March 28, 2010

VI. Other Attacks by the LRA

While the Makombo area killings were the most deadly attack by the LRA in northeastern Congo since the Christmas massacres of 2008, LRA attacks against civilians have also been perpetrated in other areas in 2009 and 2010. Small groups of LRA combatants operating north of the Uele River, including some groups who later carried out the Makombo massacre, have also carried out dozens of attacks on civilians in villages and farms near the towns of Bangadi and Ngilima, and in the Manziga chieftainship. In these areas, Human Rights Watch has documented the deliberate killing by the LRA of 42 civilians between September 2009 and January 2010. The killings occurred in the villages and towns of Nakwa, Nagilidangue, Diagbe, Napopo, Birisi, Yamba, Kumbari, Bafuka, Kisimu, Lindimbia, Makpesela, Ngulu, Diadupo, Madudu, Badolo, Nandike, Nangula and areas around Nambia.[82] 

The killings documented by Human Rights Watch are likely to be only a fraction of the total. Congolese civil society groups reported an additional 33 civilians killed in the same time period. At least seven others were seriously wounded, often only surviving because their assailants thought they were dead. A further six civilians, four women and two men, were horribly mutilated by LRA combatants who used razors to cut off each victim’s lips and an ear. The killings and mutilations spread terror among the local population. Over 19,080 people fled to the towns of Bangadi and Ngilima to seek safety from the LRA attacks.[83]

Killings

Nakwa

In November 2009, LRA combatants attacked the village of Nakwa, about 15 kilometers south of Bangadi. They attacked a small farm just as the family who lived there had gathered for dinner. A family member told Human Rights Watch:

They came up to our house. There were seven of them and each one had a gun. They said they were not against us but that we should go into the house to eat. We didn’t know what to do, and they just came and kicked over the pots of food. Some of my family managed to quickly run away. But they captured the two young boys who were with us, including my son, and then forced eight of us into the house and set fire to it. I tried desperately to open the window and I managed to climb through it. One of the LRA came after me with a large stick of wood and tried to hit me, but failed. Then another one shot at me. The bullet hit my shoulder and came out through the back of my neck. I ran into the forest. My brother also managed to get out of the house though he was badly burned on his arms. The others did not and they were all burned to death.[84] 

The dead included four women—three of whom were over 65 years old—and two men.

 

Nagilidangue

In late December 2009, the LRA surprised a group of farmers harvesting peanuts near Nagilidangue, a small farming community some 45 kilometers southwest of Bangadi. The combatants abducted a man and forced him back to their camp. A few days later, on January 2, 2010, a group of 15 LRA combatants returned to the same area near Nagilidangue with the captured man and brought him to his neighbor’s house. The neighbor told Human Rights Watch:

One of the LRA made my neighbor sit down and eat with us while the other LRA combatant pillaged all the goods in my house. My neighbor didn’t have an appetite, but the LRA forced him to eat. Once they had taken everything from the house, the LRA told my wife and kids to carry the goods into the forest. I tried to escape, but as I was fleeing, one of the LRA grabbed my clothes, pulled me down, and then started to cut me with his machete—three times on my head, seven times on my back, and twice on my arm.
I tried to escape again, but the LRA shot me in the leg as I was running. I fell on the ground and had no strength left to get up again. The LRA thought I was dead and didn’t come over to check. Then I heard gunshots firing in all directions, and the LRA started to pack up the pillaged goods and go into the bush. My wife and children were able to drop what they were carrying and run away. I was left alone and felt like I was already dead. An hour later, a bit of life came back to me and I could hear my child’s voice in the distance. I called out to him, and my wife and children eventually found me.[85]

The man’s 18-year-old daughter was also wounded during the attack. She had tried to flee with her young baby, when one of the LRA combatants shot her in the foot.[86]

The next day, January 3, the same group of LRA combatants attacked another house, about six kilometers away. There they killed Reginard Ngisakumba, 45, and Fuoyo, 50, by blows to the head with large wooden sticks. Fuoyo’s wife, Koakpi, was also killed. Those who later buried her body said she had a wooden stick inserted so far up her vagina that it came out through the upper part of her chest. Her skull had also been crushed.[87]

The same day, about two dozen LRA combatants attacked a second home less than a kilometer away, killing the 30-year-old owner of the house and abducting his three young sons, aged 6, 10 and 13; the youngest two later managed to escape. The man’s body was found with a piece of wood stuck in his side, a machete wound to his head, and his entire body burned except for his face.[88] The man’s wife described what happened:

