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UN humanitarian chief urges protection for DRC civilians vulnerable to LRA attacks

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(New York, 23 December, 2009): On the anniversary of the massacre of hundreds of civilians by the LRA in the DRC on Christmas Day 2008, United Nations Under- Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes called for stronger measures to protect civilians still vulnerable to attacks.

Unconfirmed reports indicate three attacks between 14 and 20 December of this year have resulted in 47 deaths.

Between 25 and 27 December 2008, the LRA is reported to have killed more than 400 people during brutal raids in churches and on remote villages around Dungu and Doruma in Haut Uele district in the northern Orientale Province of DRC. Overall, between September 2008 and June 2009, marauding gangs of LRA fighters in DRC killed at least 1,200 civilians, abducted 1,400 - including some 600 children and 400 women - and displaced approximately 230,000 people. Similar attacks are still happening.

"These massacres underline the vulnerability of civilians in parts of the DRC where armed groups continue to act with total disregard for national and international law," said Mr. Holmes. "But the LRA is increasingly a regional threat, destabilising a significant area of Central Africa by committing atrocities against civilians in the Central African Republic and Southern Sudan, as well as the DRC," Mr. Holmes added. Over the past year, at least 83,000 people have been displaced and 241 killed by the LRA in Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Mr. Holmes expressed his appreciation for the role the UN Mission in DRC (MONUC) is playing in protecting civilians in eastern and northeastern DRC, including efforts of the national army in areas where the LRA has been active in the past, and called for this to be stepped up further. He also welcomed increased cooperation between the UN missions in the three countries most affected.

"The magnitude of the problem and the enormous threat to the civilian population requires concerted efforts by the Governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring countries, and by the wider international community to protect civilians and resolve the threat posed by the LRA in the region once and for all," Mr. Holmes said.

For further information, please call: OCHA-New York: Stephanie Bunker, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 347 244 2106, bunker@un.org; Nicholas Reader +1 212 963 4961, mobile +1 646 752 3117, reader@un.org; John Nyaga,+ 1 917 367 9262, mobile +1 917 318 8917, nyagaj@un.org; OCHA-Geneva: Elisabeth Byrs,+41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570, byrs@un.org.

OCHA press releases are available at http://ochaonline.un.org or www.reliefweb.int

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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