Friday, February 13, 2009

Trail of terror

Ugandan rebels wage vicious attacks in Democratic Republic of Congo

In a separate conflict, Congolese rebels declare a cease-fire and plan to join government forces.

By Jonathan Adams
Christian Science Monitor
Terrorism and Security Update
January 19, 2009

Ugandan rebels have massacred hundreds of villagers in the past month, blazing a trail of terror through neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, a major human rights watchdog said in a press release Friday.

Meanwhile, officials over the weekend hailed progress toward peace in a separate conflict in Congo (formerly Zaire), after several ethnic Tutsi rebel officers agreed to a cease-fire.

Human Rights Watch reported that the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a vicious group that abducts and employs child soldiers in its long-running fight against the Ugandan government, committed atrocities against civilians while fleeing Ugandan-led military assaults last month, according to Reuters.

The LRA has hacked, beaten to death or burnt alive at least 620 villagers in Democratic Republic of Congo amid a struggling multinational offensive against the rebel group, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Uganda's army, with the backing of Congolese and South Sudanese troops, launched assaults on LRA bases in northern Congo on December 14, aiming to crush the rebels and capture their leader, self-proclaimed prophet Joseph Kony.

Agence France-Presse quoted one Human Rights Watch official who underscored the barbarity of the LRA's attacks.

"The LRA went in intending to kill and they left few survivors," Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior researcher at the New York-based rights group said in a statement received Sunday.

The assessment came after researchers from HRW and Congolese rights group Justice Plus conducted a two-week mission in DR Congo, collecting lists of people killed or abducted between December 24 and January 13.

A Human Rights Watch press release documents in chilling detail atrocities committed by the LRA, as described by witnesses and survivors.

According to the Center for Defense Information, a Washington-based think tank, the Lord's Resistance Army has been active in northern Uganda since the mid-1980s.

Kony uses a combination of fear and mysticism to maintain control over the LRA and sustain the conflict in northern Uganda.

The LRA is mostly made up of children between the ages of 11 and 15. Half of these are porters and sex slaves who would leave if they could, but do not for fear of being captured by the LRA and killed, or because they simply have nowhere to go.

In a separate conflict in Congo, hopes for peace were raised when officers of the main ethnic Tutsi rebel group, the National Congress for the Defense of the People, declared a cease-fire in their fight against a progovernment militia, and said the group would now join government forces.

The BBC reported that several Tutsi rebel officers had gone over to the other side, a move that will isolate the remaining Tutsi rebel leader, Laurent Nkunda.

The breakaway faction of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) said its fighters would join the Congolese army.

The move is expected to increase pressure on CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda to declare a full ceasefire....

Gen Nkunda says he is fighting to protect his Tutsi community from attacks by Rwandan Hutu rebels based in DR Congo, some of whom are accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide.

Reuters reported officials praising the latest developments.

A pledge by Congolese Tutsi rebels to abandon their four-year insurgency marks a major step towards ending more than a decade of conflict in the war-ravaged east, Congo's government and foreign diplomats said on Saturday....

"For the government, this is a very good thing that renders the evolution towards peace more real. This is a significant advance," Information Minister Lambert Mende told Reuters.

Xinhua reported that the Congolese government would open a center in the eastern province of North Kivu to help Tutsi rebels reintegrate into the national army.

The agency reported that the effect of the announced cease-fire was rapid:

Barriers were being removed in an area 40 km away from the provincial capital of Goma, where Ntaganda's generals announced an end to hostilities on Friday.

Goma is relieved of pressure with the dissident CNDP fighters and a pro-government militia burying the axe. The militia, known by its French acronym PARECO, said they saw no reason for continued fighting with Ntaganda's men.

Both factions have agreed to be reincorporated into the government army FARDC.

As recently as last November, the Council on Foreign Relations wrote in an analysis that "an escalation of violence in the east has raised concerns that the Congolese government could fall, with serious repercussions possible for countries throughout central Africa."

With the latest cease-fire, that possibility now looks more remote. The Congolese military will now be able to focus its efforts on the Rwandan-backed Hutu militia, the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (known by the French acronym FDLR).

According to, that group includes Hutu extremists from Rwanda who were involved in the 1994 genocide against minority Tutsis, and later fled Rwanda.

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