Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) forces were responsible for just three attacks and six abductions in eastern Central African Republic (CAR) and northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in April 2017, the lowest monthly violence totals by the rebel group since August 2013. However, violence by other armed groups continued to rise in April 2017, particularly in the eastern CAR prefectures of Mbomou, Haut Mbomou, and Haute Kotto. Armed groups, including the LRA, were responsible for at least 18 attacks on civilians there, killing 32 civilians and abducting 21 others.
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Spike in attacks by armed groups in eastern CAR, including on minority Peuhls
Violence in Mbomou, Haut Mbomou, and Haute Kotto prefectures in April was linked to escalating sectarian tensions involving local “self-defense” militias (frequently referred to as anti-balaka) and the ex-Seleka factions l’Union pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC) and Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC). Violence was especially acute in Mbomou prefecture, where all 32 civilian deaths in April were recorded, though perpetrators were not clearly identified in many incidents. Attacks in Mbomou included an assault on the community of Fode, southeast of Bakouma, on April 29 in which an unidentified armed group killed a total of ten civilians. Seven of the civilians killed during the attack were first abducted and used as porters before later being executed. The victims included 3 women, highlighting the risk armed groups pose to vulnerable groups.
Members of the Peuhl minority community, who are frequently associated by other ethnic groups with the Peuhl-dominated UPC, were targeted during several attacks in April. On April 11, members of a local “self-defense” militia attacked a group of Peuhls near Fode, killing a woman and four-year-old child. On April 27, another local militia killed four Peuhls along the Bangassou–Rafai axis near Yongofongo. Following such insecurity, large groups of Peuhls have reportedly been displaced towards communities like Bangassou where they seek protection and security provided by the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR (MINUSCA).
Sharp drop in LRA violence
The reduction in LRA violence followed a series of military operations by African Union and U.S. military forces in eastern CAR that reportedly put significant pressure on LRA leader Joseph Kony. This raises the possibility that Kony ordered LRA groups under his command to temporarily refrain from attacking civilians as part of a strategy to make it more difficult for African Union and U.S. troops to locate and track his forces. Notably, all three LRA attacks in April were conducted in areas in which the LRA splinter group led by Achaye Doctor, which does not take orders from Kony, has been active.
Invisible Children facilitated the transfer of five young men, all of whom escaped long-term LRA captivity in eastern CAR in April, to the transit center in Obo managed by AFASVR, a community partner. Invisible Children has since supported AFASVR to provide care to the young men, including Welcome Kits providing them with new clothes and toiletries. The young men are also receiving psychosocial support provided by community members trained in previous Invisible Children trauma-healing workshops. All five young men were able to reconnect with their families through Invisible Children’s HF radio Early Warning System and have maintained frequent contact with them since. The young men spent between six months and six years in captivity.
In DRC, Invisible Children worked with SAIPED, a local partner, to carry out two sensitization workshops in communities near Garamba National Park with local protection committees, which include representatives from local women’s and youth groups. The workshops addressed the role wildlife conservation can play in improving human security and included discussions about how community members can pursue pro-conservation livelihoods.
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.
Visit the LRA Crisis Tracker to view our interactive map and learn more about how we collect, vet, and analyze data. Please contact Sean Poole – [email protected] & Paul Ronan – [email protected] with any comments or questions.