Garamba National Park officials expected LRA attack
Report from Voice of America by Joe De Capua 06 January 2009:
DRC Park Officials Expected LRA Rebel Attack
There’s more information available about the January 2nd LRA rebel attack on the Garamba National Park, located in Nagero, in the eastern DRC. That attack left at least eight dead and thirteen wounded and caused heavy damage to the park headquarters.
Dr. Jose Kalpers, country coordinator for the DRC for the African Parks Network, spoke from Brussels to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the attack by Ugandan rebels.
“Our headquarters…was attacked by a group of LRA rebels. The attack started at 5 pm (local time) and lasted…about two hours. And it seems that the rebels launched several attacks at different spots. The headquarters is spread over a large area and so several places basically were targeted by the rebels almost at the same time…. Our rangers, assisted by some Congolese army soldiers, started engaging fire. It was very sudden and very violent and a number of people were killed during the attack, including two rangers and two wives of wardens and a couple of other people working for the park…. There was also extensive damage done to the infrastructures. A few buildings were basically torched,” he says.
Asked why the LRA might target the park along with villages in the area, Kalpers says, “Since the military offensive that started on the 14th of December and launched by the three armies of Uganda, South Sudan and Congo, the LRA…dispersed over a large area. And you probably have heard about the atrocities that were committed…around Christmastime…and then…at the end of the year… I suspect those people are looking for food, looking for money and looking for people.”
Kalpers says they had suspected there would be an attack on Garamba National Park and rangers were in position at various spots in anticipation. That’s because on December 30th, there had been a “small-scale” attack by Ugandan rebels, possibly probing the park’s defenses.
The LRA attacks on eastern Congolese villages last week reportedly left as many as 500 people dead and displaced as many as 50,000. Also, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday that there are reports of another LRA attack on the village of Napopo, leaving eight people dead, houses destroyed and an unknown number of people abducted.
More Congolese troops have arrived in the park, and Kalpers says the main priority is taking care of the rangers, their families and the wounded and those who were displaced by the attack. Humanitarian agencies have been notified that several thousand people living near the park may have fled when the attack occurred and may need emergency assistance.
There is concern that with the rangers occupied with defending the park against the LRA, there might be increased poaching in the park. However, Kalpers says they hope to resume patrols soon.