The Congolese army attacked the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the northeastern DRC last week, sending several hundred troops to Dungu, which lies close to the border with Sudan. The action, which was intended to protect civilians from the LRA, was supported logistically by the UN mission in the DRC, MONUC.
Military action in the DRC isn’t confined to one front or just one set of adversaries. More than 20 official armies, rebel militias, and armed gangs operate in the eastern and northeastern provinces alone. Atrocities are committed and shots are heard from the border with Sudan in the northeast to Angola in the southwest as the epic struggle for control of the Congo’s resources continues just as it was described in my novel, Heart of Diamonds.
Civilians are targeted for abuse as the warring factions seize regions they can tax or otherwise extort.
“Our investigations show that there were eight killings, 52 abductions, of which 11 cases involved girls under the age of 18, and nine rapes,” said Benoit Kinalebu, a Catholic priest and head of the Dungu branch of the Justice and Peace Commission.
The offenses were reportedly committed between August 2007 and July 2008.
LRA leader Joseph Kony is under indictment by the International Criminal Court for human rights abuses during his ongoing fight with the Ugandan government. Kony has been hiding in the mountainous area on the edge of Garamba national park in the DRC, using it as a base of operations to send raiding parties into Uganda. The LRA leader was meant to have signed a comprehensive peace agreement with the Ugandan government in April 2008, but he failed to show up for the ceremony.
Kony was a no-show in the southern Sudanese jungle town of Ri-Kwangba on September 6, where he was again supposed to sign the agreement already inked by the Ugandan government.
The Ugandan government expressed appreciation for the DRC’s action.
“Our view is that the LRA can never engage in any meaningful peace process if they don’t have pressure behind them,” said Ugandan army spokesman Major Paddy Ankunda.
The spill-over of long-running conflicts within neighboring countries like Uganda, Rwanda, and Sudan continue to undermine efforts to create a peaceful, stable Democratic Republic of Congo.