The violence committed against Congolese and Southern Sudanese civilians by the Lord’s Resistance Army is worse than previously thought. Last Friday, GI-NET cited conservative reports of at least 620 people killed by the LRA since September. Reports issued this week indicate that over 1120 civilians have been killed, nearly doubling our original estimate. 100 of these deaths were discovered on Wednesday when as many bodies were found in the town of Tora. More reports of LRA killings are trickling in from remote areas, and the numbers may continue to rise.
To be clear, this is a very large number and a very fast rate of slaughter.
As detailed in our public alert, this rate of killing is currently higher than what we see in Darfur or Somalia, and the attacks are 100% deliberately targeted against civilians. The rate of killing in December and January approaches the number of civilians dying in Iraq, the deadliest place on earth for civilians.
And their attacks are brutal. Our alert cites this paragraph from a Human Rights Watch report:
“…the LRA dispersed into several groups, each of which targeted civilians along its path. The rebels waited until December 24 for the most devastating of their attacks, waiting until people had come together for Christmas festivities, then surrounding and killing them by crushing their skulls with axes, machetes, and large wooden bats…the LRA killed at least 80 people on December 25 when village residents had gathered for Christmas lunch…They took the men and boys about 40 meters from the church and killed them immediately with blows to the head. They took the women and girls into the forest in small groups and raped many of them before crushing their skulls…”
This clearly warrants engagement by GI-NET and STAND and others and a response by our policymakers. This is NOT business as usual.
We all have an enormous stake in stopping the LRA. Many groups are working on the DR Congo, focusing until now mostly on violence in the Kivus. Likewise, groups have been working on Uganda and by extension, the LRA threat, for years. 120 of the deaths since September have been in Southern Sudan an area that is more generally threatened by an active LRA – who fought against the South as a proxy of North Sudan during the last civil war. The Central African Republic is also at risk, and the LRA attacked there in 2008.
It is also potentially a more tractable problem than many of the challenges we face. It is a relatively small group (about 600-1000 veteran fighters) and a joint military operation is underway against them. But further support of this effort and other policies are needed to confront this threat before it spirals further out of control.
In early January, GI-NET and STAND released an internal alert to staff on the rising LRA threat. Today, we are releasing an updated version for public distribution. It explains more about the LRA threat and what might be done to push the US and others to respond more effectively.
GI-NET is not expert on this area, but is relying on information from the UN, media reports, and expert organizations such as Resolve Uganda and Enough. Please read the joint ENOUGH/Resolve Uganda report “No Excuses: The End of the Lord’s Resistance Army is in Sight.”
– Joshua Kennedy, GI-NET Education Associate
– Chad Hazlett, GI-NET Education Director
– Nina McMurry, STAND National Education Coordinator