News / Africa

US: No Plans to Deploy Osprey to Uganda

Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army during a meeting with a delegation of 160 officials and lawmakers from northern Uganda and representatives of non-governmental organizations, July 31, 2006, Congo near the Sudan border.
Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army during a meeting with a delegation of 160 officials and lawmakers from northern Uganda and representatives of non-governmental organizations, July 31, 2006, Congo near the Sudan border.
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VOA News
The U.S. State Department says there are no plans for the U.S. to temporarily deploy Osprey aircraft to Uganda to aid in efforts to hunt down fugitive warlord Joseph Kony.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki made the comment Tuesday, after The Washington Post said the U.S. military had asked the White House to temporarily base Osprey aircraft in the African nation in a bid to intensify efforts to find Kony.

"We do continue to consult with our African partners and look for ways in which we can enhance our support but again, at this time, no plans to deploy Osprey," said Psaki.

The Osprey can land like a helicopters, but fly like a plane.  The Post said it would allow U.S. and African troops searching for Kony to cover a broader area and more quickly assault his camps.

Kony is the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group that has terrorized central African villages for years.

The Post also says U.S. soldiers have increased training for South Sudanese and Democratic Republic of Congo units taking part in the hunt for the warlord.

Sasha Lezhnev is a senior policy analyst with the Enough Project, a group that works to end genocide  and crimes against humanity.

In a VOA SKYPE interview, he said the U.S. advisory and training role has had a significant impact on efforts to diminish the capacity of the LRA.

"The U.S. advisers have been the single game-changer in changing the LRA's strength and capacity over the last two years.  The LRA attacks have gone down by 53 percent over the last two years.  The number of killings have gone down by as much as 90 percent since the advisers have been deployed," said Lezhnev.

But he says efforts to track down LRA militants have been hampered by rough terrain.

"The terrain out there is very difficult.  The area that the LRA is roaming in is about the size of the [ U.S. ] state of Texas or the country of Poland.  And so, there is a lot of territory where the African Union mission is not able to cover, yet " he said.

Kony and three other LRA leaders are wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.  

The LRA fought the Ugandan government for 20 years before melting into the jungles of central Africa.  In recent years, Kony's fighters have attacked and looted dozens of villages, often killing inhabitants and kidnapping children who they convert into soldiers.

The group is believed to have shrunk to just 250 fighters who travel in small bands through Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

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