05 December 2008

LRA displace 70,000 in DR Congo

Kony chatting with Rwot Acana as rebels watch in their jungle hideout
GENEVA, Switzerland - The World Food Programme said on Wednesday it is extending its humanitarian operations across the eastern DR Congo, including areas hit by a conflict involving LRA rebels.

“WFP is concerned about a humanitarian crisis unfolding in Orientale Province, in the far north-east of the DRC (around Dungu), where rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have been attacking civilians and forcing thousands to flee their villages,” the organisation said in a statement.

“WFP is preparing to assist about 70,000 people who have been forced from their homes and live in fear of their children being abducted by the LRA,” it said.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and nearly two million displaced in the two decades of fighting between the LRA and the Ugandan Government.

The area around Dungu is extremely difficult to reach because of both insecurity and impassable roads, so the WFP said it was opening a strategic air bridge between Dungu and Entebbe in Uganda which it would also make available to other aid agencies.
“There is also a possibility of using air drops to provide much-needed food assistance,” the agency said.

Across the whole of the eastern DRC, including Nord-Kivu province which has seen heavy fighting between government troops and rebels led by ex-general Laurent Nkunda, the WFP said it has delivered food to about 564,000 people in November.

LRA leader Joseph Kony failed to turn up on Saturday to sign an overdue peace agreement aimed at ending the two-decade-long civil war in the north.
A signing ceremony was to be held in Ri-Kwangba, a jungle town in southern Sudan, for the LRA leader to ink the deal finalised in April and already signed by the Government.

Civil and religious leaders travelled to Ri-Kwangba hoping Kony would turn up to sign the peace agreement.

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