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

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs