afrol News, 31 March - The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), one of Africa's most brutal rebel groups, now have attacked civilians in a fourth country, the Central African Republic. The looting and massacring rebels are becoming a regional threat to security and stability.
According to reports today from the French news agency AFP, speaking to local officials in the Central African Republic, at least 26 persons have died in recent attacks on villages in the country and more than 40 civilians have been abducted.
The attacks reportedly have happened on various occasions during the last two weeks, and may have been the result of a military operation against the LRA in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The LRA attacks in the Central African Republic were on villages close to the DRC border.
In northern DRC, where the rebels have gained a foothold, Ugandan and Congolese troops launched an offensive against the LRA in mid-March. On 28 March, there reportedly was a battle in the Congolese village of Dembia, where the Ugandan army claims to have killed 15 LRA rebels and chased the rest of the group out of the village.
Before and after the Dembia battle, LRA gunmen had stormed at least three villages on the Central African side of the border, including Agoumar and Karmadar. An official in the district capital Bangassou told AFP that LRA rebels in the three villages had gone from "door to door, taking hostages from the population." In Agoumar, ten civilians were slaughtered or burnt alive. More than 40 persons were abducted by the LRA, and some 400 villagers had fled to Bangassou for protection.
This is the first major attack by the LRA on Central African villages since the gunmen first were registered in the country in June 2009. With the LRA being very active on the DRC side of the border, it may be seen as a sign of the rebels now including the Central African Republic into their field of action and terror.
For the Central African Republic, this is a very bad sign. The impoverished and chronically unstable vast country has little means to defend its sparse population against the well trained LRA bandits. The country could be seen as an ideal basis for the LRA, which has seen major defeat in its previous strongholds.
The brutal rebel group was founded in 1988 by Joseph Kony in northern Uganda, originally as a rebel group aiming to take power in Uganda and rule the country according to Bible texts. But the LRA soon developed into a terror group, leaving large tracts of northern Uganda depopulated.
A trademark of the LRA has been to terrorise villagers by looting their lands, raping girls and women, abducting their children and youngsters and massacring men and women. It has made large use of child slaves - boys being brutalised into child soldiers; and very young girls being held as sex slaves for rebel fighters. These systematic war crimes have left the International Criminal Court (ICC) to charge Mr Kony.
In an effort to broker a peace between the LRA and the Ugandan government, the autonomous government of South Sudan hosted Mr Kony and his fighters during a ceasefire. As the peace negotiations failed - many have blamed the ICC indictment - Ugandan troops managed to maintain national territory mostly free from LRA rebels.
But the victory in Uganda led to the LRA taking up operations abroad, first in South Sudan. While the Sudanese mostly have been able to drive the LRA out of the country, war-raved north-eastern Congo provided a new safe haven for the rebels. The LRA still is somewhat present in Uganda and South Sudan, but its focus has slowly shifted to northern DRC since 2005.
This month, the US-based group Human Rights Watch documented the yet gravest attack on civilians by the LRA in northern Congo. According to the group, at least 320 people were murdered in systematic massacres in DRC villages during four days in mid-December. Machetes, axes and heavy wooden sticks were apparently used to carry out the killings. The extreme remoteness of the area caused the LRA massacre only to be known in March, three months after it had happened.
In northern Congo, a power vacuum had eased the establishment of the LRA. Most of Congo's army and its allied UN peacekeepers (MONUC) are bound in eastern Congo. The Kinshasa government yesterday called on MONUC to increase its efforts to protect civilians against the LRA in north-eastern Congo and the UN announced an inquiry into the massacre.
But the most effective troops countering the LRA are still the Ugandan army. Ugandan troops therefore have engaged the LRA in both the DRC and the Central African Republic, mostly receiving gratitude by the governments in Kinshasa and Bangui. But especially the Congolese government is sceptical when it comes to Ugandan troop movements on its territory as Uganda recently occupied parts of north-eastern DRC and participated in the looting of Congolese natural resources.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.