Targeting the LRA scourge

A new centre will coordinate efforts to track Joseph Kony’s notorious rebel group.   

A Ugandan soldier searching for the elusive LRA

The effort to try and stamp out the remainder of the brutal Lords Resistance Army – which started in Uganda but now operates across borders into South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, goes on.  The European Union is going to fund the construction of a new base for the Ugandan army – the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) – with the aim of injecting new momentum into the pursuit and eradication of the group.

The base at Obo will cost $1.2 million and will be used to coordinate joint operations by the coalition of forces from Uganda, DR Congo, South Sudan and the United States, which are involved in the hunt. Most of the American troops will be based in Uganda but some will have the job of advising regional armies and they will be based in jungle areas in neighbouring countries.

In October US President Barack Obama announced he was sending 100 special forces soldiers to Kampala to help Uganda track down LRA chief and international fugitive Joseph Kony. His avowed aim was to contribute to the counter-LRA efforts but also to further “US national-security interests and foreign policy” as he said in a letter to US House Speaker John Boehner. The move was welcomed in the region where the LRA has been raping, murdering and abducting children for more than two decades, but there are concerns. Regional commentators point out that the US is interested in establishing a greater footprint in the region amid the rise of terror group Al Shabaab in Somalia, newly discovered oil resources in the region and China’s growing influence as it buys up resources and makes deals.

The LRA rebels currently number several hundred, a fraction of their strength at their peak but still include a core of hardened fighters infamous for mutilating civilians and abducting children for soldiers and sex-slaves. UK-based charity War Child gives details.

Besides Obo, the US forces also have a forward base in Nzara in South Sudan, the East African reports.  While the role of the soldiers will be limited to training, assisting and providing vital intelligence information specific to the execution of the operation, Uganda’s military is upbeat that the US’s hi-tech assets and skills will shorten the span of the operation and limit casualties.

The US deployment is a fulfillment of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010. The Act authorises comprehensive US efforts to mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA to civilians and regional stability.

The Invisible Children charity has set up an LRA Crisis Tracker which documents LRA attacks.

The African Union has appointed former Mozambican foreign minister Francisco Caetano José Madeira as its special envoy to the anti-LRA taskforce to contain. He will work on mobilizing assistance for the victims of LRA atrocities and rebuilding shattered communities.

Find out more with the following back issues of the Africa Research Bulletin

US Backs LRA Hunt (Political, Social and Cultural Series, Vol 48 no 10) 

Uganda: Increased Defence Budget (Political, Social and Cultural Series, Vol 48 no 8) 

DR Congo. LRA Killings.  P 18912c (Political, Social and Cultural Series, Vol 48 no 7) 

Child Soldier Recruitment Continues (Political, Social and Cultural Series, Vol 48 no 4) 

LRA Attack (Political, Social and Cultural Series, Vol 48 no 3) 

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