- March 13, 2014
Last week I wrote about the February surge in LRA attacks in Congo, in which the LRA committed more attacks and abductions in Haut Uele district of Congo’s Orientale Province than it has in a single month since May 2012. In what has become a disturbingly persistent trend in recent years, the response of MONUSCO peacekeepers to the attacks was very slow, leaving hundreds of civilians at risk while allowing the LRA to abduct and loot with impunity. Our concern about MONUSCO’s inaction mounted after reading the latest UN Secretary-General’s report on MONUCSO and Congo, which drastically understates LRA violence in Haut Uele.
Today, we responded. Along with 58 civil society groups from Congo and around the world, we released a letter to senior MONUSCO officials [French version here] urging them to ensure the mission does more to protect civilians from the LRA. While we recognize that MONUSCO has many competing demands across Congo and faces significant resource constraints, we believe that with focused leadership the mission could more effectively utilize existing resources to keep people safe from the LRA.
In particular, the letter urges UN leaders to ensure MONUSCO personnel in LRA-affected areas do the following:
1. Reestablish trust and information sharing with the local civilian population, including ensuring MONUSCO personnel meet more frequently with a wide range of civil society representatives, including women, youth, elders, and religious leaders;
2. Support community self-protection initiatives, including by proactively sharing information about LRA movements with a wider range of civil society actors and by implementing Quick Impact Projects;
3. Ensure peacekeeper patrols are responsive to LRA threats and that MONUSCO personnel more thoroughly investigate LRA attacks;
4. Revitalize campaigns to encourage LRA defections, including by collaborating with civil society and the US government to quickly respond to indications from LRA members that they want to defect [which is too often not what happens].
Lastly, a special thanks to Fr. Ernest Sugule and his team at SAIPED, a vibrant civil society group based in Haut Uele that did extensive research on MONUSCO and the LRA in recent months, without which the letter would have been impossible.