Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)
February 18, 2009: The LRA rebels have forced some 15,000 Congolese civilians to flee into southern Sudan, to escape the raids. The refugees report that nearly all the 100,000 people living in the town of Lau, fled when it was reported that the LRA were in the area. The LRA threat has made it difficult to get aid to the nearly 200,000 refugees in the area, and many of the refugees are going hungry. What terrifies many people about the LRA is not the robbery, which is common enough in a country with not much police presence, but the slaving. The LRA maintain their strength by seizing children and, in effect, enslaving them, and brainwashing them into becoming LRA warriors. This is actually an ancient technique, revived by the LRA and many other armed groups in Africa and elsewhere.
February 16, 2009: The government claimed that members of the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have been caught “in a trap” in Garamba National Park (northeast Congo). The park (which is a huge area) was the location of several initial attacks on LRA bases by the joint Congo-Uganda force in mid-December 2008. The LRA fighters broke down into small groups and many withdrew toward the Central African Republic, attacking Congolese villages along the way. The Congolese government report now says an LRA force of approximately 250 people remains inside Garamba in a “swampy” area. It's possible that LRA commander Joseph Kony could be with the stay-behind group. But no one is sure.
February 13, 2009: Meanwhile back in eastern Congo: The government said that an air raid on Rwandan Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels in Kashebere killed 40 of the Hutu militiamen. The joint Congo-Rwandan offensive against the FDLR continues in the area. A Rwandan military statement claimed that several FDLR commanders had surrendered to Rwandan and Congolese forces.
February 11, 2009: China’s deal to provide infrastructure in exchange for access to Congolese natural resources remains controversial. Now the global recession has reduced demand for the resources. Thus the Chinese deal looks a little better. The government announced that it would continue improving transportation and mining infrastructure despite the recession. The recession has hit Congo’s copper mining industry particularly hard.
February 10, 2009: Villagers in northeastern Congo have started forming their own local defense organizations. LRA rebels have killed between 600 and 900 civilians in the Congo since December 2008. Reports indicate that some of the defense forces have rifles, but that others are armed with machetes and spears. You use what you’ve got when you have to. One village, Bangadi, which organized its militia prior to December 2008, claims it has already stopped two raids. The Bangadi force fought a pitched battle with LRA attackers on October 19, 2008. They fought a second battle on January 22, 2009, and rescued six kidnapped civilians.
The Congolese government’s failure to provide security has spurred the rise of local defense forces. Several NGOs have complained that the UN peacekeepers in MONUC have not protected civilians in northeastern Congo from the LRA, either. The UN says that MONUC is performing support and logistical operations in that ar