While many in the Central African Republic (CAR) have new hope for the future following the inauguration of a new president last month, there is a situation brewing in the southeastern corner of the country. A spike in Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) activity is causing renewed suffering for the people around Bangassou, including large numbers of Christians.
The LRA is a cultic group that originated in Uganda in the late 1980s. They have been active in the North of Uganda, southern South Sudan, southwestern CAR and northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It has been accused of widespread human rights violations, including the murder of as many as 100,000 people, abduction of around 60,000 children, mutilation, child-sex slavery and forcing children to participate in hostilities. The organization LRA Crisis Tracker reports 58 incidents in CAR and DRC border regions since the beginning of the year. At least 295 civilians have been abducted.
José Aguirre Muños, Bishop of Bangassou in the south-east of the CAR told the Fides Catholic News service, “Since the beginning of 2016 my diocese has been continuously under LRA attack and nobody talks about it.”
The bishop said the LRA that ransacked the Bakouma mission almost certainly enjoyed support from Seleka rebels, the group that overturned the government of CAR in a 2013 coup. During their campaign they specifically targeted Christians. “For over two hours the nuns and seminarians were at the mercy of some fifteen armed men”.
BBC reported in early March that the LRA abducted twice as many people in January and March of this year than in all of 2015. It is assumed that the abductees, including 54 children, would be used as soldiers or sex slaves.
An expert working with LRA Crisis Tracker told the BBC that the LRA has lost a large chunk of its fighting force and seems to be rebuilding its force through abductions. He said the spike in the attacks signaled a change in their tactics.
The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for LRA leader, Joseph Kony, to stand trial for war crimes. With the support of 100 special US forces, thousands of African troops are searching for LRA commanders.
Please join us in praying for this situation:
- Pray for the Lord’s grace for people affected by LRA attacks.
- Pray for wisdom for the church as they support victims
- Please pray for the successful capture of Joseph Kony, the leader. His deputy, Dominic Ongwen surrendered last year and will be tried at the International Criminal Court in the near future.