They [the LRA combatants] made everyone in the house get on the ground, and then they started pillaging everything. They took my three children and my husband into the forest behind our house. There they started hitting my husband with a wooden stick—on the back of his head, on his eyes, on his side, and on his stomach. After he was dead, they lit him on fire. All this was done in the presence of my three children, just 500 meters from our house. After the killing, some of the LRA came back to my house where I had been hiding. They took our manioc and then set the house on fire. My husband’s second wife had escaped. One LRA asked me where she was. I said I didn’t know, and then he took out a machete to cut my feet, telling me that this would prevent me from fleeing. Luckily I was wearing thick boots so it didn’t cut my skin. Then the group of LRA combatants and the people they had captured spent the night in my compound. In the morning, they left and they didn’t try to take me with them. My two youngest sons managed to escape. They showed me where the LRA had killed their father. My eldest son is still missing.[89]

Mutilations

In December 2009, LRA combatants mutilated six civilians near the towns of Bangadi and Ngilima in Congo by cutting off the victims’ lips and one ear with a razor. The LRA then released their victims and sent them back to Bangadi and Ngalima with a chilling warning to others that anyone who heard or spoke about the LRA would be punished.[90] Similar mutilations were a trademark of LRA attacks in the early 1990s in northern Uganda, but previously they had not been reported in Congo

In early December, two women and a man were captured by LRA combatants while they were gathering their sweet potato and cassava harvest from their farm about five kilometers from Bangadi. The LRA combatants tied the three together with a cord around their waists and took them into the forest where a small group of LRA combatants had set up camp. They accused their victims of telling the Congolese army about their locations and said they would leave them with a “sign” to tell the population to stop talking about the LRA.[91] Among the seven LRA combatants were a number of children, including a young Congolese combatant, about 14 years old, who spoke the Zande language, and was likely a child who had been abducted months or years earlier by the LRA.[92] The next morning, this young combatant carried out the mutilation. One of the victims, a 38-year-old woman, told Human Rights Watch:

In the morning, at around 6 or 6:30 a.m., they started cutting off our lips and ears with a razor. The older Ugandan combatant gave the order to the Congolese boy to cut us. They cut the man first, and then me and the other woman–first the upper lip, then the lower lip, and then one ear. When they finished, they told us to leave and return to our village. We eventually found the path and then met Congolese soldiers along the road who brought us on their bicycles to the Bangadi health center. There was lots of blood. I still have really bad headaches. When I talk, it’s like my mouth is on fire.[93]

In a separate incident in early December, a 44-year-old man was mutilated in the same manner by LRA combatants near Bangadi. Later in the month, a 50-year-old woman and a 23-year-old woman were also mutilated near Ngilima town. In all cases, the LRA combatants cut off both lips and one ear.[94]

[82] Human Rights Watch interviews with those who buried the dead, witnesses, civil society representatives, and local chiefs, Bangadi, February 21 and 22, 2010.

[83] UN OCHA, Table of displacement statistics for LRA-affected areas of northeastern Congo, January 2010. On file at Human Rights Watch.

[84] Human Rights Watch interview with victim who escaped from the burning house, Bangadi, February 22, 2010.

[85] Human Rights Watch interview with victim, Dungu, February 24, 2010.

[86] Human Rights Watch interview with victim, Dungu, February 24, 2010.

[87] Human Rights Watch interview with those who buried the dead, Bangadi, February 21, 2010; Human Rights Watch interview with witness from Nagilidangue, Bangadi, February 22, 2010; Human Rights Watch interview with witness from Nagilidangue, Dungu, February 24, 2010.

[88] Human Rights Watch interview with witness from Nagilidangue, Bangadi, February 22, 2010; Human Rights Watch interview with witness from Nagilidangue, Dungu, February 24, 2010.

[89] Human Rights Watch interview with witness from Nagilidangue, Bangadi, February 22, 2010.

[90] Human Rights Watch interviews with three victims of mutilation, Bangadi, February 22, 2010.

[91] Human Rights Watch interview with one of the victims mutilated by the LRA, Bangadi, February 22, 2010.

[92] Many Zande children were captured by the LRA from September 2008. See Human Rights Watch, The Christmas Massacres.

[93] Human Rights Watch interview with victim, Bangadi, February 22, 2010.

[94]Human Rights Watch interviews with hospital officials, Dungu, February 24, 2010.