United Nations (New York)

Central Africa: Press Conference On United Nations Strategy On Lord's Resistance Army

press conference

Photo: Voxcom/IRIN
Lord's Resistance Army soldiers (file photo).

The success of a new United Nations strategy against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) would depend on the willingness of all the actors to support and implement the proposed actions, correspondents were told today at a Headquarters press conference on the potential impact of the initiative.

Abou Moussa, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), said that the strategy, which would be introduced to the Security Council tomorrow, focused on five key objectives, including providing support for the full start up of the African Union-led Regional Cooperation Initiative against the notorious Ugandan rebel group.

Other key objectives were enhancing efforts to protect civilians; expanding current disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration activities to cover all LRA-affected areas; promoting coordinated humanitarian and child protection response in those areas; and providing support to LRA-affected Governments in the fields of peacebuilding, human rights, rule of law and development to enable them establish State authority across their territories.

He was joined by Francisco Madeira, the African Union Special Envoy for the LRA; Jan Egeland, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch; Michael Poffenberger of Resolve; Father Benoît Kinalegu, President of Dungu-Doruma Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and Sister Angélique Namaika, Dynamic Women for Peace, also of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mr. Moussa said that the preparation of the strategy followed the mandate given to UNOCA by the Security Council on 14 November 2011 to coordinate the development of a regional strategy to address the threat posed by LRA. The United Nations had worked with the four LRA-affected countries and their partners, the African Union and other United Nations offices to develop the strategy.

Although it was developed by the United Nations, the process was carried out in consultation with the African Union, the affected States and their partners, he said. He commended the excellent work being done by national and international non-governmental organizations in the affected countries in responding to the needs of the populations.

The ultimate objective of the strategy was to ensure that LRA was stopped, that those were suffering from its atrocities were assisted and that opportunities were provided for the affected populations, such as through infrastructure and long-term development programmes that would ensure the factors contributing to the establishment of rebel groups were eliminated.

In his contribution, Mr. Madeira said that his task was to ensure the full implementation of the African Union Cooperation Initiative. Under that programme, the four affected countries had agreed that activities against the organization which they had carried out separately should now be carried out in a coordinated and complementary manner so as to enhance effectiveness and results.

A force had been set up with headquarters in South Sudan and with 30 senior army commanders coordinating operations, he went on. When fully deployed, it would be 5,000 strong and each contingent would have a sector headquarters in each zone of its country of origin and would be commanded by a national of that country. An overall commander, appointed by the African Union, would coordinate and command the force. The force had been authorized and was almost operational.

A technical mission was currently in the field to assess the situation to determine how many forces could be immediately deployed and to come up with a concept of operation, Mr. Madeira said. That concept of operation would involve military and non-military actors and comprise the different humanitarian agencies already on the ground and others that would be added later.

The idea was, on the basis of the strategy, to see how the contingents could complement each other and produce the required results, he went on. Those results were to stop LRA leader Joseph Kony and to stop his atrocities, neutralize him and make sure that the population returned to normalcy and experienced development and stability.

Mr. Madeira expressed appreciation and admiration for the work being done by humanitarian organization in the affected areas, in particular Invisible Children, which "had been able to make the world know that there was a tyrant in Africa maiming, raping and destroying the lives of young Africans".

Father Kinalegu hailed the efforts of African Union to eradicate LRA. He also said that there had been good initiatives at the national level and by civil society. What was needed was for the international community, through the United Nations, to support the new strategy in order to allow for the eradication of LRA.

For her part, Sister Namaika said she ran a training programme for victims of the atrocities committed by LRA. Her organization provided vocational training to the victims to help them reintegrate into society. There were, however, lots of shortcomings preventing their reintegration into society. Help was needed from donors and the international community so that aid to the victims could be expanded.

Mr. Egeland expressed gratitude that there was a new regional programme targeting the atrocities by the rebel group and said that it pointed to more commitment by the United Nations and the international community.

The LRA problem was, however, in its twenty-sixth year. It had been described as the worst "forgotten emergency" in the world. LRA was no longer only in one place, but had spread to other areas. He said there had been 53 attacks by the group this year - including new attacks this week - and the international community should not be complacent.

In response to a question by a correspondent, Mr. Moussa said that each State participating in the strategy was supposed to contribute a battalion to the force. He added that in order to find the LRA members, it would be necessary to go into the places where they were. For that, the force would require the latest technologies and the United States could assist in that regard. The United States could also help in training the soldiers and teaching them to work in the service of their people.

Mr. Egeland, to another question, said that Human Rights Watch stood by every word in its reporting and research on Rwanda's role with regard to Bosco Ntagada. That reporting had gone through stringent verification and the organization had confirmed information that Rwanda had supported the war criminal Bosco Ntaganda. That action made it difficult to achieve any objective the international community might have in central Africa. The United Nations had reached the same conclusion.

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