Central African Republic: “We are continuously under LRA attack, but nobody talks about it”

Monsignor Juan José Aguirre Muños is Bishop of Bangassou, in the south-east of the Central African Republic. He has recently denounced the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a guerrilla group of Ugandan origin which has wreaked havoc on the area for years.

In recent weeks, the LRA has intensified its attacks against civilians, causing the Comboni Bishop to denounce how the situation is being handled: “Since the beginning of 2016, my diocese has been continuously under LRA attack, and nobody talks about it”.

“We are being attacked everywhere. The intensified attacks have been happening for more than a month, and the LRA has attacked more than six villages in the area. Here in Bangassou, we have welcomed many displaced people who fled the Niakari area [15 km from Bangassou], a place of pilgrimage for this diocese. Last week, the LRA abducted and assaulted residents of Niakari.

“Three days ago I went to Bakouma with the two nuns and seminarians who work there. The local mission was ransacked by the LRA on January 21 – almost certainly with the complicity of a group of former Central African rebels, the Seleka. For more than two hours, the nuns and seminarians were at the mercy of some fifteen armed men.”

He continues, “What hurts me most is that nothing is said about what happens in Bangassou. At the same time, the arrest of one of the LRA leaders, Okot Odek, who was captured in the north of the country far from Bangassou, is reported in the news.

“Odek was kidnapped by the LRA as a boy and then went on to become a leader of this criminal group. But there are also several other LRA leaders, and they continue to attack us.”

According to press reports, Okot Odek was captured by the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de Centrafrique (FPRC), who then handed him over to US forces that had been sent to the Central African Republic to hunt LRA fighters.