By Vision reporter
LRA rebels have attacked the Congolese town of Duru near the border of Sudan, causing thousands of people to flee, the Missionary International Service News Agency (MISNA) said.
The rebels attacked the town, a few dozen kilometres from the border with South Sudan, looting the local Comboni mission, hospital and the house of the sisters and briefly holding hostage an Italian priest, the missionariesâ€™ website reported yesterday.
The episode was referred to MISNA by the Comboni missionaries in the DR Congo. It specified that the attack occurred on December 16 but was reported late due to poor communications.
â€œThe rebels looted our mission, taking away everything they could carry, stealing and throwing in the river our only two radios. They also took one of our confreres (brothers), who was later released, threatening that they would return,â€ said the provincial superior, Father Fermo Bernasconi.
â€œThe real problem is the civil population. Though I canâ€™t say exactly how many, I was told that thousands of terrified people fled Duru and surrounding villages, seeking refuge in the forest,â€ added the missionary.
Fr. Bernasconi said the attack was unprecedented. Since the Ugandan rebels arrived in Congolese territory about two years ago and settled in Garamba National Park, no actions against the civil population were reported. However, local sources told MISNA that the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC) peacekeepers stepped up pressures on the rebels, setting up bases in Dungu, around 90km from Duru, from where they began repatriating some rebels.
The UPDF said it had no knowledge of the attack. â€œWe did not know about this,â€ said spokesman Maj. Felix Kulayigye. â€œIt confirms what (Gulu RDC) Walter Ochora has been predicting: that they are preparing another offensive. By attacking missionaries, taking away communication equipment and medicines, they are preparing for war.â€
He added: â€œWe condemn the attack. We urge them to desist from such acts, which jeopardise their chances of being forgiven.â€
Kinshasa and Kampala two weeks ago gave an ultimatum to LRA leader Joseph Kony to leave Garamba by January 31 or be forced out.
Kony responded strongly over the weekend, accusing President Yoweri Museveni of jeopardising the Juba negotiations, due to resume at the start of January.
The chances of reaching an agreement have become slimmer since Kony killed his deputy, Vincent Otti, who had been the main interlocutor for the Government.
Otto Sunday, an LRA fighter who defected from Garamba last month, told Sunday Vision Otti was killed over leadership wrangles and disagreements over the peace process.
Otti had convinced Kony to engage in the peace talks and meet with Ugandan and international mediators. But Kony reportedly accused Otti of attempting to kill him after receiving foreign funds.
The LRA had requested funds from the international community to conduct consultations on the peace process.
Museveni, too, mentioned that Otti was killed over donor money. â€œThe two quarrelled over some 600,000 dollars from donors,â€ he told northern leaders in Gulu last week.