Our March 2017 LRA Crisis Tracker analysis brief highlights an alarming increase in violent attacks by multiple armed groups in eastern Central African Republic (CAR). This rise in violence came just as U.S. advisors and Ugandan forces were preparing to withdraw from the region and wind down counter-LRA efforts. Invisible Children continues to be gravely concerned about the security vacuum that this withdrawal will leave in the region, particularly in eastern CAR, and we join our community partners in calling on regional and international governments to ensure that civilians in LRA-affected areas are adequately protected from armed group violence.

We will provide more commentary on the withdrawal of US and Ugandan personnel from the region in the coming days. In the meantime, we encourage you to read this article from the Daily Beast which highlights the sentiments of some Central African community members and former LRA captives regarding these developments. 

Pour lire la version française de ce rapport, cliquez ici.


Overview
Attacks by a wide variety of armed groups on civilians in March 2017 highlighted the dynamic security environment on the border of eastern Central African Republic (CAR) and northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In CAR, ex-Seleka factions, local militias (anti-balaka), the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and unidentified armed groups were responsible for at least 16 attacks on civilians in Haute Kotto, Mbomou, and Haut Mbomou prefectures. In DRC’s Bas Uele and Haut Uele provinces, the LRA, South Sudanese militias, and unidentified armed groups committed 13 attacks, abducting 13 people.

Attacks-March-2017

Map of attacks by armed groups on civilians, March 2017

Ex-Seleka, local militias target Bria–Bakouma area
Tensions involving combatants from ex-Seleka factions and local militias (anti-balaka) intensified in northern Mbomou prefecture and western Haute Kotto prefecture, particularly in the towns of Bakouma and Bria. On March 20, clashes involving ex-Seleka fighters and local militias left at least 20 people dead in Bakouma. Two days later, armed groups attacked Nzako, north of Bakouma. On March 24, fighting in Bria displaced more than 600 people. At least five other attacks on civilians were reported in or near Bria and Bakouma in March 2017, several of which targeted members of the Peuhl community. Armed groups clashed with MINUSCA peacekeepers in both Bria and Bakouma in the late March incidents.

LRA violence in early 2017 reduced compared to early 2016

LRA forces abducted a total of 17 civilians during 14 attacks in eastern CAR and northeastern DRC in March 2017. In eastern CAR, LRA attacks were concentrated near the Congolese border along the Rafai–Mboki road, an area frequently targeted by the LRA splinter group led by Achaye Doctor. LRA attacks in DRC were clustered around the towns of Banda and Disolo. Five of the 14 LRA attacks in March 2017 targeted civilians engaged in hunting, fishing, farming, or herding cattle, highlighting the continued threat armed groups pose to civilians pursuing livelihood activities.LRA forces abducted a total of 148 people from January–March 2017, primarily for short periods of time to porter looted goods. The 148 abductions in Quarter 1 (Q1) 2017 were significantly lower than Q1 2016, when LRA forces abducted 337 people, primarily in eastern CAR. LRA abductions tend to be highest during the Q1 dry season, indicating that overall levels of LRA abductions in 2017 will likely be reduced compared to 2016. However, the impending withdrawal of US military advisers and Ugandan troops from eastern CAR could trigger unpredictable changes in LRA attack patterns.

Q1-LRA-Abductions

LRA abductions of civilians in Q1, 2011–2017

Programmatic Updates 
Invisible Children supported local community partners managing the transit center in Obo, CAR, to provide care to five Central Africans who escaped LRA captivity in March 2017. The five escapees included a 14-year-old girl, three young men (including two brothers), and one boy.  The escapees were welcomed at the transit center for a week before being transferred to host families as our team works on the most safe and secure way to bring them home. Invisible Children also facilitated their communication with their families through our HF radio Early Warning System (EWS) and by phone.

Invisible Children staff also trained educators at the Youth Center in Obo on best practices to sensitize children on topics including education, hygiene, and violence.


On a monthly, quarterly, and semi-annual basis, our Crisis Tracker team provides updated analysis on security dynamics and armed group activity in central Africa. Invisible Children is incredibly grateful to the community-based Peace Committees and Local Protection Committees in eastern CAR and northeastern Congo whose invaluable contributions to the Early Warning HF Radio Network make the Crisis Tracker project possible. Learn more at lracrisistracker.com.