1986. The insurgency, which in 2005 spread to neighbouring countries, ravaged northern Uganda, killing tens of thousands of people and uprooting nearly 2 million. The conflict has threatened to destabilise the volatile central African region with the rebels seeking shelter in neighbouring countries and violence spilling across borders. LRA leader, Joseph Kony, a 47-year-old former altar boy, is now a wanted war crimes suspect, accused by the International Criminal Count of 33 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Written by: Frank Nyakairu