By Barbara Among and Henry Mukasa
IN just two days, reclusive rebel leader Joseph Kony and his fighters raped over 80 Congolese women in the towns of Faradje and Tadu in the Orientale province in the north- eastern DR Congo.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) team and other UN officials who visited the area on Tuesday said the residents were shocked and traumatised by the brutality of the attacks.
â€œThose who fled the town and local organisations said more than 80 women were raped during the two-day period,â€ said the UNHCR spokesperson, Ron Redmond, at the press briefing yesterday at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
The rebels also burnt over 800 houses, three schools, government buildings and health care centres, with most families losing their annual harvest in the fire.
â€œThe northeastern Congolese town of Faradje had been pillaged and destroyed by fire,â€ said Redmond.
Faradje, which lies 100km west of the DR Congoâ€™s border with Sudan and Uganda, was attacked on December 25-26, leaving over 70 people dead and displacing nearly 40,000 others.
During their visit to Faradje and Tadu, the team said it met local officials, representatives of local non-governmental organisations and displaced civilians.
The UN refugee agency said 225 people, including 160 children, were kidnapped by the rebels as they fled the joint offensive mounted by the Sudan, DR Congo and Uganda armies.
The team estimates that the rebels killed up to 500 Congolese civilians in various attacks in the region since the launch on December 14 of operation lightning thunder led by the Ugandan troops.
Earlier, a catholic charity organisation, Caritas, had estimated that the rebels had killed 400 civilians.
According to UN estimates, over 50,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since mid-December, on top of 50,000 others in the region who were displaced by an earlier escalation of clashes between last September and November.
The joint UN team found that most of those displaced by the LRAâ€™s Christmas attack on Faradje and its surroundings were still hiding in the bush.
Some of the displaced moved towards Tadu, 37km south of Faradje where more than 1,000 displaced people have been registered, mostly women and children.
It found that the population was in dire need of food, shelter, medicine, clothes and other items.
â€œThe area remains highly volatile and insecurity is a key obstacle for access by UNHCR and other aid agencies. The refugee agency is working with the local authorities and others to find ways of managing assistance in these inaccessible areas,â€ said Redmond.
Meanwhile, the UN said it had received a preliminary report of another attack on Monday on the village of Napopo, which claimed up to eight lives and houses were set on fire.
An unknown number of people were reportedly kidnapped.
Two days earlier, rebels attacked the village of Nagero, 24km north-west of Faradje, killing at least eight people and displacing some 3,500.