DUNGU, Democratic Republic of Congo — The report must have caused a furor when it reached the Kinshasa headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo: Last week, residents of Duru, a town of several thousand residents in Congo’s inaccessible northeast, told peacekeepers at a nearby U.N. base that the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group had just attacked and abducted several people.
Indian army Lt. Gen. Chander Prakash, the new commander of the roughly 20,000-strong U.N. force, was apparently so disturbed that he personally led a reconnaissance mission to the affected community, flying a thousand miles across some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world. On Saturday, Prakash and his entourage landed in Duru aboard a pair of Bangladeshi helicopters and linked up with locally based U.N. forces. Among Prakash’s goal’s: to understand how the LRA could kidnap civilians apparently right under the noses of U.N. troops.
The incident highlights the ongoing difficulties the U.N. faces in protecting Congolese civilians from one of the world’s most brutal — and most elusive — armed groups. The peacekeepers’ reactive strategy means it is always a step behind the LRA.
Since the Ugandan army chased the LRA out of its home country five years ago, the rebels under the command of Joseph Kony have terrorized a wide swath of Congo as well as neighboring Sudan and Central African Republic. Having long ago abandoned its original grievances, the LRA now fights only for survival. The group loots villages, murders anyone who resists and abducts children as laborers and sex slaves.