Civilian loss in offensive against LRA is "catastrophic"

Lottie Hamer
12 February 2009

An offensive launched in December and backed by the UN as a bid to rid the Democratic Republic of Congo of LRA rebels has taken a disastrously heavy toll on civilians. Over 900 people have been killed in the recent offensive on Ugandan rebel group the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in the DRC. John Holmes, UN humanitarian chief, has visited Doruma in the north east of the country on the border with Sudan as part of a four day trip to DRC. Doruma was badly hit by LRA attacks and civilian reports describe widespread, brutal violence with rebels using axes and machetes. Ugandan army spokesman Captain Deo Akiki has said the operation against the LRA is imperative to ensuring such attacks do not continue, and whilst Holmes has condemned the civilian tragedy he also says the LRA must be fought.

He is due to meet with DRC's president Joseph Kabila and UN peacekeeping representatives over the next few days. Tens of thousands have fled their homes due to the bloodshed.

The toD verdict: Since the offensive began at the end of last year there have been severe reprisals in the form of increased attacks and high civilian casualties. The UN has repeatedly come under harsh criticism from human rights groups for failing to prevent killings and defend civilians. Medecins San Frontieres slated Monuc, the UN force in DRC, last week for not doing enough about the atrocities in northeast DRC. Holmes acknowledged the UN had not taken sufficient action but said they were limited by resources as troops were needed in the south of the country. Keep up to date with the latest developments and sharpest perspectives in a world of strife and struggle.

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The LRA has inflicted terror on DRC and neighbouring countries for the past two decades, with tens of thousands of children seized and forced to work as child soldiers or sex slaves. In spite of UN-backed elections in 2006 intended to pave the way to peace, violence has continued. Aid organisations estimate that 1.2 million people have been displaced in fighting in the region over the past 20 years. Holmes has said he is committed to supporting displaced people in returning home from camps.

Meanwhile a truce is unlikely since the LRA have declared that unless the ICC meets its demands and drops warrants for the arrests of LRA commanders and leader Joseph Kony, no peace treaty will be considered.

In a separate operation DRC and Rwanda continue to pursue Hutu militia who have been involved in violence in the region for the past 15 years, and there are fears this will result in similar atrocities and the escalation of violence along ethnic lines.

Sudan commences demobilisation of civil war fighters

Over 180,000 soldiers - including men, women and children - are to be demobilised over the next four years in what is the largest ever disarmament manoeuvre. One and a half million people are thought to have been killed in the civil war between north and south Sudan which lasted for 21 years. A power-sharing government has been set up by way of a fragile partnership between north and south and elections are expected to be held later in the year.

Suicide bombers strike government buildings in Kabul

Taliban militants struck the justice ministry and other official buildings earlier today killing twenty people and injuring 46 more. Militants launched grenade and gunfire attacks, and three of the attackers detonated the explosive vests they were wearing. Justice minister Sarwar Danesh was among those trapped inside the buildings in the onslaught. A Taliban spokesman said the Afghan leadership had been warned against the ill treatment of militant prisoners, and claimed the attacks were a reaction to the torture of detained militants. The attacks came as US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen stated the urgent need for more troops in Afghanistan. The Obama administration is in the midst of planning a new approach in Afghanistan in an attempt to rein in the swelling insurgency.

US special envoy meets with Pakistan's military officials

Richard Holbrooke, US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan visited the tribal region of Mohmand on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan today. He met with military officials and senior politicians to discuss military operations in the country. On the same day a bomb blast rocked Peshawar, northwest Pakistan, killing a politician and six others. Holbrooke is to report his findings to Washington in light of a forthcoming review of US strategy to the region.

China denies human rights abuses

China was faced with accusations of human rights abuses this Monday at the Universal Periodic Review, a new initiative to keep tabs on the human rights records of UN countries. China told the UN Human Rights Council that charges of human rights violations such as the oppression of Tibetans in China were fabricated. China claimed to be dedicated to the "promotion and protection of human rights". Allegations of torturing opposition members and the persecution of ethnic groups were rejected, but China's suggestions that allegations of human rights abuses were propaganda do not carry much weight.

Tsvangirai is sworn in as Zimbabwe's new prime minister

Morgan Tsvangirai has been sworn in as prime minister of the new so-called "power-sharing" government in Zimbabwe. Mugabe will continue as president with Tsvangirai taking charge of government administration. Yet in a sign of the continued power struggle, Tsvangirai was prevented from giving an address to the nation, scheduled to be broadcast on Zimbabwe television. The new leadership has caused controversy on both sides, but Tsvangirai is adamant that this marks the beginning of the end for Mugabe's reign.

Expose the ‘dark money’ bankrolling our politics

US Christian ‘fundamentalists’, some linked to Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, have poured at least $50m of ‘dark money’ into Europe over the past decade – boosting the far right.

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