At the end of last month President Obama recognised the threat the LRA is having on this underdeveloped area of central Africa when he launched a plan to tackle the notorious fighters and the shattering impact they have on communities. The African Union (AU) is also taking welcome steps to find solutions.
But despite commitments and political initiatives, the LRA has been allowed to operate for more than 20 years. It’s impossible to calculate how many lives have been ruined but in the last two years alone the group has become the deadliest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo killing more than 2,300 and abducting more than 3,000 people across the region.
Seventy-two-year-old Papa Peleke runs an upholstery business in Dungu town in north-east Congo, where he lives with his wife of 44 years, their nine children and their “many grandchildren”. He and four of his teenage granddaughters were abducted by the LRA in November 2008 and taken deep into the forest. His youngest granddaughter recently escaped after 15 months in captivity. The others remain missing.
“The world must end this war and this suffering,” he told Oxfam. “I don’t want to have to hear the name LRA in Congo any more. The Congolese army aren’t able to do much – on the day we were abducted there were 10 soldiers nearby but they didn’t do anything.”
The UN and the international community are asking what can be done for people like Papa Pekele and his family. The answer is simple: they must finally make sure there is peace, security and development.
What bothered me most about the G8 Maternal Health Initiative was that it was ignoring pressing urgent issues effecting the lives of women in the regions it was covering while focusing on issues that, at this stage, the women in countries like Sudan and Congo simply aren’t able to debate for themselves due to lack of status, lack of education, and lack of infrastructure. What is it these women want and need? They want to be protected from self-proclaimed prophets turned military leaders like Joseph Kony.
Mr. Kony, who has been wanted by the International Criminal Court since 2005, has engaged since the late 1980s in the mass abductions of children from villages and government-run camps in the Ugandan countryside. His hostages, seized in ambushes along roads and in raids on settlements, became the living fuel for a grim, millennial war.
Mr. Kony did not ransom his captives. He had another design. He indoctrinated the boys as foot soldiers in a guerrilla campaign against the Ugandan government and, when directed by his sponsors in Sudan, against villages and rebel groups in Southern Sudan. Abducted girls were put to work, too — as labor, as soldiers, and, once they reached puberty, as sexual chattel for Mr. Kony and his coterie of commanders, who called them their wives.