Human Rights Watch (Washington, DC)

11 November 2011

Central African Republic: Letter to Central African Republic President François Bozizé From Civil Society Representatives in Lra-Affected Areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan

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20 civil society groups in northern Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan write to President François Bozizé , calling his attention to the ongoing atrocities committed by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in eastern Central African Republic, and the neighboring regions of Congo and South Sudan.

This is not a letter from Human Rights Watch, but we believe it is particularly powerful.

Dear President François Bozizé,

We, the civil society representatives of Haut and Bas Uele districts in northern Democratic Republic of Congo, Western Equatoria State in South Sudan, and Mbomou and Haut Mbomou prefectures of the Central African Republic (CAR), write to call your attention to the ongoing atrocities committed by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in eastern Central African Republic, and the neighboring regions of Congo and South Sudan.

We have traversed an incredibly difficult period in the region since 2008, losing many innocent lives and being forced to flee from our homes time and again. Today, LRA leader Joseph Kony is thought to be hiding in the forests of eastern CAR near the Vovodo River, according to military reports and accounts from those who have recently escaped the group. Other senior LRA leaders were said to have met recently with Kony on Central African territory.

In total, the LRA has killed more than 2,400 civilians and abducted at least 3,400 others since September 2008. Many of the victims were Central Africans, and the attacks continue. On September 29, for example, about 15 LRA combatants suspected to be in the same group as Joseph Kony attacked the village of Lingou, near Derbissaka, in CAR, killing the village chief and abducting three men. Four nearby villages were abandoned after the attack, as people fled in fear. Civilians in this remote region have no protection from LRA attacks, and often no means of communicating with others to call for help.

Despite numerous other challenges you are facing in the north and west of the country, we urge you to make the LRA-affected region one of your top priorities.

The vast majority of LRA combatants were abducted by force and are living in the bush against their will. Greater efforts must be made to encourage LRA combatants and those held hostage to escape, and communities need to be sensitized to welcome such individualswhen they manage to leave the forest. Much more must also be done to help formerly abducted people recover from the trauma they have experienced and return to their normal lives.

We also urge you to recognize the LRA threat publicly and to cooperate meaningfully with regional and international partners working to end the LRA problem and protect civilians in our region.

We feel that our own governments have abandoned and forgotten us. It only discourages us further when we hear statements from our elected leaders that the LRA is no longer a threat. Today, the LRA is a regional problem and we must search for a regional solution. Protecting populations in this remote area where the borders of all three countries meet is possible only if all three governments acknowledge the LRA threat, engage fully, and cooperate with each other and other partners.

We welcomed the announcement by the United States government to send 100 well-equipped military advisors to counter the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) menace and help protect civilians, and we hope you will work with them to ensure a more effective response to the LRA problem.

We can only truly rejoice when the LRA threat is over and when we hear that Joseph Kony is no longer terrorizing our region. We have suffered too much and we are tired of living in total insecurity - afraid to go to our fields to farm and unsure when or where the rebels may surface again. We don't know whether our children who were abducted by the LRA will ever come back home.

Your Excellency, please do what you can to end these LRA atrocities and to protect the men, women, and children living in eastern CAR. Our communities are traumatized, and we have never before in our region experienced such levels of fear, loss, and suffering. We want to end the LRA problem so we can finally return to our normal lives.

Yours sincerely,

1. Association africaine de défense des droits de l'homme (ASADHO), Kinshasa, RDC

2. Association des victimes de la LRA, Obo, RCA

3. Association Zereda, Obo, RCA

4. Commission Diocésaine pour la Justice et la Paix (CDJP), Dungu, Haut Uélé, RDC

5. Commission Diocésaine pour la Justice et la Paix (CDJP), Duru, Haut Uélé, RDC

6. Commission Diocésaine pour la Justice et la Paix (CDJP), Ngilima, Haut Uélé, RDC

7. Commission Paroissiale pour la Justice et la Paix (CPJP), Bangadi, RDC

8. Communauté des Églises Évangéliques en Centrafrique (CEEC), Zemio, RCA

9. ECS Nzara Diocese, Yambio, South Sudan

10. Justice and Peace Commission, Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio, South Sudan

11. Société civile d'Ango (SOCIDA), Bas Uélé, RDC

12. Société civile de Doruma, Haut Uélé, RDC

13. Société civile de Faradje, Haut Uélé, RDC

14. Société civile de la Chefferie Mopoy (SOCICOMO), Banda, Bas Uélé, RDC

15. Société civile de Poko (SOCIPO), Bas Uélé, RDC

16. Solidarité et Assistance Intégrale aux Personnes Démunies (SAIPED), Dungu, RDC

17. Traumatisme blessure du CÅ"ur, Zemio, RCA

18. Union des Jeunes de Doruma pour le Loisirs (UJDL), Doruma, Haut Uélé, RDC

19. Union of Journalists of South Sudan, Yambio, South Sudan

20. Unity Is Strength, Yambio, South Sudan

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