Washington is increasing military assistance to the African-led mission targeting Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
“Since the first deployment of U.S. troops in 2011 to advise and assist the African Union Regional Task Force countering the Lord’s Resistance Army, I have strongly supported ongoing military efforts to kill or capture Joseph Kony and protect innocent civilians. That support continues today with the deployment of additional aircraft and 150 U.S. military personnel to assist African militaries in the hunt for Kony and what remains of the LRA’s leadership,” said Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs Chairman Chris Coons (D-Del.).
“Encouraging progress has been made in the counter-LRA mission, including an increased number of defections of LRA operatives, the killing or capturing of LRA commanders, and a sharp reduction in the number of attacks against communities,” Coons added. “I hope this deployment will provide African troops with the additional tools they need to restore peace and security to communities across Central Africa that have, for too long, been terrorized by Joseph Kony and the LRA.”
The effort to hunt down Kony began under the George W. Bush administration, when the president sent 17 advisers to assist Ugandan troops. Obama sent additional assistance in 2011.
The guerrilla leader was indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005 for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including kidnapping children to serve as soldiers in his group or as sex slaves.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) estimated in December that 326,000 people were displaced or living as refugees across the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and South Sudan as a result of the LRA threat.
“The United States’ comprehensive, multi-year strategy seeks to help the Governments of Uganda, the CAR, the DRC, and South Sudan as well as the African Union and United Nations to mitigate and end the threat posed to civilians and regional stability by the LRA. The strategy outlines four key objectives for U.S. support: (1) the increased protection of civilians; (2) the apprehension or removal of Joseph Kony and senior LRA commanders from the battlefield; (3) the promotion of defections and support of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of remaining LRA fighters; and (4) the provision of continued humanitarian relief to affected communities,” the State Department said today.
“There are significant challenges in pursuing small groups of LRA and protecting local populations across this vast, densely-forested area that lacks basic road and telecommunications infrastructure. The United States – through the Department of Defense, Department of State, and U.S. Agency for International Development – has pursued innovative, multi-faceted efforts to help regional partners overcome those challenges,” the fact sheet continues.
“…The U.S. military advisors are working to facilitate coordination, information sharing, and tactical coordination amongst regional forces; enhance the capacity of the regional militaries to fuse intelligence with effective operational planning; promote defections from LRA ranks, and support efforts to improve civil-military relations through increased coordination and communication with local populations and NGOs. The State Department has deployed a field officer to work alongside U.S. military advisors. In addition, to augment ongoing efforts to bring the LRA’s top leaders to justice, the Secretary of State authorized rewards for up to $5 million for information leading to the arrests and/or conviction of top LRA leaders Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen.”