Juba — The African Union-initiated Regional Task Force (RTF), established to hunt down the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, on Tuesday received 2,000 soldiers from the Ugandan army (UPDF) and 500 from South Sudan army (SPLA).
Commanders of the AU Regional Task Force pose for a photo in Juba, South Sudan, March 24, 2012 (ST)
The 2,500 troops were handed over to RTF at their base in Yambio, the provincial capital of South Sudan's Western Equatoria state.
Abou Moussa, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General, said the handover of the additional troops signal the RTF's collective efforts to put an end to the activities of the LRA, which has caused untold suffering to populations in affected countries.
In March this year, four African countries, with the backing of the UN and the AU officially launched a joint military task force aimed at pursuing the LRA rebels and its elusive leader, Joseph Kony.
The first batch of the RTF initially comprised of about 5,000 soldiers from Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central Africa Republic (CAR) initially made up the first batch of the RTF.
These are nations that have been greatly affected by over two-decade of the LRA insurgency.
Mousa, also the Head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), which coordinates UN efforts to address the threat posed by the LRA, further lauded efforts and commitment of these countries towards ending the insurgency, despite other pressing national priorities.
He pledged the UN's continued support to the African regional body and other partners, in the implementation of the regional strategy against the LRA, which was adopted by the UN Security Council on 29 June 2012.
Moussa, who was on a two-day visit to South Sudan, however, emphasized the need for quick implement the strategy, if the RTF is to achieve its mandate against the LRA problem.
The UN, he acknowledged, have been very instrumental in addressing the threat posed by the LRA, specifically citing the UN Mission for Stabilization in Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which provide support to national authorities in the two countries in their responses to the LRA.
"The UN Peacekeepers have been offering military escorts and patrols in and around villages and towns where the LRA has been seen, thereby maintaining a level of security that has saved lives", said Moussa, in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune.
Meanwhile, the AU Special Envoy for the LRA issue, Francisco Madeira, said the RFT, despite making some progress, still faces logistical, material and financial resource challenges, which limits their operations.
The event comes barely a week after 360 soldiers of the Forces Armées Centrafricaines (FACA) were handed over to the AU on 12 September, in CAR, while additional troops are also expected from the DRC in the near future.