In a recent report to the United Nations Security Council, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon provided an update on the ongoing regional and international efforts to end the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, and capture its notorious leader, Joseph Kony, wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The secretary-general’s report comes at a critical time, as the first three months of this year saw a major upswing in LRA activity, with 53 LRA attacks, abductions, and other incidents reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, or CAR. More than 5,000 people were displaced by LRA activity in the first three months of 2012, bringing the total number of internally displaced people and refugees in the region to 445,000. Attacks and abductions have continued in Congo and CAR.
In the report, the secretary-general emphasized major challenges for the African Union’s Regional Cooperation Initiative against the LRA. The African Union Peace and Security Council authorized the initiative on November 22, 2011, and it was formally launched on March 24, 2012. The initiative calls for the formation of a regional task force of 5,000 troops from the four countries that have been affected by the LRA (Uganda, Congo, CAR, and South Sudan), as well as mechanisms for coordination between the various state actors. While the governments of the affected countries have affirmed their support for the initiative, a paucity of resources continues to bog down the mission. The report notes:
The political will notwithstanding, the national authorities highlighted implementation challenges, including the need for additional resources, equipment, training, transportation and food rations to enable troops to mount effective operations against [the] LRA.
Secretary-General Ban called on the international community to aid in the procurement of resources, warning that the lack of “adequate and predictable funding” threatens the ability of the African Union to effectively counter the LRA threat.
The report also stressed the need for cooperation between state actors, “both at the political and operational levels,” hinting at the ineffectiveness of current intelligence sharing and operations coordination.“[M]ilitary intelligence chiefs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda agreed that there was a need to enhance cooperation and information sharing related to LRA,” the report noted. The secretary-general’s report may also have been indirectly referencing certain diplomatic incongruities whereby the Ugandan People’s Defense Force, or UPDF, the primary force engaged in offensive operations against the LRA, is denied access to Congo as well as parts of CAR where the LRA is active.
The report noted the continuing need for long-term development in LRA-affected areas to grapple with underlying issues such as a lack of government authority, widespread poverty, and high rates of unemployment—all of which “fuelled the emergence and existence of armed groups.”
Finally, the report mentioned the regional strategy being developed by the A.U. and U.N. on the LRA. The strategy will focus on five key areas: operationalization and implementation of the A.U. initiative; civilian protection; disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement, and reintegration efforts; humanitarian and child protection; and support for the affected governments in the areas of peacebuilding, human rights, rule of law, and development to enable the establishment of state authority throughout their territory. It will be submitted to the Security Council shortly for their review.
Photo: Ugandan soldiers on the hunt for the LRA in Central African Republic (AP)