The Enough Project, along with the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Invisible Children, and Resolve, signed a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Chairperson of the African Union Commission Jean Ping this week calling for the rapid implementation of the recently approved “U.N. Regional Strategy to Address the Threat and Impact of the Activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).”
Today, the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, a Ugandan rebel movement that began in 1987, continues to terrorize civilian communities throughout the border regions of Central African Republic, or CAR, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan. In recent months, the LRA has grown bolder in its attacks, threatening regional security in an already volatile area.
However, the governments of these affected countries continue to downplay the LRA threat and refuse to take the steps necessary to protect civilians and end the LRA crisis. Troops deployed to LRA-affected areas are poorly paid and trained and often prey on local civilian communities. The ongoing withdrawal of Ugandan forces from CAR continues to place greater numbers of civilians at risk of LRA attack, and the recent transfer of the Congolese 391st Battalion to Goma has left a security vacuum in northeastern Congo where the LRA can operate with impunity.
Moreover, cooperation between the affected governments remains poor at best. Ugandan troops—the primary offensive force pursuing the LRA—are denied access to Congo and northeastern CAR, where the LRA operate virtually unopposed. In addition, Uganda, CAR, Congo, and South Sudan have yet to develop a unified response to reports of LRA presence in South Darfur, Sudan.
The letter urges Secretary-General Ban and Chairperson Ping to address the failure of governments in the LRA-affected countries to prioritize protecting civilians and collaborate on cross-border solutions—the “most pressing challenges to the effective implementation of the strategy.” In particular, the letter recommends the following three steps:
- Ensure thorough investigation of LRA activity. Due to the size and remoteness of the LRA-affected regions, many attacks go unreported or unverified, and there is little follow-up to reports of LRA activity. The U.N. and the A.U. need to task and fund a special team to investigate these reports in order to establish solid information regarding LRA operations and the location of commanders. This is especially important for Darfur and the disputed Kafia Kingi enclave, where the U.N. and A.U. must gain permission from the government of Sudan to investigate troubling claims of LRA activity.
- Convene a side meeting at the U.N. General Assembly focused on the LRA. A meeting is needed in order to address tensions between the governments of LRA-affected countries (particularly the issue of access for the Ugandan army to Congo and parts of CAR), resolve lingering issues that hamper cross-border efforts to combat the LRA (including the problem of inadequate troops), develop a unified response to the alleged LRA presence in Darfur, and attain commitments from A.U. member states and international donors to meet the resource requirements for the regional response.
- Ensure LRA-affected governments do more to protect civilians. More oversight is needed to confirm that affected governments publicly acknowledge the LRA threat, ensure that troops are vetted for human rights abuses and are properly paid, trained, and equipped, and ensure that governments establish or reform judicial and security institutions in LRA-affected regions.
Photo: Ugandan soldiers on the hunt for the LRA (AP)