By Paul-Marin Ngoupana
BANGUI (Reuters) – Dozens of people were killed in a remote corner of Central African Republic when Ugandan rebels attacked villagers but were then ambushed by Ugandan soldiers, a witness and local media said.
The killings took place last week around Djemah, 850 km (530 miles) east of the capital, Bangui, and are the latest in a wave of attacks by the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, a militia that roams around CAR, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo killing and kidnapping civilians.
“There were more than 40 rebels armed with guns, machetes and clubs. They attacked the village from three directions,” said Leon Hetanga, a Djemah resident who escaped the attack and traveled to Bangui to speak about the November 18 incident.
“What followed was carnage. The village’s two shops were pillaged, houses burned. Hidden up a mango tree I saw this horrible scene … three men were killed by machetes and two women were bound up and taken as prisoners,” he added.
Hetanga said at least 11 people had been killed by the time he escaped the village and alerted Ugandan soldiers, based 25 km away, who launched an counter attack on the rebels.
“It was carnage for the rebels when they were ambushed next to the Ngoangoa River by the Ugandan soldiers,” Hetanga said.
Bangui has allowed Kampala to dispatch Ugandan special forces to hunt down rebels in CAR, one of the weakest and most isolated nations in central Africa.
The LRA’s wave of attacks across the three countries follows a nearly two-decade long war in Uganda’s north and a Ugandan-led multinational strike on rebel bases in Congo last year.
The Ugandan-led attack broke up jungle hideouts but failed to net LRA leaders, who are wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
Uganda’s army said it had no information about the incident and CAR government officials were unavailable for comment but local media confirmed Hetanga’s reports of attacks at Djemah, as well as other villages, including nearby Fouka.
“Dozens of people were killed,” Clement Loutemboli, a community health radio operator in the nearby town of Obo, told Reuters by telephone.
“Over the last few days, calm has returned and we hear less talk about the rebels because the Central African and Ugandan soldiers are patrolling,” Loutemboli said.
New York-based Human Rights Watch estimates that LRA fighters have killed at least 1,200 Congolese civilians in reprisal attacks since the Ugandan-led assault last year.