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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More