Bangui, Central African Republic | AFP |
Rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army have kidnapped a record 344 civilians in the Central African Republic in the first half of 2016, according to two specialised NGOs.
“The group abducted 344 people there in the first six months of 2016, more than it has in the first six months of any year since 2010,” said a report by Invisible Children and The Resolve, made available to AFP Thursday.
The hostages taken by Joseph Kony’s rebel group, which emerged in northern Uganda in 1987, include 65 children, of whom 39 are still in captivity or missing, said the US-based groups.
“The international community must do more to protect civilians in eastern CAR from the LRA and other armed groups,” said Sean Poole, director of international programmes at Invisible Children.
“Failure to keep civilians safe will only embolden spoilers to peace.”
In all, the NGO’s Crisis Tracker registered 498 civilians abducted and 17 others killed during LRA attacks between January and June in both eastern CAR and the north of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
The mid-yearly report comes while Uganda considers withdrawing its troops hunting the rebels in CAR, among other foreign forces who were deployed in the strife-torn country before key presidential elections concluded in February.
“Uganda has met its goal in the fighting against LRA,” Ugandan army spokesman Paddy Ankunda told AFP last month. “The LRA has been degraded, they no longer have means to make war.”
Some 2,000 Ugandan soldiers, backed by US troops, are currently deployed in the CAR under the aegis of the African Union.
About 10,000 foreign troops are also serving in the country as part of a United Nations mission, MINUSCA.
The LRA acquired a fearsome reputation because of its brutal activities in northern Uganda, South Sudan, the DRC and the CAR, where a coup in 2013 was followed by ethnic and religious clashes that claimed thousands of lives and displaced about a quarter of the population.
Though weakened by the capture or defection of several commanders, the LRA gained a foothold in the CAR because of a lack of government authority and military strength in the east, where MINUSCA forces are present only in the main towns.
According to the United Nations, the LRA has killed more than 100,000 people and kidnapped more than 60,000 children, initially inside Uganda before it was routed by the army of President Yoweri Museveni, then in neighbouring countries.