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Sunday, March 28, 2010

WHERE DO YOU STAND ON HUMAN BEINGS BEING TREATED HUMANELY?

This post is taken from Human Rights Watch and is a new report of what has been happening in eastern Congo and may very well be the news we will be reading about Sudan soon (from responsible media outlets who still report international news), as this group is active in Sudan as well. The LRA, Lords Resistance Army, has a well-established reputation and yet it is business as usual from the international community in not doing anything.

Full credit for this article: www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/03/28/dr-congo-lord-s-resistance-army-rampage-kills-321

Regional Strategy Needed to End Rebel Group’s Atrocities and Apprehend Leaders

The Makombo massacre is one of the worst ever committed by the LRA in its bloody 23-year history, yet it has gone unreported for months. The four-day rampage demonstrates that the LRA remains a serious threat to civilians and is not a spent force, as the Ugandan and Congolese governments claim.

Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher

(Kampala) - The rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) killed at least 321 civilians and abducted 250 others, including at least 80 children, during a previously unreported four-day rampage in the Makombo area of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in December 2009, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

"The Makombo massacre is one of the worst ever committed by the LRA in its bloody 23-year history, yet it has gone unreported for months," said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The four-day rampage demonstrates that the LRA remains a serious threat to civilians and is not a spent force, as the Ugandan and Congolese governments claim."

The 67-page report, "Trail of Death: LRA Atrocities in Northeastern Congo," is the first detailed documentation of the Makombo massacre and other atrocities by the LRA in Congo in 2009 and early 2010. The report, based on a Human Rights Watch fact-finding mission to the massacre area in February, documents the brutal killings during the well-planned LRA attack from December 14 to 17 in the remote Makombo area of Haute Uele district.

LRA forces attacked at least 10 villages, capturing, killing, and abducting hundreds of civilians, including women and children. The vast majority of those killed were adult men, whom LRA combatants first tied up and then hacked to death with machetes or crushed their skulls with axes and heavy wooden sticks. The dead include at least 13 women and 23 children, the youngest a 3-year-old girl who was burned to death. LRA combatants tied some of the victims to trees before crushing their skulls with axes.

The LRA also killed those they abducted who walked too slowly or tried to escape. Family members and local authorities later found bodies all along the LRA's 105-kilometer journey through the Makombo area and the small town of Tapili. Witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that for days and weeks after the attack, this vast area was filled with the "stench of death."

Children and adults who managed to escape provided similar accounts of the group's extreme brutality. Many of the children captured by the LRA were forced to kill other children who had disobeyed the LRA's rules. In numerous cases documented by Human Rights Watch, children were ordered to surround the victim in a circle and take turns beating the child on the head with a large wooden stick until the child died.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Congo (MONUC) has some 1,000 peacekeeping troops in the LRA-affected areas of northeastern Congo - far too few to protect the population adequately, given the area's size. Yet instead of sending more troops, the peacekeeping force, under pressure from the Congolese government to withdraw from the country by July 2011, is considering removing some troops from the northeast by June in the first phase of its drawdown.

"The people of northeastern Congo are in desperate need of more protection, not less," said Van Woudenberg. "The UN Security Council should stop any drawdown of MONUC peacekeeping troops from areas where the LRA threatens to kill and abduct civilians."

In mid-April, the Security Council is due to visit Congo to discuss the peacekeeping force's plans for withdrawal and the protection of civilians.

The Makombo massacre is part of a longstanding history of atrocities and abuse by the LRA in Uganda, southern Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR), and Congo. Pushed out of northern Uganda in 2005, the LRA now operates in the remote border area between southern Sudan, Congo, and CAR. In July 2005, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for the senior leaders of the LRA for crimes they committed in northern Uganda, but those indicted remain at large.

The Human Rights Watch research indicated that the Makombo massacre was perpetrated by two LRA commanders - Lt. Col. Binansio Okumu (also known as Binany) and a commander known as Obol. They report to Gen. Dominic Ongwen, a senior LRA leader who is believed to command the LRA's forces in Congo and who is among those sought by the International Criminal Court. Human Rights Watch urged investigations of these commanders' alleged participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In December 2008, the governments of the region, led by the Ugandan armed forces, with intelligence and logistical support from the United States, began a military campaign known as Operation Lightning Thunder against the LRA in northeastern Congo. A surprise aerial strike on the main LRA camp failed to neutralize the LRA leadership, which escaped. In retaliation, the LRA attacked villages and towns in northern Congo and southern Sudan, killing more than 865 civilians during the Christmas 2008 holiday season and in the weeks thereafter.

On March 15, 2009, Operation Lightning Thunder officially ended, following pressure from the Congolese government, which found it politically difficult to support a continued Ugandan army presence on Congolese territory. But a covert joint military campaign continued, with the quiet approval of the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila. Both governments publicly maintain that the LRA is no longer a serious threat in Congo and that the bulk of the rebel group has either moved to Central African Republic or has been killed or dispersed.

