United Nations and African Union envoys today highlighted a new regional strategy that they hope will bring an end to the activities of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and help affected populations.
“While the strategy has been developed by United Nations, the process was carried out in consultation with the African Union (AU), the affected States and their partners. Therefore, its success depends on the willingness of all actors to support and implement the proposed actions,” the Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), Abou Moussa, told a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York.
“The ultimate objective is to ensure that the LRA is stopped, those who are suffering from these atrocities are assisted and we provide opportunities for affected populations such as infrastructure and long-term development programmes that will ensure that the factors that contribute to the establishment of rebel groups are eliminated,” he added.
The LRA carried out the worst of its atrocities in northern Ugandan in the 1990s, but had, by 2004, largely been driven of the area through a sustained military effort. However, remnants of the insurgent group continued to attack civilians in South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Led by Joseph Kony, the group is notorious for carrying out massacres in villages, mutilating its victims and abducting boys for use as child soldiers, while girls are forced into sexual slavery.
In November 2011, the Security Council mandated that UNOCA coordinate the development of a regional strategy to address the LRA threat.
The UN Regional Strategy for the LRA, which will be officially presented to the Council on Wednesday, focuses on five key strategic objectives, including the provision of support for the full operationalization and implementation of the AU regional cooperation initiative against the LRA, and to enhance efforts to promote the protection of civilians.
It also seeks to expand current disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration activities to cover all LRA-affected areas; to promote a coordinated humanitarian and child protection response in these areas; and to provide support to LRA-affected governments in the fields of peacebuilding, human rights, rule of law and development to enable them to establish State authority across their territories.
As part of their efforts to counter the LRA threat, the four affected countries launched a joint military task force in March to pursue the rebel fighters.
Addressing the same news conference as Mr. Moussa, the AU Special Envoy on the LRA, Francisco Madeira, said that the task force has been authorized and is almost operational. Its headquarters will be in the South Sudanese town of Yambio, where senior army commanders will be based and coordinate the operations of the force, which is expected to be 5,000 strong at full deployment.
Each contingent will have a sector headquarters in its own country of origin and will be commanded by a national of that country, while the overall commander, who has been appointed by the AU, will coordinate and command the force.
The expected results are “stop Kony, stop his atrocities, neutralize this man and make sure that the populations return to normalcy and experience development and stability,” Mr. Madeira said.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a recent report, said he is encouraged by the growing cooperation among stakeholders working to eliminate the threat posed by LRA, and called on the international community to support the implementation of the regional strategy.
“Only by providing the necessary resources will we be able to ensure the success of continuing efforts by the national authorities, the African Union and other international partners in this regard,” he wrote.
After a lull in LRA raids in the second half of last year, attacks against civilians in LRA-affected areas were again on the rise this year in CAR and the DRC, with 53 incidents reported in the first quarter of 2012, according to the Secretary-General's report.