Dungu, Democratic Republic of Congo — The Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group marched into Congo from Uganda in 2005 after defeats by the Ugandan army. Today, the LRA — likely numbering no more than a few thousand — is hiding out in the heavily-forested territory where the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Central African Republic meet. A rotating cast of armies takes turns chasing the LRA: the Congolese army, U.N. peacekeepers, the Ugandans, even the Americans. Fighting spiked last year when all four teamed up to spring a trap for the LRA. The trap failed — bad intel, I’m guessing — and the group managed to slip away.
The LRA doesn’t seem to want anything beyond survival. For the group, survival means looting for supplies and enlisting kidnapped children to keep up its numbers. You can’t talk to the LRA. You can’t compromise with it. You can only hunt it, and care for the people it hurts.
Today in Dungu, a remote district in Congo’s northeast, U.N. humanitarian agencies and civilian aid groups are working to mitigate the effects of the LRA’s presence: displaced people, victims of sexual violence, endangered children. Problem is, the LRA has reportedly moved into southern Central African Republic and now threatens neighboring Bas Uele district, 100 miles west of Dungu. The U.N. humanitarians have no presence in Bas Uele because regulations require they operate within the peacekeepers’ protection. Extending the peacekeepers’ operations farther west will require more (or re-deployed) troops, more equipment, possibly even brand-new roads.
The LRA, lightly-equipped and marching on its feet, is in many ways more mobile than those hunting it. In the gap between the LRA’s speed and the peacekeepers’ reside potentially tens of thousands of at-risk civilians.