SECURITY: Questions over progress against the LRA
JOHANNESBURG, 25 February 2012 (IRIN) - The US believes its military
intervention in central Africa in pursuit of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance
Army (LRA) is having the desired effect, reducing attacks and improving
civilian protection - although analysts have reservations.
In 2011, the US deployed about 100 troops to the Democratic Republic of
Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan and Uganda to
assist the region’s military forces in killing or capturing Kony and his
senior command, following President Barack Obama Administration’s
announcement in November 2010 to deal decisively with the armed group.
Karl Wycoff, the US deputy assistant secretary for African affairs, in a
telephone briefing on 22 February, told IRIN: “Over recent months the
military of Uganda, CAR, DRC and South Sudan have continued to carry out
operations against the LRA. We are supporting them in these efforts. We are
providing logistical support to help the Ugandan military sustain its
forward operations against the LRA. We are funding, for example, some
airlift, fuel and other transport support for their troops. In the DRC we
trained and equipped a Congolese battalion that is now operating in
LRA-affected areas of the DRC and we are also working with the UN
peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO [UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the
About US$40 million has been provided by the US so far in support of the
Ugandan military effort.
MONUSCO and Congolese forces were involved in recent operations to prevent
any repeats of the LRA’s 2008 and 2009 Christmas massacres, he said, and the
US was also providing support to CAR and South Sudan military forces.
“With our support, these four military forces continue to make progress in
reducing the LRA numbers and keeping them from regrouping. We believe it is
critical the militaries in the region continue to work together to keep the
pressure on the LRA and protect their own citizens. As we have seen in the
past, the LRA will exploit any reduction in military or diplomatic pressure
to regroup and rebuild their forces,” Wycloff said.
Still dancing to Kony’s tune
He cited UN statistics saying that in 2011 there were 278 attacks attributed
to the LRA and more than 300 abductions, but in the second half of the year,
which coincided with the deployment of US troops, incidents “appear” to have
decreased - although about 465,000 people in the region were displaced or
living as refugees in 2011 because of LRA activities.
Rear Admiral Brian Losey, commander of Special Operations Command Africa,
believed the drop in attacks was a result of the US and local military
operations and the “numbers of [LRA] fighters have been reduced to 200 or
so... We do not have a specific timeline with this mission, nor is it
However, Phil Lancaster, one of the authors of the 2011 International
Working Group on the LRA report,
> Diagnostic Study of the
Lord’s Resistance Army and former head of the disarmament, demobilization
and reintegration division of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC), predecessor
to MONUSCO, told IRIN, “Estimates of core numbers have bounced between 250
and 150 for the past 18 months.
“He [Wycoff] doesn't know any more than anyone else what is going on inside
the LRA... The important thing now is what Kony is actually doing and as far
as anyone can tell, he is still in control and calling the tune the rest of
us dance to.”
The LRA, which relies on forced recruitment, and more often than not the use
of child soldiers, to bolster its ranks, has largely operated with a core
strength of about 250 fighters from its inception in the 1980s, say
A 22 February briefing note by the Small Arms Survey (SAS),
an-LRA.php> Lord's Resistance Army Update said although in 2012 there had
been no reported attacks in South Sudan or CAR since 18 January, “raids in
northeastern DRC have increased this year”.
“At least 12 attacks were reported in the first two weeks of February, all
in or near areas where LRA groups have attacked during the last three years.
Ngilima, Bangadi, Dungu and areas around Faradje have been consistently
targeted by LRA combatants, indicating a return to old bases, particularly
in Garamba National Park,” the update said.
Lack of regional cooperation
The SAS update also questioned the level of cooperation between regional
forces and the DRC, considering President Joseph Kabila’s government
antipathy towards Ugandan troops on its soil. Of the four contributing
military forces, Ugandans are viewed as the most professional.
“Ugandan troops are not officially allowed to enter the DRC, even though the
Congolese army units located in areas with an LRA presence are notoriously
incapable of dealing with the rebels... This refusal to allow Ugandan
troops, and by association US advisers, to enter the DRC has impeded the
Americans’ drive to remove top LRA commanders from the battlefield,” the SAS
Resolve, a US-based advocacy NGO, said in a February 2012 report,
df> Peace Can Be. President Obama’s chance to help end LRA atrocities in
2012, questioned Uganda’s commitment to continued operations against the
LRA, as its border regions were no longer threatened by the armed group and
since 2009 it has withdrawn more than half its soldiers dedicated to the
pursuit of Kony and his senior commanders.
Uganda’s military is also heavily committed to the AU Mission in Somalia
(AMISOM), which in recent
> days has seen a renewed
emphasis by the international community to resolving the conflict in the
Measuring success against the LRA in terms of reduced attacks was also
“In the second half of 2011, the LRA dramatically reduced its attacks,
particularly those involving killings of civilians. Regional military forces
interpret these trends as a sign that the rebel group’s capacity has been
severely deci¬mated. However, the LRA’s proven ability to protect its core
commanders and to regenerate itself if given the op¬portunity should inspire
“LRA commanders may be intentionally reducing violence against civilians in
the hopes that renewed US and regional initiatives lose mo¬mentum. 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,” the report said.
Resolve said the US commitment was also threatened by the 2012 presidential
campaign as “the Obama Administration may encounter domestic pressure to
withdraw the US military advisers before they have achieved their
Among Resolve’s recommendations to end the “predations” of the LRA, was
“convincing” Uganda to devote more troops to the fight, increasing
“intelligence and aerial mobility support to the Ugandans”, and “especially
to ensure that Congo [DRC] allows the Ugandan military conditional access to
Congolese territory affected by the LRA”.
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Received on Sat Feb 25 2012 - 17:53:58 EST