These public declarations might have contributed to burying information about ongoing LRA attacks, leaving many victims feeling abandoned. An 80-year-old traditional chief, whose son was killed during the Makombo massacre, told Human Rights Watch: "We have been forgotten. It's as if we don't exist. The government says the LRA are no longer a problem, but I know that's not true. I beg of you, please talk to others about what has happened to us."

While the Makombo massacre is the most deadly documented attack by the LRA since the Christmas massacres of 2008, dozens of attacks against civilians have also been carried out in other areas in recent months - near the towns of Bangadi and Ngilima in Haut Uele district, in Ango territory in Bas Uele district, as well as in the Central African Republic.

In the December 2009 attacks near Bangadi and Ngilima, LRA combatants horribly mutilated six civilians, cutting off each victim's lips and an ear with a razor. The LRA sent the victims back to their villages with a chilling warning to others that anyone who heard or spoke about the LRA would be similarly punished.

On March 11, 2010, the US Senate unanimously passed the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. If it becomes law, it will require President Barack Obama's administration to develop a regional strategy to protect civilians in central Africa from attacks by the LRA, to work to apprehend the LRA's leadership, and to support economic recovery for northern Uganda. The bill is currently before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

"The people of northeastern Congo and other LRA-affected areas have suffered for far too long," said Van Woudenberg. "The US and other concerned governments should work with the UN and regional parties to develop and carry out a comprehensive strategy to protect civilians and apprehend abusive LRA leaders."

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Four Representatives (and you) Hold the Key to LRA Bill's Final Passage

Two weeks ago, the United States Senate unanimously passed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, following a successful activist campaign to overcome one senator’s attempt to block it. The act passed with more bipartisan cosponsors than any Africa-focused legislation in at least three decades, showing the extraordinary results of nationwide lobbying efforts.

If this bill is signed into law, it will constitute the most significant action our leaders have taken to end LRA violence and restore lasting peace in the war’s 24-year history. But before the president can put pen to paper, the House of Representatives must follow the Senate. Getting past this final milestone is going to require one last concerted activist push to add cosponsors to the bill and shore up support from a handful of influential Members of Congress. And all of it has to happen in the next few weeks.

Here’s what you need to know:

First, there are a few key Representatives who lead the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and hold the power to determine the bill’s fate. Before the bill gets voted on by the full House of Representatives, it has to first pass out of committee. So while getting the bill through the House will not require attaining Unanimous Consent, as the Senate bill did, four leaders on the Foreign Affairs Committee nonetheless are able to decide whether or not the bill moves forward. They are Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Republican on the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Donald Payne (D-NJ), Chair of the Africa Subcommittee; and Chris Smith (R-NJ), Ranking Republican on the Africa Subcommittee.

Without all four of these representatives in agreement about seeing this bill passed quickly, ensuing political battles could easily result in the bill’s death. Crucially, all four Representatives must also agree to pass identical text as the Senate, to avoid a lengthy process of reconciling the two versions of the bill that could endanger its final passage and would further delay action to stop ongoing LRA atrocities.

None of these four are yet cosponsors of the bill, but Representatives Berman (D-CA) and Payne (D-NJ) have both verbally confirmed that they support passing the Senate version of the bill as quickly as possible. Representatives Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Smith (R-NJ) have remained silent so far. That means that if you live near Miami or central New Jersey, your voice could make a critical difference in seeing the bill passed, and we invite you to join the Rep. Ros-Lehtinen call-in blitz or the Rep. Smith call-in blitz campaigns on Facebook today.

Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman Smith both have longstanding records in support of ending conflict and defending human rights in Africa, so we are hopeful that as they determine their plans they will choose to support the bill’s immediate passage.

Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen is an outspoken advocate for victims of violence in Darfur, where elements of the LRA recently made an incursion. Congressman Smith has a long history of advocating for an end to LRA atrocities, and even spoke at the first ever Lobby Days for Northern Uganda in 2006. But the time to influence their decisions on this legislation is now, as we expect the Committee to consider the bill in the next three weeks.

The second key to getting the bill through the House of Representatives is to simply add more cosponsors. So far, committed activists have attained 164 bipartisan cosponsors in the House, already an accomplishment of historic proportions. Adding more will only increase the pressure on leaders in the House of Representatives to pass the bill quickly and send a clear signal to President Obama about the urgent need for action. Our goal is to reach 218 cosponsors, or 51 percent of the House.

The best thing you can do to help reach this goal is to sign up now to join our final push for Hometown Shakedown meetings with your Representative in their local office. The Hometown Shakedown was launched November 18, 2009, and since then more than a hundred meetings have taken place that have resulted in dozens of new cosponsors for the bill. Your representatives will be home for the April recess until April 9, which will be the final day of the campaign. So sign up now!

