WASHINGTON — A spokesman for Central African Republic President Michel Djotodia said the president has been in touch with fugitive warlord Joseph Kony, and that Kony is ready to surrender. U.S. special forces have been assisting African soldiers in hunting for Kony, the head of the brutal Lord's Resistance Army. Despite the recent reports, U.S. officials have questioned whether Kony is in fact ready to lay down his arms.
Kony's Lord's Resistance Army waged a brutal guerrilla war against Uganda's government for nearly 20 years before fleeing into central Africa around 2005.
The group's atrocities were summarized during a Wednesday briefing by Jeffrey Delaurentis, a U.S. special policy representative.
"Since its founding more than a quarter of a century ago, the Lord's Resistance Army has been a constant source of terror and suffering," he said. "Tens of thousands of Africans have died because of its rapacious violence, and countless people have been compelled to serve as underage soldiers and sex slaves."
However, military operations have severely weakened Kony and his fighters, according to the African Union's special envoy to the U.N., Francisco Madeira.
"Definitely he is no longer in peace and is feeling the pinch thanks to the pressure that the Regional Task Force is putting on him, and thanks to the operation of encouraging his men and those who are with him to defect," he said. "And a good number of them are defecting."
Nonetheless, Madeira questioned whether Kony is truly trying to surrender, noting that the warlord may be "duping" the government in order to buy time to relocate his fighters.
The U.S. State Department did not comment directly on the reported talks between President Djotodia and Kony, but spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Thursday that some of Kony's fighters want to surrender.
"We are aware that authorities from the Central African Republic have been in contact for several months with a small LRA group that has expressed an interest in surrendering," she said. "At this time, we have little reason to believe that Joseph Kony is part of that group."
Meanwhile this week, the U.S. announced plans to send $40 million in aid to help stabilize CAR.
Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that "deplorable levels of violence" in the country are affecting millions of people each day.