You may be aware that conditions in Sudan are reaching a crisis point as the referendum on southern independence comes up January 9. Many international observers are growing increasingly concerned about the likelihood of violence between the Arab north and the Christian and traditional south if, as is expected, independence is approved. But even before that dangerous deadline is another worrisome date, Christmas. In year's past the Lord's Resistance Army has "celebrated" Dec. 25 with unspeakable cruelty in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect is calling on all parties which have committed to protecting noncombatants in Sudan since the signing of the 2005 peace accord to prepare to intervene before the LRA can strike again this year. Last year 320 Congolese villagers were slaughtered by the LRA and the toll the Christmas before that was even higher.
The center gathered together some well-known figures from the responsibility to protect community (basically the notion that the international community has the power, the capacity and the moral obligaiton to protect noncombatants in crisis/conflict zones) to help publicize the impending crisis and encourage a proactive multilateral response--NOW.
“The LRA is a regional menace that survives and thrives by terrorizing vulnerable populations including by using young children to kill, and as sex slaves," said Romeo Dallaire, former Force Commander of the UN Mission to Rwanda and best known for his futile attempts to get UN and international forces to intervene before the Rwandan genocide began. "How many lives must be lost and destroyed before the international community agrees to take the threat seriously and act?”
“How is it possible that the international community has still not improved its ability to protect populations from the LRA’s reign of terror?" asked Jan Egeland, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. "Unless UN member states, and notably Security Council members develop and implement a regional strategy to prevent and protect and take decisive action to halt LRA atrocities, they risk adding this to a shameful list of failures.”
It is the belief of the center and these humanitarian figures that the LRA can be stopped with a properly equipped, coordinated military effort. Time is running short before an appropriate intervention can prevent the modern killing of the innocents this Christmas, however.
Full statement follows:
The UN Security Council and UN member states must prioritize immediately halting and averting the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), according to former high-ranking diplomats and UN officials.
Romeo Dallaire, Jan Egeland, Juan Mendez, and Gareth Evans, warn in a just released open statement that in light of ongoing attacks and past precedence there is an imminent threat of massacres of civilians, rapes and abductions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The call comes on the one year anniversary of a massacre in which 300 people were slaughtered over the course of four days by the LRA in Haute Uele province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The prior year, beginning on Christmas day 2008, 620 civilians were massacred over two days in this same region. The experts warn that there is a real threat of repeat attacks this year.
“The LRA is a regional menace that survives and thrives by terrorizing vulnerable populations including by using young children to kill, and as sex slaves. How many lives must be lost and destroyed before the international community agrees to take the threat seriously and act?” queried Romeo Dallaire, former Force Commander of the UN Mission to Rwanda.
“How is it possible that the international community has still not improved its ability to protect populations from the LRA’s reign of terror? Unless UN member states, and notably Security Council members develop and implement a regional strategy to prevent and protect and take decisive action to halt LRA atrocities, they risk adding this to a shameful list of failures” said Jan Egeland, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
In 2005 world leaders committed to uphold the responsibility to protect populations from mass atrocities — such as the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the LRA in Sudan, DRC and the Central African Republic. These states bear the primary responsibility to protect their populations from the LRA, however significant international assistance and coordination between regional governments and the UN is needed to halt the threat as their efforts so far have proved unsuccessful and in some cases have led to retaliatory attacks against civilians.
“It is high time that the Security Council puts this issue on its agenda and takes sincere steps to fulfill the responsibility to protect,” declared Gareth Evans, former Australian Foreign Minister and President Emeritus, International Crisis Group, “There is no excuse for delay and inaction - decisive steps must be taken immediately to save lives today.”
The eminent personalities called on UN member states to:
· Collect better information about LRA movements and composition and develop a mechanism for information sharing amongst regional governments and peacekeeping missions
· Translate this information into preventive deployments of peacekeepers in areas at risk of LRA attacks, combined with more effective communication networks between peacekeeping forces and vulnerable villages.
· Strengthen programs to encourage the desertion of soldiers from the LRA and to assist such soldiers, many of whom are victims of LRA abductions, in leaving the group and reintegrating into their communities
· Undertake serious, coordinated military efforts to apprehend LRA leaders and to end the threat posed by the LRA. Any such efforts must be designed in such a way as to mitigate the risk of civilian casualties including by protecting civilians from potential retaliatory attacks by LRA fighters.