Washington — A new report confirms Sudan’s renewal of support to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group from October 2009 through at least February of 2013. The report includes satellite imagery of a likely LRA encampment in Sudanese-controlled territory where rebel leader Joseph Kony was last sighted in late 2012 and reportedly remained for several more weeks. The imagery indicates the camp was abandoned by March 2013, but Kony reportedly remains nearby in neighboring Central African Republic and could seek to reestablish his presence in Sudanese-controlled territory in coming months.
“As long as Kony is able to find a safe haven in Sudan, he can avoid pursuit by Ugandan forces by simply crossing the border whenever they get close,” said Michael Poffenberger, Executive Director of The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative and one of the report’s primary authors. “Sudan should not be allowed to harbor one of the most brutal and notorious war criminals in the world with impunity.”
The report, Hidden in Plain Sight: Sudan’s Harboring of the LRA in the Kafia Kingi Enclave, 2009-2013, documents how Kony’s forces first reestablished contact with the Sudanese military in late 2009. LRA fighters then periodically used the area as a safe haven for more than three years, as pursuing Ugandan forces, authorized by the African Union, were not allowed access to the area. Kony himself was first sighted there in 2010 and was reportedly based in the area for significant portions of 2012.
“The LRA’s abandonment of their camp in Sudanese-controlled territory presents an opportunity for Sudan to definitively cut ties to the group,” said Paul Ronan, Director of Policy at The Resolve and another primary author. “International efforts to arrest Kony and stop LRA attacks are likely to fail unless the African Union and regional leaders secure Sudan’s full cooperation.”
The Resolve’s Poffenberger and Ronan co-authored the report, which is co-produced by Invisible Children and the Enough Project.
“Current international efforts to stop LRA violence are making significant gains, but they can only go so far as long as Sudan allows Kony and his fighters safe haven,” said Ben Keesey, CEO of Invisible Children. “If regional and international leaders are serious about ending LRA violence once and for all, they must address this issue with Sudan and seek a solution.”
The safe haven and limited material support Sudan provided to the LRA from 2009-2013 represent the latest upswing in a long history of cooperation between the two actors. Sudan previously provided safe haven, arms, and training to the LRA from 1994 until 2004 before ties were rekindled again in 2009.
“For years, Sudanese support transformed the LRA into a significant threat to civilians and regional stability,” said Mark Quarterman, Research Director of the Enough Project. “At a time when US and regional operations to arrest Kony are more concerted than ever before, renewed support from Sudan seriously undermines these efforts. The Obama administration should work with the African Union and the United Nations to ensure that Khartoum does not provide safe haven or material assistance to the LRA.”
This paper provides the most definitive documentation to date of Sudan’s renewed ties to the LRA. It cites interviews with eight LRA defectors who were eyewitnesses to LRA movements into Sudanese-controlled territory, four of whom provided separate accounts of Kony’s presence and activities there. These testimonies are corroborated by satellite imagery analysis conducted by DigitalGlobe and commissioned by Amnesty International USA, as well as independent reports from government and other sources in the region.