Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) forces have abducted at least seven children, and temporarily detained and looted at least 100 people during a series of attacks in April and May. These recent attacks follow the abduction of at least 50 Congolese civilians by LRA groups in March 2020.
This article was originally posted on May 19 and is being updated as the situation develops. Information was last updated with information available as of May 26.
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During April and May, the LRA systematically carried out ambushes and lootings along key routes and within communities in northeastern DRC and neighboring areas of CAR and South Sudan.
These attacks are reflective of common LRA tactics, including dividing into sub-groups with one group carrying out roadside ambushes, while another group remains in the bush guarding captives and looted goods. Additionally, the composition of the groups—including the presence of women and children—is indicative of the LRA. The Crisis Tracker also documented two additional attacks in DRC in which the identity of the assailants could not be determined.
In total, LRA groups have abducted at least six civilians in April and May and temporarily detained 92 others during roadside ambushes and attacks on communities. In some cases, abductees were forced to porter looted goods or guide LRA groups through the bush before being released. Three children, one boy and two girls, who were abducted in April remain missing and presumed in captivity. This increase in LRA activity may stem from a string of defections which occured in January, forcing LRA groups to strengthen their numbers and possibly shift their locations. The surge of lootings may coincide with the end of the dry season, as LRA groups seek to stock up on goods and supplies to last through the rainy season during which mobility is increasingly difficult.
Remote communities are vulnerable to LRA attacks due to their isolation from other communities and a lack of infrastructure.
Displacement of civilians
The escalation of LRA activity has caused many in the region to flee their communities and become displaced including a number of Congolese who have sought refuge across the border, in South Sudan.
While there have not been any confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Ueles, the insecurity and displacement of civilians hinders access to health services in an already unserved region and presents challenges in mobilizing a humanitarian response. Organizations in South Sudan have responded to the influx of Congolese refugees by establishing temporary protection sites to house the displaced for two weeks before transferring them to refugee camps. However, the limited presence of humanitarian organizations in the Ueles leaves displaced persons particularly vulnerable as they remain reliant on local host communities.
Risk mitigation strategies implemented in affected communities
Communities in DRC and in neighboring South Sudan have adopted a number of strategies to mitigate these threats, frequently coordinating via the Early Warning Network. Despite these measures, the continued attacks on roads and in the bush outside of communities severely restrict the movement and livelihoods of civilians in the region, undermining local economies and food security in the region.
Invisible Children has helped communities in this region create localized Community Action Plans which contain strategies for mitigating risk and preventing violence.
LRA Attacks Reported in April and May 2020
April 6: An LRA group looted the community of Ligoua, CAR, prompting community members to flee to Obo.
April 6-10: LRA forces camped near Bougoua, CAR. The group looted food and other goods from the community, forcing 15 boys to porter the looted goods before releasing them later that day.
April 18: An LRA group ambushed 17 travelers along the Duru-Dungu axis in DRC, forcing them into the bush and then looting their goods. One boy was killed as he tried to escape.
April 20: LRA forces looted a border market 4 km south of Sakure, in South Sudan.
April 24: An LRA group comprised of men, women, and children, ambushed 18 travelers 13 km south of Bayote, DRC, holding them hostage for six hours and looting money and other goods.
April 27: LRA forces attacked Linamboli, 6 km south of Kapili, DRC. The assailants went house-to-house, systematically looting food and other goods.
April 30: An LRA group, comprised of men and women, ambushed and looted 35 people near Soki, DRC.
May 8: An LRA group comprised of nine combatants and a woman, ambushed six people traveling on bicycles near Mbiangu, located 15 km north of Kapili, DRC. The assailants forced the travelers into the bush, where they were looted and held hostage for an hour before being released.
May 13: LRA forces ambushed a motor-taxi driver and soldier 10 km east of Mabia, DRC, killing the driver.
May 14: An LRA abducted two hunters 5 km south of Makpolo. Another hunter, who was walking back to their camp, witnessed the abduction and looting of their supplies before he fled back to Makpolo. The next day, the assailants released one of the two hunters but continued to hold the other hunter captive. The hunter who remains in captivity, had previously been held captive by the LRA for four years before escaping.
May 17-18: During the night, a suspected LRA group dressed in military attire, attacked the community of Mulaya, DRC. The assailants went house-to-house looting goods. Ten adults and children were abducted by the group. One of the captives escaped and alerted the nearby community of Bili.
May 19: A suspected LRA group attacked the community of Zigbi, DRC. The assailants looted homes and abducted five children. Most of the community was displaced into the bush. One of the children was released a few days later.
May 22: Around 14:00, an LRA group barricaded the road near Mahapu, DRC. The assailants looted rice, peanuts, and livestock from travelers, then forced them into the bush. One of the victims managed to escape and notify the nearby community of Bili.
May 24: An LRA group, comprised of 10 combatants in civilian and military attire, looted civilians in Mafoto. The assailants abducted three young men to porter the looted goods.
The Crisis Tracker and other CRCA programs described in this blog are made possible with the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). CRCA programs do not include support to LRA returnees described in this post.
The contents of this post are the sole responsibility of Invisible Children and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.