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

Multimedia

Audio
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

N. Korea Sentences American to 6 Years Hard Labor

Matthew Miller's brief trial Sunday comes two weeks after 24-year old Miller and two other American detainees appealed to the US government to help free them More

Pakistan Rejects Afghan Criticism of 480-kilometer Border Trench

Military spokesman tells VOA the project is part of administrative and security measures taken to secure the mountainous border with Afghanistan More

Photogallery Typhoon Kalmaegi Makes Landfall in Philippines

Storm makes landfall late Sunday, cutting power and communications lines and forcing people to flee to higher ground More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interesti
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 12, 2014 8:35 PM
The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video Palestinians Turn to Rebuilding Gaza

After almost two months of conflict in Gaza, Palestinians are preparing to rebuild the isolated Mediterranean enclave with assistance from abroad. Meanwhile, an international human rights group has found that Israel likely violated international laws of war during some of its attacks on Gaza. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Middle Eastern Church Leaders Highlight Christians’ Plight

Patriarchs of Eastern Rite churches came to Washington this week to draw attention to the attacks against Christians in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. VOA’s religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid