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DRC - Uganda

LRA rebels massacred Congolese civilians

Rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army killed at least 321 civilians in attacks on villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo in December, according to the United Nations and the rights group Human Rights Watch. The LRA killed people in three provinces, and abducted 250 others, including at least 80 children.

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"The vast majority of those killed were adult men, whom LRA combatants first tied up and then hacked to death with machetes or crushed their skulls with axes and heavy wooden sticks,” said a report released by Human Rights Watch Sunday in Kampala, called ‘Trail of Death: LRA Atrocities in northeastern Congo.’

Between 25 and 40 LRA carried out what the rights group calls a “well-planned” four-day attack in villages in the remote Makombo area of DR Congo’s northeastern Haut Uele district.

The United Nations reports civilians were killed in three villages in Oriental province.
Correspondent Thomas Hubert says the area, near the Congolese border with the Central African Republic and South Sudan, is very remote, which explains why the reports of the attacks in December are only surfacing now.
 

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“There are no mobile phones in the area, there are no telecommunications, the roads are very bad,” he explains. “The people who reported the massacre came by foot to the nearest town to be able to make a phone call to be able to report what had happened. And then it took many weeks for investigators… to get there and interview witnesses.”

According to the Human Rights Watch Report, which is based on witness testimony and information gathered by a mission that visited the region last month, children captured by the rebels were forced to kill other children.

"In numerous cases documented by Human Rights Watch, children were ordered to surround the victim in a circle and take turns beating the child on the head with a large wooden stick until the child died," the report said.

"They chopped some people's heads off and kidnapped children on their way to school," said regional lawmaker Jeannette Abakuba, confirming the more than 300 dead.

The group report calls the attacks the worst atrocities committed by the LRA in 23 years.
 

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The LRA has installed itself in the northeast DRC since 2005, when the Ugandan army put pressure on it to pull out of Uganda. According to the UN mission in the DRC, there were fewer than 100 LRA rebels there late last year at the time of the massacres.

But Hubert says that according to human rights activists familiar with LRA territory, the rebel group is still very much active.

“There are attacks every week,” he said. “Just a few weeks ago the LRA attacked a group of farmers and killed 20 of them and stole their cattle. And there are also isolated attacks and nobody knows about them. So all that means the LRA is still a very active force in the area.”

"The four-day rampage demonstrates that the LRA remains a serious threat to civilians and is not a spent force, as the Ugandan and Congolese governments claim,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch.

The leader of the LRA, Joseph Kony, is wanted along with two other leaders by the
International Criminal Court for war crimes.

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