HRW release indicates LRA responsible for major attacks in CAR
From June 21-25, a group of at least 30 armed combatants conducted several attacks near Bakouma, Central African Republic (CAR), killing at least two civilians and abducting at least 14 others from villages surrounding a French uranium mine. The attackers also looted a great deal of food, as well as clothing, electronics, computers, and other goods, which they forced the abductees to transport. After investigating the attacks, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a press release yesterday confirming for the first time that the attack was committed by LRA forces.
The press release also examines an attack in March of this year in which 13 civilians digging for gold were brutally killed near Bakouma. CAR authorities blamed the attack on a group of safari company employees and arrested them. However, HRW’s investigation “strongly suggests” that the attack was committed by LRA combatants, and urged the CAR government to reopen the investigation.
The attacks on the gold miners in March bore strong similarities to other LRA attacks in the region–victims were tied up and beaten to death with clubs or machetes; they were left facedown and their clothes were looted. In the recent June attacks, the combatants included men, women, and children, and involved a large number of abductions for porters to transport looted goods, another common LRA tactic.
These attacks come as part of a larger trend of increasing LRA attacks this year, especially in CAR. In the first 3 months of 2012 alone,the UN reported 20 attacks and 39 abductions in CAR. The attacks in Bakouma are also significant in that they are farther west than most other reported LRA attacks. Civilians in the Bakouma area remain acutely vulnerable because the few security forces deployed to protect civilians from LRA violence are based far from them.
“The massacre in March and the LRA attacks in June show that greater efforts are needed to protect civilians in the area around Bakouma,” said Ida Sawyer of Human Rights Watch. “The presence of US military advisers and regional forces in the area would enhance information-gathering needed to capture the LRA’s leaders and improve protection for civilians.”
The need for greater efforts by regional forces and US advisers to protect people around Bakouma is reinforced by the consistent pattern of major LRA attacks around Bakouma and the neighboring towns of Nzako and Yalingo. For example, in March of 2011 a large group of LRA combatants attacked Nzako, killing nine people and abducting 46 children. The Enough Project reports that in a February 2010 LRA attack another seven were killed and 50 abducted there.
Photo of Areva uranium mine courtesy of AFP / Philippe Desmazes