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Congo safety fears rise

People living in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo run by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fear more for their safety now than ever before.

June was one of the worst months on record for LRA violence in the central African state, said researchers for a group of aid organisations.

There were 53 attacks, involving 26 deaths and 23 kidnappings, including 10 children. In just the first six months of the year there was a total of 158 attacks, which is a 53 per cent increase on the previous year. About 45,000 people fled the LRA in the same period.

People in Province Orientale, North and South Kivu, painted a grim picture of an unending cycle of poverty and violence, said Oxfam which has called for extra troops to protect people from being killed, raped and tortured by the LRA.

"Our future is dark, said one of the thousands interviewed by researchers. “We are scared all the time. The LRA continue to kill us and burn our houses down. We have a family that has been staying with us for a week, after they fled Doruma, where the LRA have been abducting day and night. We are not safe here."

Since 2008 the LRA, noted for mutilating victims and abducting children to work as porters and sex slaves - has killed more than 2,300 people, abducted more than 3,000 and left more than 400,000 others homeless in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Central African Republic.

Releasing the research, Oxfam has asked for more troops from the United Nations peacekeeping force in Congo (Monusco) to be sent out to areas where the LRA is active.

With more than 18,000 troops across the country, Monusco is the world’s biggest UN peacekeeping force, yet fewer than 1,000 peacekeepers are estimated to be working in LRA-affected areas.

"Only five per cent of Monusco troops operate in this area," said Oxfam’s Olivia Kalis. "Yet 20 per cent of total displacements in the DRC are due to the LRA. We know Monusco are very stretched and they're never going to have enough troops. We recognise that, but, at the same time, we think they can do more with what they have."

The charity asked the UN to listen to the security needs of women and young people in particular and to boost foot patrols in fields and markets in trouble spots.

Hayley attribution