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UN official stresses importance of international support for anti-LRA efforts

Congolese villagers displaced by LRA attacks find shelter with host families in Dungu.
UNHCR/M. Hofer
Congolese villagers displaced by LRA attacks find shelter with host families in Dungu.

UN official stresses importance of international support for anti-LRA efforts

A United Nations official today spoke out on the importance of sustained international efforts to bring the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to justice.

“It is very crucial because we’re in this area the size of California that has no road infrastructure, no communication infrastructure and very little protection infrastructure,” Matthew Brubacher, a disarmament and political affairs officer with the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), told the UN News Centre in an interview.

With the backing of the United Nations and the African Union, four African countries affected by the activities of the LRA – Uganda, Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – recently launched a joint military task force, made up of 5,000 soldiers, to pursue the rebel fighters, including the group’s leader, Joseph Kony.

“It is extremely important. Hardly any of these forces could sustain their deployment without international support – that’s just on the military side,” said Mr. Brubacher, who has focused on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration issues involving the LRA for close to a decade.

UN disarmament officer Matthew Brubacher, with close to a decade of experience on the issue of the Lord's Resistance Army, speaks about efforts to halt the group's activities. Credit: UN Webcast

The LRA was formed in the 1980s in Uganda and for over 15 years its attacks were mainly directed against Ugandan civilians and security forces, which in 2002 dislodged the rebels. They then exported their activities to Uganda’s neighbouring countries, with practices that include the recruitment of children, rapes, killing and maiming, and sexual slavery.

Since the beginning of this year, more than 4,200 people have been displaced as a result of LRA activity in DRC’s Orientale Province, in the country’s east.

Mr. Brubacher said the UN is helping build early warning systems in the country, such as high-frequency radios powered by solar power, so that communities in the region can report twice a day and warn if there is any LRA activity in their area – an important factor given the distances involved.

“They are basically like islands, they don’t really move between each other,” Mr. Brubacher said. “They can warn the village south of them ‘we saw an LRA group, they’re moving south’ and that village can warn the people don’t go out to your fields today.”

In light of the recent growing global public awareness of the LRA, Mr. Brubacher noted the special circumstances affecting those who serve with it.

“Every member of the LRA is a victim – that’s very unique in such an armed group,” said Mr. Brubacher. “Every defector who comes out himself has been abducted and forced to kill.”

To help address the threat and the impact of the LRA, the UN contributes through political, peacekeeping, human rights, humanitarian and development activities. Its efforts are carried out in support of the AU and the governments and people of the four affected countries in collaboration with other partners.