Or, if you are unable to attend or organize a personal meeting, click here to send your representative an email, or here for instructions on making phone calls to his or her office.

This is it: the final push to see this bill passed. If we succeed, President Obama will have to become the first American President in the history of this war to speak publicly about how our country will help put an end to Joseph Kony’s campaign of senseless violence once and for all. We have come so far, so let’s get this done.

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March 28, 2010 by Mark Christopher

Source: operation broken silence

Yesterday, Human Right’s Watch released a shocking report concerning a previously unknown killing spree committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). You can read the press release concerning the report by clicking here. Also, today the BBC released video footage of the areas the LRA attacked. This most recent, barbaric series of massacres carried out by the LRA forces shows once again the need for a comprehensive regional and international military strategy to better protect civilians, hunt down the LRA leaders, and surround and destroy remaining LRA encampments, primarily in the Central African Republic.

However, new complexities surrounding defeating the LRA have made this task extremely difficult. The Enough Project recently reported that LRA contingents have found refuge in Sudan’s genocide-ravaged Darfur region. The Sudanese government has helped to supply the rebels in the past, and reports that much of the LRA leadership are now safely in Darfur, southern Sudan, and the Central African Republic calls for new measures to be implemented to help protect civilians across the multi-border region from LRA fighters.

A Long List of Actions That Must Be Implemented

The following is a lengthy list of actions we believe must be made by regional and international powers to protect civilians from violence, rebuild areas affected by the LRA, and permanently remove the threat of the rebels from central Africa altogether:

Actions for Regional Powers:

  • The governments of south Sudan, the Central African Republic, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo must develop a regional strategy that focuses on rescuing abducted children and protecting at-risk populations from the rebels.
  • Deploy additional troops alongside UN peacekeepers and international monitors into areas where the LRA is active and where civilian populations remain unprotected from the rebels.
  • Work with international relief organizations, the United Nations, and other major world powers that are currently focused on ending the LRA crisis to provide additional radio and cellular equipment to civilians across areas affected by the LRA. This will allow communities that are under attack, threatened by attack, and need additional protection to contact government and UN military forces as needed, while simultaneously creating a “regional watch” for the LRA made up of communities that can help warn each other of impending violence.

Actions for Sudan and South Sudan

  • The national government of Sudan (NCP) must partner with the southern Sudanese army (SPLA) and move against LRA troops based in Sudan’s Darfur region. LRA commanders wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that are captured should be handed over to the Court. Upon attacking LRA contingents in Darfur and south Sudan, both the NCP and SPLA should focus on protecting civilians from retaliatory attacks by remaining LRA forces. This is also an opportunity for both the south and north to work together in a productive fashion, and could offer a chance for Darfur rebel groups in the area to cooperate as well.

Specific Actions for Ugandan Forces Operating Outside of Ugandan Territory

  • Ugandan troops hunting LRA contingents must be better supported and communicated to by the regional UN peacekeeping forces and regional governments. A communications network must be setup to better coordinate joint military efforts by Ugandan forces, regional powers, and UN peacekeepers.
  • Make the protection of civilians, rescue of abducted children and other people, and the prevention of LRA retaliatory strikes central to main objectives when striking LRA targets.

Actions for the United States

  • Continue to support Ugandan military efforts at destroying and dismantling the LRA with increasingly improved intelligence accuracy delivered in a timely fashion. Support Ugandan military efforts, as well as rebuilding the region, through AFRICOM under “the three D’s” — defense, diplomacy and development.
  • Speedily pass the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act and ensure full implementation of the actions and funding within it.
  • Leverage the State Department’s knowledge of LRA actions and atrocities committed and publicly condemn them, while simultaneously calling for more international action to end LRA human right’s abuses.

Actions for the United Nations

  • Send additional MONUC peacekeeping troops into northeastern Congo to help prevent LRA and Congolese government forces (FARDC) human right’s abuses.
  • Set up a pan-UN peacekeeping agenda, which includes UNMIS, UNAMID, MINURCAT, and MONUC for helping to protect civilians from the LRA. Within each mission, set up an additional command structure that focuses solely on preventing LRA abuses.
  • If UN peacekeeping troops under MINURCAT are expelled from Chad, reallocate troops and resources into southern Central African Republic to help coordinate efforts to disarm the LRA.
  • Create a demobilization and reintegration program for former LRA combatants that surrender voluntarily.
  • Create additional “surrender zones” for abducted people who have escaped the LRA and for defecting rebels.
  • Work with regional powers to capture LRA commanders wanted by the ICC

For additional actions that can also be taken, please view the report entitled Trail of Death by Human Right’s Watch.

Photo courtesy of Guardian: A UN attack helicopter patrols an area of the Democratic of Congo where LRA rebels were believed to be hiding in 2005

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Standing with Darfur

If you want peace, work for justice
إذا كنت تريد السلام ، أعمل من أجل العدالة

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