- March 6, 2014
In February 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. This is a a startling trend in light of recent declines in LRA activity there, especially given reports that most LRA fighters have moved north into CAR and only 10% of group’s members remain in Congo. The surge in LRA activity was concentrated near the Congolese villages of Nambia and Bangadi, with suffered a total of 16 attacks in February in which 34 people were abducted and 20 others looted of property. Here’s the breakdown of what’s happened:
Trend: LRA commits 11 attacks near Nambia, then five near Bangadi
This latest trend in LRA activity began with 11 LRA attacks near Nambia (also known as Nambia-Ngbangala) between February 2 and February 17, in which 12 people were abducted and at least seven others looted of property. In addition, there were three incidents in that time period in which civilians sighted or encountered suspected LRA forces in the area, including two hunters who reported seeing an LRA camp and large group on the banks of a stream 20km north of Nambia.
Between February 22-25, suspected LRA forces committed five attacks near Bangadi, which lies approximately 35km north of Nambia. They abducted 22 people in these attacks and looted 13 others.
Analysis: Attacks likely conducted by the same LRA group, purpose to loot supplies
All 16 attacks occurred within 40km of the suspected LRA camp spotted north of Nambia, indicating they may have been committed by the same LRA group. The purpose of these attacks appears primarily to attain food and non-food items. Items looted by the LRA have included corn, paddy, palm oil, tools, machetes, boots, clothes, utensils, hunting rifles, and ammunition. The decision by this LRA group to loot so frequently could be linked to the general vulnerability of LRA groups in Congo, which had several camps and food stores destroyed during African Union military operations in late 2013. The effects of those operations, as well as the current dry season, have made it difficult for LRA groups to gather food or carry out small-scale cultivation in northeastern Congo.
The LRA is also utilizing the recent attacks to gather information about the area. In two of the 16 attacks, LRA forces asked civilians about the location of military deployments and patterns in local population movements.
Response from Congolese military, MONUSCO peacekeepers
All 16 LRA attacks in February occurred within 30km of Congolese troops and MONUSCO peacekeepers, which are deployed in Bangadi and Niangara (15km south of Nambia). Reports indicate that MONUSCO deployed a mobile operating base (MOB) in Nambia for several days beginning on February 15, after the LRA group had already committed nine attacks in the area and was beginning to shift north towards Bangadi. As military forces reacted slowly, some civilians reportedly temporarily left Nambia to seek greater security in Niangara. It remains unclear what impact, if any, MONUSCO or Congolese troops have had in responding to LRA attacks or deterring future LRA raids in areas outside of their bases in Niangara and Bangadi.