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A spokesman for the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) says the group is ready to fend off any possible attack by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.
Kevin Kennedy assured Congolese not to panic after rumors surfaced that LRA rebels are planning to attack villages ahead of the Christmas festivities.
“First of all I would have to say we will caution people not to panic. There have of course been rumors and there have been allegations…about the possibility that LRA would attack as it did last year at around this time in areas of Uwele or Bawele…the force commander of MONUC has essentially called on our people to be on the highest state of readiness, a highest state of alert,” he said.
LRA rebels were alleged to have killed at least 800 unarmed civilians around Christmas and early January last year.
But Kennedy said MONUC is working closely with government troops to protect civilians.
“MONUC, which is the area to support the FARDC, the government troops that have been deployed to Uwele and Bawele primarily to protect the population…(our force commander) has asked the commander of Ituri brigade to go to the area to oversee MONUC’s activity there and to reinforce cooperation and coordination with the FARDC,” Kennedy said.
Meanwhile a United States-based advocacy group, ENOUGH Project said in a statement that “the LRA might be planning fresh Christmas attacks as a response to recent claims by the Congolese and Ugandan governments that the rebels are finished".
ENOUGH Project also said in its statement that residents of some villages reported seeing letters allegedly distributed by rebels to embark on mass killings over Christmas.
Kennedy said MONUC is taking the rumors seriously.
“First, I don’t know what ENOUGH intelligence is about this matter, but we are taking the possibility that on the anniversary of last year’s killings that there may be indeed be some attempt at creating panic or at attacking in certain areas. So, we are doing everything that we can within the limit of our capacity,” Kennedy said.
He also denied speculations that MONUC has not effectively protected residents of the restive areas of Congo.