In recent weeks, conflicts in South Sudan and the Central African Republic have intensified regional turmoil. A new Enough Project report, “Counter-LRA Mission Challenged by Regional Turmoil,” analyzes the effect of intensifying conflict in South Sudan and the Central African Republic on the Lord’s Resistance Army’s tactics and the ongoing counter-LRA mission.
The report, written by Uganda-based Enough Project field researcher Kasper Agger, draws on field research and interviews, and argues that violence in the Central African Republic and South Sudan is diverting attention and military forces from counter-LRA operations and providing a dream scenario for LRA rebels to hide and avoid capture.
Over the past month, Uganda’s military attention has shifted due to escalating violence in South Sudan as Ugandan troops were deployed to South Sudan to support government forces. The report states that direct involvement of the Ugandan army in South Sudan risks drawing military assets away from the counter-LRA mission. Ugandan forces make up the majority of the African Union force, and Uganda is a vital partner for the U.S.military advisors.
The counter-LRA mission also faces air transportation needs that exceed capacity. African troops and U.S. advisors need additional helicopters to be able to act on timely intelligence, conduct simultaneous operations to track top commanders in multiple locations, resupply deployed troops, protect civilians, and facilitate emergency evacuations. The new report argues that the U.S. government should send additional helicopters that have the speed, versatility, and transport capabilities that could best serve the mission and help counter-LRA forces keep pace with highly mobile LRA rebel groups that operate in vast and isolated areas.
Until now, the mission has seen increasing positive results, including evidence of LRA groups being disorganized, and defectors reporting that Kony has not kept contact in over 18 months. In December 2013, efforts yielded the largest defection from the LRA in five years and current estimates of LRA membership is estimated to be 500-700 people, with the number of combatants now estimated to be as low as 250 to 300 fighters. However, the LRA will remain a threat, and will remain able to regroup until its command structure is dissolved and Joseph Kony is brought to justice.
With stability in central Africa becoming increasingly compromised, the time is now to act to stop the LRA. In order to ensure that recent gains made by counter-LRA efforts are maintianed, increased international support—from the U.N, African Union, European Union, and U.S.—is vital to bring a final end to the LRA rebel group.