New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: New Colonel Takes Over Command

The African Union regional taskforce to hunt for the remnants of Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has begun its work.

Col. Dick Prit Olum Tuesday evening took over command of the operation during a ceremony held in Yambio, South Sudan.

He will be deputized by Col. Gabriel Ayok Akuok of Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

The ceremony was attended by the American ambassador to South Sudan, Susan Denise Page, representatives from the European Union, and civil society organisations.

The 5,000-strong region intervention force includes troops from the LRA-affected countries of South Sudan, Uganda, DR Congo and Central African Republic (CAR).

Of these, Uganda has contributed 2,000 soldiers, with 500 from South Sudan and 350 from CAR.

The African Union's Special Envoy on the LRA insurgency, Francois Madeira said DR Congo has also pledged to send troops.

But he could not provide the numbers from DRC - Uganda's neighbor in the west.

Uganda's Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima said that six years after LRA was expelled from Uganda, the government is still waiting for the LRA leader to turn up and sign the peace deal arrived at in Juba in 2008.

Gen. Nyakairima said that the region comprising of LRA-affected countries of DR Congo, Uganda, CAR and South Sudan has succeeded in defeating the LRA because of cooperation.

"Remnants of LRA remain the longest surviving terrorists in the region. Now their time has come with a more coordinated mechanism of AU," said the towering army man.

Uganda's minister of defence, Dr. Crispus Kiyonga said that there is need for the four troop-contributing countries to reach consensus on how to operate.

He said that there were those who think that each country should protect its territory while others support a unified, coordinated force against LRA.

Kiyonga appealed to international partners such as the UN, the US and European Union to provide logistical support the anti-LRA operation as well as support to troops with transportation, clothing, and healthcare in order to complete the mission.

The South Sudan deputy minister for defence, Majak D'Agot Atem said the resources currently available to the troop-contributing countries are insufficient, and asked for increased support from the donors.

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