Enough Project Press Release
Central Africa: Access to Remote Areas Needed to Eliminate The LRA Rebel Group
Washington, D.C. — Today, as the U.N. Security Council meets to discuss the status of the counter-Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, mission, the Enough Project released a new report, highlighting gaps in the fight to eliminate the LRA. The report, “Blind Spots: Gaining Access to Where the LRA Operates”, based on field research across central Africa, emphasizes a major obstacle in eliminating the rebel group: the lack of access to remote areas in central Africa where the LRA is known to be hiding and operating.
The counter-LRA mission, led by Ugandan forces and backed by the U.S.-supported African Union Regional Task Force, or AU-RTF, has made significant progress in the past two years, including increased defections from the rebel group, a decrease of more than 50 percent in attacks, and significant improvement for human security and protection of civilians.
“Gaining Access” argues that despite the AU-RTF’s progress in eliminating some of the LRA’s safe havens, including longtime strongholds in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, LRA history reveals that the group can survive in a shrunken state and expand rapidly when circumstances and external support allow, a factor that can significantly curb the momentum of the mission, unless the senior leadership of LRA is removed and the group completely dismantled. The rebels are down to only 250-300 fighters, but are responsible for the displacement of more than 350,000 civilians. The LRA have found safe havens in remote areas of northeastern DRC, the eastern parts of Central African Republic and in the Sudan controlled Kafia Kingi enclave—where logistical and political blocks have denied the AU-RTF access to pursue the LRA.
Kasper Agger, author of the report, states:
“The endgame of removing LRA leader Joseph Kony from the battlefield and neutralizing the LRA is imperiled by the lack of access to wide swathes of central Africa where the group still hides. Expanded regional cooperation and increased logistical support for the mission are critical to boosting ongoing counter-LRA efforts and bringing a final end to the LRA rebel group.”
Currently, the largest hindrances to access are the lack of cooperation among regional governments and uncoordinated international support for the AU-RTF. Counter-LRA efforts are also undermined by the lack of full cross-border coordination, information sharing among regional forces, and limited logistical capabilities to cover large areas where the LRA reside. The report calls on international stakeholders, the United Nations, the African Union and the U.S. to use diplomatic leverage to forge an agreement between the leaders of the Sudans, Uganda, the DRC and the Central African Republic to ensure access for AU-RTF troops to all areas where the LRA operate and general support for counter-LRA efforts within their territories. The international community can also play a key role in ensuring a fully operational AU-RTF, equipped with sufficient communications assets and increased logistical capacity.
Consolidating and increasing the support for the mission will not only boost the decades-long effort to eliminate the LRA, but could also serve as a model for how to secure the long-term security of remote border areas in Africa.
Read the full report, “Blind Spots: Gaining Access to Areas Where the LRA Operates”: http://enoughproject.org/files/BlindSpots-GainingAccesstoWhereLRAOperates.pdf