20 civil society groups in northern Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan write to President Joseph Kabila , calling his attention to the ongoing atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Haut and Bas Uele districts of northern Congo, and the neighboring regions of CAR and South Sudan.
This is not a letter from Human Rights Watch, but we believe it is particularly powerful.
Dear President Joseph Kabila,
We, the civil society representatives of Haut and Bas Uele districts in northern Democratic Republic of Congo, Western Equatoria State in South Sudan, and Mbomou and Haut Mbomou prefectures of the Central African Republic, write to call your attention to the ongoing atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Haut and Bas Uele districts of northern Congo, and the neighboring regions of CAR and South Sudan.
In northern Congo, we have traversed an incredibly difficult period since 2008, losing many innocent lives and being forced to flee from our homes time and again. In total, the LRA has killed more than 2,400 civilians and abducted at least 3,400 others since September 2008. Most of the victims were Congolese, and the attacks continue. Most recently, the LRA has attacked the area around Bangadi, in Haut Uele district, numerous times in the past several weeks, killing and abducting civilians each time.
As we prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections in Congo, we urge you to work together with United Nations peacekeepers and other regional partners to help ensure that voters in northern Congo are protected on election day and can safely access voting centers, without the fear of an LRA attack.
We also urge you to recognize the LRA threat publicly and to cooperate meaningfully with regional and international partners working to end the LRA problem and protect civilians in our region.
We feel that our own governments have abandoned and forgotten us, and it only discourages us further when we hear statements from our elected leaders that the LRA is no longer a threat. In Congo, we were particularly disheartened when we heard on the radio senior government and military leaders denying the existence of the LRA – while at the same time, those of us who live in LRA areas continue to suffer from the LRA’s attacks.
We urge you to cease politicizing the LRA story and to stop denying the group’s existence in Congo. Our sole interest is peace. Today, the LRA is a regional problem and we must search for a regional solution. Protecting populations in this remote area where the borders of all three of our countries meet is possible only if the Congolese government and military acknowledge the LRA threat, engage fully to end the problem, and cooperate with other partners.
We are also greatly discouraged when soldiers of our own national armies resort to killing, raping, and looting civilians, and are a threat to the populations they’re supposed to protect. These abuses must not be tolerated and those responsible for abuses should be held to account. At the same time, we have noticed that our soldiers lack communications equipment, transportation and ammunition. When the LRA attacks, our soldiers are often forced to flee along with the population.We urge you to ensure that the Congolese army deploys only well-trained, well-equipped, and disciplined forces and commanding officers to protect civilians in the LRA-affected areas.
We welcomed the announcement by the United States government to send 100 well-equipped military advisors to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) menace and help protect civilians, and we hope you will work with them to ensure a more effective response to the LRA problem.
We can only truly rejoice when the LRA threat is over and when we hear that Joseph Kony is no longer terrorizing our region. We have suffered too much and we are tired of living in total insecurity – afraid to go to our fields to farm and unsure when or where the rebels may surface again. We don’t know whether our children who were abducted by the LRA will ever come back home.
Your Excellency, please do what you can to end to these LRA atrocities and to protect Congolese men, women, and children living in Haut and Bas Uele districts. Our communities are traumatized, and we have never before in our region experienced such levels of fear, loss, and suffering. We want to end the LRA problem so we can finally return to our normal lives.
1. Association africaine de défense des droits de l’homme (ASADHO), Kinshasa, RDC
2. Association des victimes de la LRA, Obo, RCA
3. Association Zereda, Obo, RCA
4. Commission Diocésaine pour la Justice et la Paix (CDJP), Dungu, Haut Uélé, RDC
5. Commission Diocésaine pour la Justice et la Paix (CDJP), Duru, Haut Uélé, RDC
6. Commission Diocésaine pour la Justice et la Paix (CDJP), Ngilima, Haut Uélé, RDC
7. Commission Paroissiale pour la Justice et la Paix (CPJP), Bangadi, RDC
8. Communauté des Églises Évangéliques en Centrafrique (CEEC), Zemio, RCA
9. ECS Nzara Diocese, Yambio, South Sudan
10. Justice and Peace Commission, Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio, South Sudan
11. Société civile d’Ango (SOCIDA), Bas Uélé, RDC
12. Société civile de Doruma, Haut Uélé, RDC
13. Société civile de Faradje, Haut Uélé, RDC
14. Société civile de la Chefferie Mopoy (SOCICOMO), Banda, Bas Uélé, RDC
15. Société civile de Poko (SOCIPO), Bas Uélé, RDC
16. Solidarité et Assistance Intégrale aux Personnes Démunies (SAIPED), Dungu, RDC
17. Traumatisme blessure du Cœur, Zemio, RCA
18. Union des Jeunes de Doruma pour le Loisirs (UJDL), Doruma, Haut Uélé, RDC
19. Union of Journalists of South Sudan, Yambio, South Sudan
20. Unity Is Strength, Yambio, South Sudan