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Armed actors were responsible for seven attacks on civilians in October 2017, the fewest in the Mbomou-Uele border region of any month so far in 2017. Of the seven attacks, four were committed by Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) groups in eastern Central African Republic. Two other attacks in eastern CAR were linked to recent trends of intercommunal violence and competition between ex-Seleka and anti-balaka armed groups. In northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), one incident of violence was reported, involving a clash between pastoralists and hunters in Bas Uele province.
The relative drop in armed group activity in October was linked to both historical seasonal trends and recent political developments. From 2011–2016, there were fewer LRA attacks and abductions in the month of October than in any other month, making the drop in LRA activity in October 2017 compared to previous months of the year consistent with historical seasonal trends. In eastern CAR, the reduction of violence by ex-Seleka, anti-balaka, and other armed groups was likely linked to more recent political and security developments, including ceasefires signed in late September in Bria (Haute Kotto prefecture) and early October in Ippy (Ouaka prefecture).
LRA, including splinter group, targets civilians in eastern CAR
In October, LRA groups were responsible for three attacks on civilians in the northeastern section of Haute Kotto prefecture, near the town of Sam Ouandja. These incidents followed four LRA attacks and numerous LRA sightings in this area of Haute Kotto and neighboring areas of Vakaga prefecture between July and September of 2017. Eyewitness testimony from July 2017 links an LRA group led by Joseph Kony’s former bodyguard, Aligac, to several of these incidents. In addition, historic patterns of LRA activity indicate that LRA commanders loyal to Joseph Kony are likely responsible for recent activity in this region.
Further south in CAR, an LRA splinter group led by former Kony loyalist Achaye Doctor has been responsible for attacks on civilians. Achaye formed his splinter group in late 2014 following the deepening of internal divisions within the LRA, and has since operated along the border of eastern Mbomou and western Haut Mbomou prefectures in CAR and northern Bas Uele province in DRC. In 2016, Achaye’s group was responsible for at least 31 attacks on civilians, clustered primarily near the Central African towns of Rafai and Zemio.
Recent evidence links Achaye’s group to at least four attacks on civilians so far in 2017, including the killing of a woman on April 14 near Dembia and the killing of three men who had been abducted while working in a field near Ngouyo on September 17. In October, the group made its way towards Mboki and set up camp on the southern side of the Mbomou River, in DRC’s Bas Uele province. The Achaye group’s more recent presence near Mboki, which is further east than where it operated for most of 2016, could signify that the group was pushed further east into Haut Mbomou by the escalation of activity by other armed groups along the Rafai–Zemio axis in recent months.
The reduction in attacks linked to the Achaye Doctor splinter group in 2017 compared to 2016 is likely due in part to a general trend of reduced LRA activity in eastern CAR in 2017 compared to 2016. In addition, a reduction in the number of defectors from LRA groups in 2017 compared to 2016 has made it difficult to determine which LRA groups are responsible for specific attacks. Consequently, it is possible that Achaye’s splinter group is responsible for more attacks in 2017 than the four incidents that defectors have so far definitively linked to the group.
Violence in eastern CAR, northern DRC reflects intercommunal fault lines
Though attacks by non-LRA armed groups in the Mbomou-Uele border region dropped in October compared to previous months, isolated incidents highlighted how armed actors continue to attack civilians along fault lines related to ethnicity and livelihood activities. On October 7, a group of pastoralists feuded with hunters near Ango in DRC’s Bas Uele province after the pastoralists accused the hunters of killing a cow, which had gotten stuck in a trap. The pastoralists stabbed one hunter and temporarily abducted another during the incident.
In eastern CAR, armed men from the Peuhl minority group looted several households in Mboki. The attack was the latest in a trend of escalated violence in Haut Mbomou prefecture, particularly in the towns of Zemio and Mboki. Armed Peuhl men have been responsible for attacks in those towns in recent months, as have anti-balaka groups, which often target Peuhl and Muslim civilians. Further west, in the community of Pombolo in Mbomou prefecture, clashes between armed groups injured at least 22 civilians on October 18. Anti-balaka-affiliated militias and the Union pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC) were reportedly responsible for the incident. The UPC is a faction of the ex-Seleka movement and comprised primarily of Peuhl combatants.
Looking ahead: Onset of dry season could lead to increase in armed group activity
Since at least 2011, the onset of the dry season in the Mbomou-Uele border region has been correlated with an increased threat by armed groups towards civilians. Between 2011–2016, abductions by the LRA have been particularly high from December–March, the peak of the dry season. The dry season is also correlated with increased movements by elephant poachers in some areas, such as Garamba National Park. In eastern CAR, the dry season could lead to more extensive movements by ex-Seleka factions and anti-balaka armed groups and expanded competition for control of strategic towns and artisanal mining locations.
The LRA Crisis Tracker is a project of Invisible Children that incorporates data on armed group activity in the Mbomou-Uele border region, a geographic area that includes the prefectures of Haute Kotto, Mbomou, and Haut Mbomou in eastern CAR and areas of Haut Uele and Bas Uele provinces in northeastern DRC north of the Uele River. Information on armed group activity from neighboring areas of CAR, DRC, South Sudan, and Sudan is incorporated into our analysis of conflict dynamics in the Mbomou-Uele border region. Visit the LRA Crisis Tracker website at LRAcrisistracker.com