KINSHASA: The Democratic Republic of Congo’s justice minister on Thursday denied that attacks last December by Ugandan rebels took more than 300 lives, and said that some 25 people died.
"The figure of 321 victims put forward by Human Rights Watch is clearly exaggerated. When it comes to victims in the civilian population, the number of victims is no more than 25," Justice Minister Lessa Bambi Luzolo said in a statement.
In a report published on Saturday, Human Rights Watch accused the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of killing 321 civilians during a raid that lasted four days in northeastern DR Congo in mid-December.
"It’s about events that happened in December 2009 and the non-governmental organization speaks about it as if it was yesterday," Luzolo said, stressing that "there were no massacres as stated in the report, but a few people attacked in passing by uncontrolled elements" of the LRA.
Since 2005, the rebels have moved away from their bases in northern Uganda to cross the border into the DR Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic, where attacks took place late this month, according to a CAR military source.
The UN mission in the DR Congo, MONUC, estimated that there were fewer than 100 LRA rebels active in the country at the end of last year.
Led by Joseph Kony, who is wanted with his two principal aides for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, the LRA has a reputation as one of the most brutal guerrilla forces in the world.
LRA fighters first took up arms in northern Uganda in 1988. They long held that their aim was to replace Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni’s government with a regime based on the Biblical Ten Commandments.