News / Africa

Hunting the LRA in Central Africa

Ugandan forces prepare to search for the Lord's Resistance Army. Credit: Enough Project
Ugandan forces prepare to search for the Lord's Resistance Army. Credit: Enough Project
Joe DeCapua
A new report says military operations to hunt down LRA rebels in Central Africa face many logistical and intelligence-gathering challenges. In the meantime, the rebels continue to attack civilians.

About 1500 Ugandan soldiers make up the bulk of the forces pursing the Lord’s Resistance Army. And all those troops may not be deployed in the field at the same time.


A field report by the Enough Project says the Ugandan army can roam the jungles for weeks or months before making contact with the rebels.

Kasper Agger, who wrote the report, was embedded with the Ugandan army in August as it traveled from South Sudan to Central African Republic.


“It was a unique opportunity to be able to actually go deep into the jungle and spend several days with the soldiers on the ground, who are actually chasing and looking for the LRA, to really get an insider’s view of the challenges that they are facing,” he said.

Agger said LRA rebels are able to hide in a vast and remote area of jungle.

“Just finding tracks in the jungle that possibly could be LRA is a huge challenge in the first place. And then once they find a track of the rebels and they start pursuing them, they can even end up pursuing some of the other militias or rebel groups that operate in the area, like Janjaweeds or poachers from Sudan or it can be even local hunters. You can’t distinguish the traces in the jungles between the different groups,” he said.

He said that the Ugandan army – and 100 U.S. Special Forces advisors – have a good idea where the LRA operates. But pinpointing the location and then attacking can be difficult.

“We have to recognize that the LRA is able to live off the land. They can prey on civilians. They can do hunting. It’s actually kind of easy for them to survive in these remote jungles, whereas the UPDF will have to carry their supplies. They’ll have to rely on food drops from helicopters. And it’s just an extreme logistical nightmare basically to operate out in these areas. When I was out there, some of their tracking teams had gone without food for four days because they were not able to supply them and they couldn’t reach them with helicopters because they were too deep in the jungle,” he said.

Agger recommended several things to improve the situation. First, ramp up aerial and human intelligence in Central Africa and deploy more troops in remote areas. Next, he said, there should be more defection initiatives. These are programs that encourage fighters to leave the LRA by offering them ways to reintegrate into society. Agger says if no jobs are available, it’s an easy choice for fighters to remain with the rebel group.

He said that American advisors have reenergized efforts to track down the LRA and helped to coordinate intelligence with regional militaries.

It’s estimated there are about 300 to 400 armed rebels, plus 500 to 700 hundred women, children and recent abductees forced to work for them. As for LRA leader Joseph Kony, it’s thought he may be based in Sudan.

“Kony is a very intelligent man. We should not underestimate his intelligence and his awareness of the world around him. What we’re increasingly hearing from people who escaped from the LRA is that he has sought refuge in South Darfur in a disputed area and that he is probably getting some kind of assistance from the Sudanese army. And that’s a huge challenge to the end game of this mission – how to bring the Sudanese government into some kind of solution of this problem. And we really have to try and sell this as a political win for Bashir and the Khartoum government,” he said.

Agger does not believe Sudanese president Bashir has direct control over Kony. But Kony may have good relationships with Sudanese military commanders, who help rebels operate in Central African Republic, an area rich in minerals.

Top LRA commanders are still at large. Many are wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from their many years in northern Uganda. In his field dispatch, Agger warned that the situation “is not sustainable,” adding that Ugandan troops and U.S. advisors will not be deployed indefinitely. 

Agger also produced a video of his experience.

You May Like

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs