Activists gathered on Capitol Hill gathered in Washington on Monday to plead for more U.S. engagement in efforts to suppress the Lord’s Resistance Army in East Africa and capture its leader Joseph Kony.
This is the time to double the effort against the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, human rights activists told members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
“When President Obama came into office in 2008, the LRA had about 800 troops. When the bill was signed into law in 2010, Kony had about half that number. Today, thanks in large part to the military operations and the defection campaign that are supported by U.S. troops in the field, there’s only about 190 to 200 troops left,” said Paul Ronan, project director at Washington-based Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative.
Despite a 2010 U.S. law aimed at disarming LRA fighters and helping communities recover from the conflict, which authorized use of U.S. military advisors in central and East Africa, Ronan warned that Kony shouldn’t be underestimated.
“What he has done, is he’s created an inner circle that’s composed of his sons and some former bodyguards who are fiercely loyal to him and he’ll do whatever he can to maintain his iron grip on the command structure," Ronan, whose group recently issued a report on Kony, said.
Sasha Lezhnev, associate director of policy for Congo, Great Lakes Region and LRA for The Enough Project says he’s is worried about the LRA’s new economic activities and its abilities to regenerate itself.
“The LRA is increasingly poaching elephants for tusks and trading that ivory for ammunitions, supplies and food in Sudan, with the likely complicity of the Sudanese government," he said. "...The LRA is starting to trade gold and diamonds in the Central African Republic as well.”
Sudan's ambassador to the United States Moawia Khalid told VOA those allegations about Sudan are false and that his country has nothing to do with the LRA or Kony.
Founded in the late 1980s, partly as a movement to protect minority rights, the LRA quickly became Kony's own cult of personality. It is responsible for thousands of civilian deaths, and the LRA has kidnapped tens of thousands of children and forced them to serve as fighters.