FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration’s recent deployment of U.S. Special Forces advisers to assist in the fight to end the Lord’s Resistance Army is a critical first step towards achieving that objective, but much more needs to be done to help end Central Africa’s longest running war and heal the devastated region, a coalition of rights groups said in its third quarterly report on the administration’s policy towards dealing with the crisis.
The groups Resolve, Invisible Children, and the Enough Project gave the Obama administration high marks for engagement and efforts to apprehend the LRA leadership, but also assigned lower marks for protecting civilians and encouraging LRA fighters to defect in the groups’ LRA Strategy Report Card. The groups noted that hundreds of thousands of civilians remain vulnerable to rebel raids across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
"U.S. policy is beginning to hone in on the kinds of measures that are required to finally bring an end to the devastation wrought by the LRA," said John Prendergast, the co-founder of the Enough Project. "With the significant step of deploying U.S. forces, the Obama administration has new leverage to ask other nations to help in a multinational effort to end the LRA as we know it. With the right African troops on the ground, the proper transport support, and a sufficient intelligence surge, Africa's longest-running militia could be neutralized, thus providing a new measure of security to millions of people throughout Central Africa."
One year ago, President Obama unveiled his strategy for ending the LRA scourge as mandated in the bipartisan LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. The administration made little visible progress on implementing the strategy until last month when President Obama deployed the military advisers, a hugely significant step. As required by the LRA legislation, the Secretary of State will release a report later this month about progress made toward implementing the President's strategy. The strategy calls for action in five areas, which the Report Card grades.
"The President's recent deployment of military advisers is a huge step forward in the administration’s multi-year effort to disarm the LRA," said Ben Keesey, the CEO of Invisible Children. "Thousands of advocates who rallied in support of the LRA Disarmament Bill stand behind the President's commitment. However, the U.S. advisers on the ground will quickly see the significant mobility and intelligence challenges that face any operation aimed at stopping LRA violence and we hope that the President provides the resources necessary to overcome these challenges and disarm the LRA once and for all."
The LRA has preyed on civilians in Central Africa for nearly 25 years. The rebel group has abducted tens of thousands of children and has been notorious for hacking off the lips and noses of their victims. The rights groups gave the Obama administration good marks for helping communities survive and rebuild noting that non-food humanitarian relief increased from $8.3 million to more than $13 million.
“The level of commitment senior US officials showed in deploying US military advisers must now be focused on diplomatic efforts to improve regional collaboration, especially between Uganda and Congo,” said Michael Poffenberger, Executive Director of Resolve. “The Administration also needs to dedicate significantly more resources towards improving civilian early warning mechanisms and supporting UN efforts to encourage LRA fighters to peacefully surrender.”
Read the full report: “President Obama’s LRA Strategy Report Card – Issue #3.”