The rebel Lord’s Resistance Army is stepping up attacks, expanding into new areas and abducting more children in the Central African Republic, a UN envoy said Wednesday.
The LRA “appears now to be deviating from what had been for a certain period of time a low-profile posture,” Abdoulaye Bathily told the UN Security Council.
Bathily said there had been “attacks against larger and less isolated population areas” and an increase in the number of children “kidnapped and kept.”
Attacks in the Central African Republic have increased in the first three months of the year, with 42 incidents, six deaths and 252 abductions, according to a report by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
For all of 2015 there were 52 incidents, five deaths and 113 abductions blamed on the LRA.
Bathily expressed concern about the pullout of Ugandan troops fighting the LRA from the Central African Republic, saying it will create a “vacuum” that will fuel arms trafficking, illegal mining and forced recruitments.
The LRA first emerged in northern Uganda in the mid-1980s when it took up arms in the name of the Acholi ethnic group against the government of President Yoweri Museveni.
Over the years, it has moved freely across borders, shifting from Uganda to southern Sudan before heading into northeastern DR Congo in 2005, finally crossing into the southeastern Central African Republic in 2008.
LRA commander Dominic Ongwen will face trial in December at the International Criminal Court on charges of keeping sex slaves, recruiting child soldiers and other crimes.
The LRA’s leader Joseph Kony has also been charged by the ICC with war crimes, but remains at large.