Your Excellency, Mr. President,
As you prepare to sign a new law to combat the problem of the LRA, we, human rights defenders from Niangara territory in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, write to sound a warning bell.
Since 2009 attacks by the LRA have continued to result in deaths amongst the civilian population. We have suffered too much. We await a strong response from the international community and the Congolese government to end once and for all this LRA phenomenon. A strategy needs to be put in place to protect our people and to save those members of our families who are still held by the LRA.
In this message, addressed to Your Excellency, the President of the United States of America, the population of Niangara deplores the international community's lack of effective action against the LRA despite our repeated appeals. Nevertheless, local human rights NGOs, who hold documentary evidence on these atrocities, have continued to cry out to attract the attention of the international community and that of the Congolese government.
In December 2009, the LRA massacred civilians in Makombo village and the surrounding area in Mangbele chieftaincy. At least 345 people were killed during the massacre and more than 250 others were captured. We continue to discover the unburied remains of the victims, and the death toll does not include those who drowned in the Uele River when the LRA crossed the river with their prisoners.
Since January 2010, similar massacres have been reported in the villages of Kpanga, Mapi, Tende, Kpuru, and Nawoko in Mangiza chieftaincy to the north of Niangara. Mangiza chieftaincy is completely occupied by the LRA, except for its administrative center, Nambia. Most of the information about these massacres has not been documented or verified due to the presence of the LRA, and because our territory is totally cut off. We have no means of communication that would allow the population to send rapid alerts to senior authorities in the Congolese government or to the international community.
The population of Niangara feels forgotten, abandoned and our suffering appears to result in little concern on the part of the international community or our own government. We mourn the deaths of our family and friends brutally slaughtered by the LRA, and we pray each day that those still held by the LRA will be saved. We live in constant fear that there will be more LRA attacks. What chance do we have if no one hears our cries and no one comes to our aid? We beg of you, please do not leave us alone in the hands of these killers.
As a result, we, the human rights defenders of Niangara, make the following recommendations to you:
- Insist that the international community acts to transform the current military approach so that operations against the LRA leadership are more targeted and effective and conducted in a way that spares innocent civilians who are often caught in the crossfire.
- The UPDF, FARDC, MONUC and other forces that may intervene in the future, must have all the means necessary to conduct these operations so that the population does not suffer the consequences.
- Develop a mechanism to identify, arrest, and punish the commanders of the LRA operations in Niangara.
- Support the installation of telephone networks in Niangara territory, as well as a community radio, to inform the authorities of the situation and to protect the population.
- Help the people of Niangara, the displaced, former Congolese LRA combatants, and both children and adults who have escaped from the LRA with psychosocial support, food and other basic supplies.
Your Excellency, this letter is a cry for help. We know the goodness of your heart and we know that you alone can bring a concrete, rapid and decisive response before our women and children are wiped out.
Please, save us.
With all our hope and our respect, we thank you for turning your attention to the Congolese people and for the goodwill with which you will receive this message.
The human rights defenders of Niangara:
1. Adam Matsaga
2. Jean-Pierre Angombe
3. Mado Mersi
4. Bale Houssein
5. Mariam Gumete
6. Emabe Pandatimo
7. Jean-Baptiste Ngere
8. Aboubakar Ngata
9. Jules Dramdema Ali
10. Henri Kama Nomzier
11. Crispin Anigobema
12. Julienne Djomgane
13. Tongolo Floribert
14. Dumossa Apolonaire
15. Massina Leonard
16. Siro Jean-Pierre
17. Dieu-donne Maka
18. Dboyo Aniya
19. Tambuada Godelive
20. Souleyman Magwengasa
21. Odeka Mesior
22. Mulimu Mussa
23. Khbudri Kambabume
24. Mboli Foko
25. Meduama Jean
26. Mboli Nginayo
27. Kamegindba Gboma
28. Konyebadi Lengeleng
29. Kateka Jean
30. Ngasadu Therese
31. Jeruane Mersi