In a new report released this week, Enough Project’s partner organization, Resolve, highlights priorities that the U.S. government should focus on to achieve its objectives of ending the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, and rebuilding affected communities. The report, “Peace Can Be: President Obama’s Chance to Help End LRA Atrocities in 2012,” is based on extensive field research recently conducted by Resolve in Central Africa. It describes tactics that LRA leaders have used to evade arrest and justice for the past 25 years, and examines the challenges that could impede the Obama administration’s strategy to end the operations of the rebel group.
The report recognizes that the Obama administration’s deployment of U.S. troops to LRA-affected areas has refocused regional and international attention on the crisis, but points out that this has yet to translate into adequate progress in ending LRA violence on the ground. It warns, “If current initiatives fail to break apart the LRA’s command structure, the group will be poised to survive indefinitely and eventually replenish its strength in the tri-border region.”
Therefore, to ensure that current initiatives are successful in ending the LRA and bringing lasting peace to the war-torn region, the report identifies four main priority areas that President Obama should focus on: rebuilding regional cooperation, working with Uganda to apprehend LRA commanders and protect civilians, scaling up investments in early warning systems, and helping communities recover and rebuild.
Furthermore, the report offers specific recommendations for the Obama administration, some of which include:
1. Secure greater commitment from the leaders of Uganda, the Central African Republic, Congo, and South Sudan to ensure successful counter-LRA activities. The U.S. should specifically encourage the Ugandan government to deploy more helicopters and dedicate more troops to combating the LRA.
2. Fund the deployment of troop transport support and communications equipment, and provide increased intelligence capabilities.
3. Task the U.S. military advisors with integrating protection strategies into apprehension operations, and reporting alleged military abuses against civilians.
4. Incorporate civilian protection into Ugandan military operations. The U.S. military advisors and the Ugandan military should share information with the local civilian early warning network systems. The Ugandan military should also be encouraged to increase its translation capacity in French, Pazande, Lingala and Fulani.
5. Urge national governments in Central Africa to publicly acknowledge that the LRA is a threat, and to hold military forces accountable for any human rights abuses committed.
6. Encourage defections from the LRA. Community radio networks must be expanded in areas, especially in areas heavily trafficked by the LRA. Local communities should also be sensitized and made aware of the importance of welcoming back former LRA members.
7. Support and reintegrate LRA escapees. The Obama administration should support U.N.-coordinated strategies to return escaped children, develop a regional strategy for escaped adults, and increase overall funding for psychosocial, education, and livelihood support for LRA escapees and affected communities.
8. Encourage the Ugandan government to renew its Amnesty Act. Amnesty should be granted to all former LRA combatants unless they have been indicted by the International Criminal Court, or ICC. Furthermore, former combatants should not be forcibly conscripted into the Ugandan army.
Read the full report, “Peace Can Be: President Obama’s chance to help end LRA atrocities in 2012.”
Photo: President Obama signs the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009. (White House)