The Observer (Kampala)

4 April 2013

Central African Republic: CAR Rulers Must Rethink LRA Stance

The hunt for the Lord's Resistance Army and its leader Joseph Kony has been thrown into jeopardy with the coup d'etat in the Central Af- rican Republic (CAR) last week. The coup leaders who ousted President Fran- cois Bozize, whose government had allowed the UPDF to pursue the LRA remnants inside its ter- ritory, have ordered all foreign forces to leave their country.

Consequently, the Ugandan army authorities have announced the suspension of anti-LRA operations in the CAR, citing the new govern- ment's hostility. Although the operation, which is led by Uganda and supported by the United States, has not resulted in the death or capture of Kony after three years of trying, it has at least maintained pressure on the LRA, reduced killings and ab- ductions and enabled some rebel fighters to defect, according to independent groups moni- toring the situation. With that, there was always hope that the end might be near.

But the mission is now in danger of being de- railed by the change of guard in the CAR, and this might give the LRA an opportunity to re- organise and resume civilian killings in earnest. The new government in CAR might have gen- uine fears about the intentions of foreign troops, which need to be articulated and put to rest, but they must realise that the anti-LRA effort is an African Union and indeed international commu- nity-blessed initiative.

Unless the new regime can guarantee that it will tackle the LRA menace itself, which is unlikely given the task at hand and their limi- tations, they should welcome and work with for- eign forces to defeat the LRA. This standoff comes at a time of heightened tension between Uganda and Sudan, with Khar- toum accusing Kampala of supporting rebels op- posed to them and an official calling for 'positive change' in Kampala.

Given that Sudan shares a border with CAR and has in the past provided logistical support to LRA rebels, this escalation could be exploited by the rebels to their advan- tage. The latest breakdown in relations between Kampala and Khartoum must not be allowed to escalate to the point where the LRA or any other retrogressive rebel force in the region is a beneficiary.

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