Washington, DC — U.S. military advisors sent to East and Central Africa to help end the Lord's Resistance Army conflict have had some success, but need more support in order for the mission to accomplish its goals of helping to apprehend LRA leader Joseph Kony and his top deputies and disband the group, according to a new Enough Project report.
The report, "Mission in the Balance: Challenges for U.S. Advisers in Helping To End the LRA," said that more capable forces are needed in LRA affected areas, better transport including helicopters is required, and enhanced intelligence gathering is necessary to defeat the brutal rebel movement. The report is based on field research conducted in the Central African Republic in March-April 2012 and includes an informative video.
"The mission of the U.S. troops will fail in its objective of capturing Kony and ending the LRA unless some serious enhancements are added to the overall effort," said John Prendergast, Enough Project co-founder.
"Gaining access to the areas where Kony might be, increasing the number of African special forces focusing on Kony's capture, adding new African forces to protect civilians, and providing transport helicopters are all necessary prerequisites for success. What a waste of taxpayers' money it will have been to send U.S. forces to the region and then not have ensured that sufficient elements are in place for their mission to succeed."
Started in Uganda more than 25 years ago, the LRA, led by wanted war criminal Joseph Kony, preys on villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Recent reports suggest the LRA may be in or near the Darfur region of Sudan, and could migrate to Chad. Last week, Uganda captured senior LRA commander Caesar Acellam in CAR.
"The resent capture of high ranking LRA commander Caesar Acellam is a major step in the quest to end the LRA and is likely to provide vital intelligence about the rebel group. The capture creates a unique window of opportunity that could see the final end of LRA provided that military and non-military pressure is increased considerably," said Kasper Agger, Enough Project LRA field researcher and author of the report. "The time for debate is over. Policy makers across the region and internationally must take the necessary steps to end the continued suffering of civilians who pay the ultimate price for the horrible atrocities committed by the LRA."
Ugandan troops pursuing the LRA must be granted access to all areas of CAR, South Sudan and Congo, and the report urges President Obama to press Congolese President Kabila to allow access for troops in pursuit of the LRA. U.S. advisors should also be allowed to work further from their bases to enable them to provide more effective training to regional armies, the report said.
"The disturbing fact is that the LRA continues to operate freely in the border areas of Congo, South Sudan and CAR," said Agger. "Several commentators and reports have indicated that LRA is in 'survival mode.' However, we have found that the LRA is able to move freely in the border region, has increased its area of operation and continues to be responsible for looting, attacks and abductions in Central Africa."
The report calls for an increase in civilian protection capacity, enhanced efforts to encourage the defections of LRA fighters, and improved roads and infrastructure in the region as ways to end the LRA and the human suffering the group has caused.