Armed group violence escalated considerably in the Mbomou Uele border region in 2017 compared to 2016, killing hundreds of civilians while forcing tens of thousands of others to flee their homes and alter or abandon livelihood strategies. In total, Invisible Children’s LRA Crisis Tracker initiative recorded 272 attacks against civilians in 20171 in the Mbomou Uele border region, which includes the prefectures of Haute Kotto, Mbomou, and Haut Mbomou in eastern Central African Republic (CAR) and the provinces of Haut Uele and Bas Uele in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In eastern CAR, ex-Seleka and anti-balaka combatants greatly expanded their areas of operation, taking advantage of the withdrawal of troops from Uganda and the United States from Mbomou and Haut Mbomou following the end of operations to pursue the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Ex-Seleka and anti-balaka groups were not only responsible for massive human rights violations, their attacks escalated intercommunal tensions that sparked violence committed by armed civilians not affiliated with armed groups. They also frequently targeted humanitarian actors and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA), killing a total of 13 peacekeepers in the three prefectures in 2017.
In an encouraging trend, abductions by the LRA in eastern CAR dropped by 70% from 2016 to 2017. LRA groups did frequently attack remote artisanal mining areas in Haute Kotto prefecture, an area in which defectors reported that LRA leader Joseph Kony continued to operate.
Civilians in DRC’s Haut Uele and Bas Uele provinces were threatened primarily by transnational armed actors, including the LRA, armed poachers, and South Sudanese militias. LRA attacks on civilians in Haut Uele peaked from May-August as an LRA group traveled to and from Garamba National Park, where it collected ivory under orders from Kony. This trend, as well as other attacks on civilians by poachers in Haut Uele, highlighted the link between human and wildlife security in the region.
Armed group activity in the Mbomou Uele border region had massive ripple effects on the lives of civilians in 2017, forcing many to abandon, limit, or alter their livelihood strategies. Disaggregated data on attacks against civilians recorded in 2017 demonstrates clear patterns in the risks civilians face based on their location and exposure to specific armed groups. In CAR, attacks by ex-Seleka factions and anti-balaka groups primarily targeted civilians in communities. LRA attacks in both CAR and DRC were more likely to target civilians as they traveled along roads (often to and from markets) or were hunting, fishing, farming, or herding cattle in remote, sparsely populated areas.
Attacks on civilians in mid-2017 by the LRA as the group carried out Joseph Kony's orders to illicitly collect ivory from the Garamba region in DRC