LRA abduct 700 to replenish ranks

Bloomberg: Uganda’s rebel Lord’s Resistance Army abducted about 700 people, a third of them children, over the past 18 months as the group seeks to replenish its ranks, Human Rights Watch said.

A military campaign against the LRA in northeastern Congo by the Congolese and Ugandan armies has forced the rebels into remote regions of Central Africa, where they are kidnapping people, the New York-based rights group said in an e-mailed statement late yesterday. The rebels killed more than 250 people in the region over the same period.

“The protection of civilians under LRA attack across central Africa is woefully inadequate,” Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said after a monthlong trip to the affected areas. “National governments, the Ugandan army, and the United Nations need to take urgent steps to protect people from these LRA attacks.”

The LRA has killed about 1,900 Congolese civilians since 2007, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Nearly 300,000 Congolese have been displaced by the group, it said.

Human Rights Watch said some of the children abducted by the LRA become soldiers and are forced to kill other children as part of an induction ceremony into the group.

In a separate report released on Aug. 10, the Washington, D.C.-based Enough Project said there had been 105 deaths and 570 abductions by the LRA in northern Congo in the past 15 months.

Offensive

An offensive against the group, supported by UN peacekeepers, has spread the LRA through Central African Republic and Southern Sudan, making it harder to track them.

Uganda’s army has battled a two-decade insurgency in the north of the country by LRA members. The group, led by Joseph Kony, rose up against the government after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in the 1980s purged the army of members of the Acholi community, whose interests the LRA says it is defending.

Kony, a former Catholic altar boy who says the LRA is inspired by the Ten Commandments, faces International Criminal Court charges of murder, mutilation, rape and the abduction of thousands of children for use as soldiers.

The U.S. enacted a law in May requiring President Barack Obama to create a strategy “to eliminate the threat to civilians and regional stability” posed by the LRA.

The Enough Project said the strategy is still in the planning stages. The U.S. is already providing training and logistical support to the Ugandan army.