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LRA attacks in the DR Congo and a YouTube video remind the world of the ‘Invisible Children’

This month, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has reported new attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) causing thousands of people in the northern Orientale province to flee their homes.

During the recent attacks, one person was killed and 17 were abducted. Over the last four years, an estimated 320,000 people in the Orientale province have been displaced by LRA attacks, with 30,000 Congolese refugees fleeing to other countries.

According to a UNHCR spokeswoman, the LRA often takes civilians to use them as porters and forces “young women into sexual slavery”. But it’s for the abduction of children that the LRA is particularly known and reviled. Young boys are forced to become ‘soldiers’ and often undergo brutal initiation ceremonies where they are expected to kill adults, sometimes their own parents. Young girls are also taken to act as servants and sex slaves.

A recent film, called “KONY 2012”, provides horrifying documentary evidence about the LRA and its leader Joseph Kony, based on interviews with former child soldiers. The documentary took nine years to make and has been seen by millions of people on YouTube. Going by the name “Invisible Children”, the filmmakers hope to put pressure on the Ugandan army and US officials to increase their efforts to find Kony and put an end to his reign of terror.

The LRA was originally founded in northern Uganda, where Kony built up his army to fight a two-decade insurgency against the government. Due to his brutal campaign, 2 million Ugandans were displaced from their homes and tens of thousands were kidnapped, tortured or killed. Pursued by the Ugandan army, in recent years Kony has sought refuge in the remote regions of DR Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, where his army continues to kill and terrorise local communities.

The latest attacks near Dungu in the DRC have caused many people to flee their villages. According to the UNHCR, civilians in this remote area are “living under harsh conditions...sleeping in makeshift settlements”. Due to poor road access and the insecurity of the region, the displaced are hard to reach, though aid agencies are doing their best to provide clean drinking water, food supplies and items of shelter.

In early January, the governments of the Central African countries forged an agreement with the United Nations to take new measures against the LRA and allow troops to cross borders in pursuit of Joseph Kony. But his attacks remain unpredictable and restricted to remote and inaccessible regions. News of the attacks near Dungu took two weeks to reach officials in the town. The US filmmakers hope that their video will put pressure on the US government to provide more help to the military forces in the region, following the promise of Barack Obama’s administration to deal with this armed group. Joseph Kony is the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) most-wanted criminal. In the “Kony 2012” video, the ICC’s head prosecutor says of his capture “it’s bad for the world if we fail. It’s important for everyone.”

Laurinda Luffman signature