Aid groups have called for efforts to prevent mass killings by one of Africa’s most feared rebel militias over the Christmas period.
The aid agencies say a concerted effort is needed to stop the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) from committing what have become known as “Christmas massacres”.
LRA fighters killed hundreds of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan in December 2008 and 2009.
Hundreds of people were abducted during those attacks.
Figures show that the LRA over the past two years has become the most deadly militia in the DRC, the aid groups say in a report published today.
On Christmas Day 2008 and over the following three weeks, LRA beat to death more than 800 people in north-eastern DRC and southern Sudan, abducting hundreds more.
In December 2009, the brutal militia killed more than 300 villagers in the DRC in the run-up to Christmas.
An LRA spokesman denied that his organisation was responsible for the atrocities.
The rebels – originally from Uganda and also roaming across parts of Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) – killed or abducted more than 1,000 people in remote areas of the DRC last year alone, the report says.
Shortly after the 2008 Christmas Massacre I flew to northern Congo with the Ugandan army.
The men from Uganda wanted to show me how they were killing the LRA in cooperation with the Congolese military.
The Ugandans were professional soldiers. But they failed.
They failed to deal with the highly-mobile LRA rebels, who – in a bid to to escape capture – are now spread over an area the size of the UK.
The Ugandan effort showed how complex it is to deal with a rural rebel group in a very underdeveloped region.
There are virtually no tarred roads there – telecommunications are basic.
There is some talk about the African Union –and even the United States –taking a military initiative to solve the LRA issue.
But one of Africa’s best armies – that of Uganda – has failed.
So Africa may still need help from outside to deal with the LRA.
“The LRA abducts, mutilates, rapes and kills women, men and children, using extreme violence against the most vulnerable,” the report adds.
The militia is also notorious for kidnapping children to save as soldiers and sex slaves.
“It is unbelievable that world leaders continue to tolerate brutal violence against some of the most isolated villages in central Africa and that this has been allowed to continue for more than 20 years,” said Marcel Stoessel from Oxfam, one of the 19 organisations behind the report.
US President Barack Obama in November outlined a plan to remove the LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, and disarm the LRA. Mr Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Mr Obama was responding to US legislation passed in May promising a comprehensive strategy to put a stop to the LRA’s killings, rapes and mutliations.
But the new report says more humanitarian aid and a more concerted military effort is needed to stop the rebels from committing more atrocities.
“Recent signs of diplomatic commitment from the African Union and the United States must provide tangible answers that protect the population from violence,” the agencies say.
The report also calls on the UN Security Council to put the rebel group on its agenda.
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