The African Union is helping four nations in central Africa build an international army to corner cross-border guerrillas in the Lord's Resistance Army.
Since 1987, a Ugandan band of Christian guerrillas has slipped past borders, killed thousands throughout central African villages, and waged what is today one of the continent's longest-running conflicts -- and that conflict isn't going to end, the African Union says, until the region's militaries can assemble a single, multinational army to fight it.
That's exactly what Central African heads of state signed up to do this week at a conference in Tripoli, where delegates drafted plans for an international anti-guerilla fighting force.
This new army, with soldiers from Uganda, Sudan, Central Africa Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo will pursue the Lords Resistance Army across borders. AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamara says it's an encouraging plan that the AU will back.
Lamara says the plan of action heads of state adopted in Tripoli calls on Central African countries to redouble their efforts. It also seeks to establish a coordinated military plan towards the objective of finally neutralizing the LRA, he says. This plan will put an end to their atrocities and destablizing activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Southern Sudan, and the Central African Republic.
The blueprint calls for military assistance from two of the continent's most experienced armies, Nigeria's and South Africa's. It also calls for cross-border intelligence sharing, and for AU support in tracking the maneuvers of Lords Resistance soldiers.
The guerilla faction operating out of Uganda's rural West has been attempting to overthrow Central African governments, Uganda's in particular, and transform the region into a Christian theocracy, with laws based on the biblical ten commandments.
But in the past two years alone, the sect has been accused of killing 2,000 people, and abducting another 2,600, in attacks that the U.N. Human Rights Council says were often orchestrated with child soldiers.
This year has been no less violent, U.N. spokesperson Adrian Edwards says.
"So far this year, the Ugandan rebel group has carried out more than 240 deadly attacks," Edwards said. "At least 344 people have been killed. In most cases these attacks are on vulnerable, isolated communities, with indiscriminate killings, abductions, rape, mutilation, looting and destruction of property."
The International Criminal Court maintains a crimes against humanity arrest warrant against on the LRA's leader, Joseph Kony.
On Thursday, Central Africa Republic defense minister Jean-Francis Bozize asked the international community to classify the guerrillas as a terrorist organization, like al-Qaida, he said.