Reports call attention to Congo massacre in December
1. Todd Howland, Director the UN’s joint human rights office in Kinshasa remarks on Congo and international responsibility to protect
28 March 2010
'Stench of death' in Congo confirms resurgence of Lord's Resistance Army
Fighters from Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army have hacked or beaten to death at least 321 Congolese villagers in one of the worst single atrocities of their 23-year insurgency. The attacks occurred in a remote part of northern Democratic Republic of Congo between 14 and 17 December last year, but their scale has only now been made public. (…)
The Ugandan military spokesman in Kampala, Lieutenant-Colonel Felix Kulayigye, denied that any significant attack had occurred at Makombo. He said that Operation Lightning Thunder – a US-backed Ugandan mission to destroy LRA bases in a Congolese national park in December 2008 – and follow-up operations had left the rebels with fewer than 200 fighters. "We do not believe that the LRA has the numbers or the time to kill 300 people in Congo."
But the UN joint human rights office in Kinshasa disagreed. Todd Howland said that the scale of the abductions since 2008 meant the LRA remained a serious threat. He said his office heard of the Makombo attack in January and asked Monuc to provide access to the area. But insecurity in the zone and difficult terrain meant investigators had to wait until 10 March to reach the site.
"You can question whether the Congolese government's reaction is adequate. But you can also question whether the UN member states have met their obligations under the international responsibility to protect."
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2. Human Rights Watch reports: DR Congo: Lord’s Resistance Army Rampage Kills 321
28 March 2010
Human Rights Watch
The rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) killed at least 321 civilians and abducted 250 others, including at least 80 children, during a previously unreported four-day rampage in the Makombo area of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in December 2009. (…)
"The Makombo massacre is one of the worst ever committed by the LRA in its bloody 23-year history, yet it has gone unreported for months," said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The four-day rampage demonstrates that the LRA remains a serious threat to civilians and is not a spent force, as the Ugandan and Congolese governments claim."
The 67-page report,"Trail of Death: LRA Atrocities in Northeastern Congo," is the first detailed documentation of the Makombo massacre and other atrocities by the LRA in Congo in 2009 and early 2010. The report, based on a Human Rights Watch fact-finding mission to the massacre area in February, documents the brutal killings during the well-planned LRA attack from December 14 to 17 in the remote Makombo area of Haute Uele district.
LRA forces attacked at least 10 villages, capturing, killing, and abducting hundreds of civilians, including women and children. The vast majority of those killed were adult men, whom LRA combatants first tied up and then hacked to death with machetes or crushed their skulls with axes and heavy wooden sticks. The dead include at least 13 women and 23 children, the youngest a 3-year-old girl who was burned to death. LRA combatants tied some of the victims to trees before crushing their skulls with axes. (…)
The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Congo (MONUC) has some 1,000 peacekeeping troops in the LRA-affected areas of northeastern Congo - far too few to protect the population adequately, given the area's size. Yet instead of sending more troops, the peacekeeping force, under pressure from the Congolese government to withdraw from the country by July 2011, is considering removing some troops from the northeast by June in the first phase of its drawdown. "The people of northeastern Congo are in desperate need of more protection, not less," said Van Woudenberg. "The UN Security Council should stop any drawdown of MONUC peacekeeping troops from areas where the LRA threatens to kill and abduct civilians." (…)
The Human Rights Watch research indicated that the Makombo massacre was perpetrated by two LRA commanders - Lt. Col. Binansio Okumu (also known as Binany) and a commander known as Obol. They report to Gen. Dominic Ongwen, a senior LRA leader who is believed to command the LRA's forces in Congo and who is among those sought by the International Criminal Court. Human Rights Watch urged investigations of these commanders' alleged participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity. (…)
Both governments publicly maintain that the LRA is no longer a serious threat in Congo and that the bulk of the rebel group has either moved to Central African Republic or has been killed or dispersed. These public declarations might have contributed to burying information about ongoing LRA attacks, leaving many victims feeling abandoned. (…)
On March 11, 2010, the US Senate unanimously passed the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. If it becomes law, it will require President Barack Obama's administration to develop a regional strategy to protect civilians in central Africa from attacks by the LRA, to work to apprehend the LRA's leadership, and to support economic recovery for northern Uganda. The bill is currently before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. (…)
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Read full “Trail of Death” report here