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The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was responsible for 14 attacks in January 2017 in which they abducted 59 civilians, the highest monthly abduction total since September 2016. However, the 59 abductions in January 2017 was a sharp reduction compared to January 2016, when LRA forces abducted 171 civilians. Nearly all of the LRA’s January 2017 abductions took place in northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a shift from 2016, when they were largely concentrated in eastern Central African Republic (CAR). In addition, a recent trend of attacks by armed groups on vehicles traveling the Rafai–Mboki road in CAR continued, with the ambush of a MINUSCA convoy on January 3 and the ambush of a truck being escorted by soldiers from the AU Regional Task Force on January 15.
LRA forces commit large-scale abduction raids in northern DRC
The LRA’s abduction of 50 civilians in DRC in January 2017 eclipsed the combined number of abductions there in the previous four months. Between January 2–5, LRA forces temporarily abducted 23 people in a series of attacks near the remote town of Gwane in DRC’s Bas Uele province. Four additional people were abducted near Gwane on January 27. These attacks may have been carried out by the Achaye Doctor LRA splinter group, which has frequently operated around Gwane since 2014. LRA forces also abducted 23 Congolese civilians during two attacks southwest of Doruma in DRC’s Haut Uele province on January 16.17 of the abductees were later released, but 6 remain unaccounted for.In addition to LRA activity, armed pastoralists abducted three Congolese men on January 11, later killing two. The pastoralists reportedly possessed several pieces ivory, and the incident occurred approximately 120km west of Garamba National Park. South Sudanese armed men attacked a Congolese man south of Doruma on January 19, interrogating him about the location of pastoralist camps and military bases. The incident was at least the fifth attack on Congolese civilians by South Sudanese armed groups since September 2016.
Armed groups target civilians in CAR’s Haut Mbomou prefecture
Haut Mbomou prefecture in eastern CAR witnessed a significant uptick in violence in January 2017, with a total of eight attacks by the LRA and four attacks by unidentified armed groups there. Unlike in DRC, LRA attacks in Haut Mbomou in January 2017 did not include large-scale abductions. In one incident, LRA forces held two people hostage outside the town of Mboki while forcing a third person to purchase supplies at the market and return with them in exchange for the release of the two hostages.Attacks by unidentified armed groups in Haut Mbomou were more bold, including an ambush of a MINUSCA convoy on January 3. Two Moroccan peacekeepers were killed during the incident and two others were injured. On January 15, two soldiers from the AU Regional Task Force were killed during an ambush by an unidentified armed group northeast of Zemio. Armed groups have ambushed vehicles on at least six occasions along the Rafai–Mboki road since October 2016, raising concerns about the ability of civilians and humanitarian workers to travel safely in the area.
In January, Invisible Children staff, alongside local partners in Dungu, DRC, expanded the local transit capacity for LRA escapees and defectors passing through Dungu before being reunified with their families by identifying and training local host families. Invisible Children and partners DIVAS and SAIPED trained eight host families who will support LRA escapees and defectors by providing housing, food, and the creation of a safe familial space where the transition into society is carefully managed.
In addition, Invisible Children worked with community partners and local authorities in CAR to reunite two Central Africans who escaped the LRA in November 2016 with their families.