Aid groups say more needs to be done to prevent mass killings by Africa’s most brutal rebel army at Christmas.
A group of nearly 20 aid organisations are calling on the United Nations for a joined up effort to prevent the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) from carrying out a repeat of the ‘Christmas massacres’.
In 2008, over the space of three weeks period, the groups say 865 women, men and children were beaten to death and hundreds more were abducted in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2009, more than 300 people were killed also around Christmas time.
A new report out this week, called Ghosts of Christmas Past, details attacks by the LRA which has a long history of child abductions, rapes and killings.
“The LRA abducts, mutilates, rapes and kills women, men and children, using extreme violence against the most vulnerable," the report says. And it is also notorious for kidnapping children to use 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 Oxfam’s Marcel Stoessel one of the 19 organisations behind the report.
"The Lord’s Resistance Army, the LRA, is the most brutal rebel force in Africa,” said Oxfam’s Marcel Stoessel. “They have killed a thousand people in the last year alone. And there were these horrendous Christmas massacres both in 2008 and 2009.”
In Niangara, in the heart of LRA territory, he says, people are terrified of a repeat of the last two year’s killings. “The people are afraid. The people are telling us that they are worried that such a thing could happen again to them. There are brutal attacks. There are rapes still happening.”
“The people are telling us we really feel not protected. We don’t feel that anybody is thinking about us…. We don’t feel that the Congolese army or the UN peacekeepers or anybody else, for that matter, is concerned about our fate.”
The United Nations mission working to protect people in the region has been criticized for not sending enough troops and the troops they do send for not getting out of their cars. Aid agencies also say the situation is making it difficult for them to work in the area.
And this time of year, harvest time when there is less water, it is easier for the LRA to get into the area. People are generally quite hungry at this time including LRA units roaming around the bush. “It’s very, very unpredictable where they will strike next and that’s why people are so afraid,” said Stoessel.