The United Nations-backed military initiative launched recently by the African Union against the terror group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has kept its members constantly on the move and unable to settle down in any one place for long, according to a UN envoy.
In March, the African Union launched the UN-supported Regional Cooperation Initiative against the LRA (RCI-LRA) and its military component, the Regional Task Force (RTF), to hunt down the LRA and its leader, Joseph Kony – with troops drawn from the four countries affected by the group’s depredations – Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
“I think because of the renewed commitment of the four countries, the LRA group doesn’t have any time to settle down any more,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), Abou Moussa, said in an interview. “They move a lot, but I am sure they will have to abandon [that] in the end.”
Formed in the 1980s in Uganda, the LRA mainly directed its attacks against Ugandan civilians and security forces for over 15 years. By 2004, it had largely been driven of the area through a sustained military effort. It then exported its activities to Uganda’s neighbouring countries, with practices that include the recruitment of children, rapes, killing and maiming, and sexual slavery.
Mr. Moussa said that LRA raiders “are roaming between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic because of the density of the forest and because of the vast areas where there is no government.”
“Even though the 5,000 troops have not yet been [fully] mobilized there are preliminary actions that are taking place in the field which we have been able to observe … that is keeping the LRA and their people very uneasy,” he added.
He said that the RTF is receiving training and intelligence assistance from a group of United States military advisers deployed in the region.
Although current estimates suggest that the LRA comprises less than 500 combatants operating under Mr. Kony’s leadership, the group’s capacity to attack and terrorise and harm local communities, according to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
After a lull in LRA raids in the second half of last year, which resulted in improved security in the DRC’s north-east, new attacks on civilians were reported early this year in the DRC territories of Dungu, Faradje, Watsa, Niangara, Bondo and Ango.