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October 26, 2008

Renewed brutal attacks and forced recruitment by LRA have raised fears throughout three African nations.

In the last month, a series of raids in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and southern Sudan has been attributed to Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) . The group, known for the brutality of their attacks, has also attacked a remote eastern area of the Central African Republic (CAR), kidnapping more than 100 children from the Obo area. Neither the children nor their remains have been found.

Recent attacks in northeastern DRC have killed more than 200 people. The rebels "conducted a campaign of killing, systematic abduction of children and burning of almost all houses," a UN report stated.

Witnesses say, "They were killing, burning the huts, destroying the food and they took the children with them from the school into the bush."
Local officials say at least 100 children were abducted from villages in southern Sudan and another 100 from DRC, with thousands displaced.

LRA rebel chief Joseph Kony began his battle 20 years ago, claiming to fight against the marginalization of the people of northern Uganda. But the LRA's savage attacks, in which they cut off the limbs and lips of their victims, were directed at civilians more often than the military.

In the 1990s, the rebels began moving into neighboring south Sudan, reportedly backed by Khartoum as a proxy force against southern rebels.

Since 2005, when Sudan signed a peace deal to end its long-running north-south civil war, the LRA moved into remote jungles in DRC.

"The LRA has gone from Uganda, but with this wave of abductions it is consolidating its forces in isolated areas of south Sudan, CAR and the DR Congo," said Francois Grignon of the International Crisis Group think tank.
It is widely believed that the LRA enjoys the support of the Khartoum government.

40 killed, 12,000 displaced in S. Darfur

A surge in violence in Darfur recently has displaced thousands more civilians, say aid agencies and human rights groups. Human Rights Watch said that more than 40 civilians had been killed in attacks by Janjaweed, pro-government Arab militias, on villages in South Darfur.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said thousands had fled the fighting in the last month. It said that many were sheltering under trees and lacked basic supplies. Aid agencies say the latest violence happened in the area of Muhajiriya, east of the South Darfur capital, Nyala.

Human Rights Watch said that government-backed Arab militias attacked more than 15 villages around Muhajiriya, burning homes and stealing livestock, forcing thousands to flee. "Once again, civilians are bearing the brunt of fighting in Darfur," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at the agency.
About 12,000 people have been displaced in the last two weeks.

Facing possible prosecution for genocide in the International Criminal Court, president Bashir's government has warned that Sudan could cancel all its agreements with the UN if the ICC case goes ahead. In July, ICC prosecutors in the Hague formally requested an arrest warrant for Bashir, saying that he had "masterminded" massacres in Darfur and that he should stand trial for genocide.
One of the recent steps taken by the Sudanese government to appease foreign powers and assert its authority has been to arrest militia leader Ali Kushayb, accused by the ICC of murder, rape and torture, as well as the forced displacement of villagers, and other war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. In 2007, the ICC charged Kushayb with crimes against humanity and demanded that Sudan hand him over but its government refused to do so, denying that he had done anything wrong. Analysts say that by changing its tack and deciding to put Kushayb on trail, Sudan is trying to show its legal system can handle the investigations itself and further the push to block the global court's move against the Sudanese President.

While judges in The Hague are deliberating whether to prosecute President Bashir, African and Arab leaders are urging the UN and the court to drop the case, arguing that it could unleash a backlash against civilians and aid workers and lessen the dim prospects for peace in Darfur.

An estimated 400,000 Darfuri lives have already been lost and 2.7 million have been displace. They have fled to refuge camps in Darfur, neighboring Chad, and the Central African Republic.
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