News / Africa

US Defends Ongoing LRA Mission Amid Criticism

Thomas Kwoyelo (R), a former director of field operations in the rebel group Lord's Resistance Army, talks to his lawyer, Caleb Alaka, after the court ordered he should be released, in Kampala, Uganda, November 2011. (file photo)
Thomas Kwoyelo (R), a former director of field operations in the rebel group Lord's Resistance Army, talks to his lawyer, Caleb Alaka, after the court ordered he should be released, in Kampala, Uganda, November 2011. (file photo)
Nico Colombant

U.S. officials are defending an ongoing U.S. military mission to help wipe out the roving Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa. Some critics fear, however, the operation could be ineffective.

U.S. military officials say U.S. troops conducting the anti-LRA mission are now stationed at bases in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

The top U.S. special operations commander for Africa, Brian Losey, said U.S. officials are already seeing a decrease of what he calls the “lethality of LRA activities.”

At a recent event in Washington, top State Department official Karl Wycoff echoed those remarks.

“In the last several months, scores of people have defected, escaped or been released from the LRA’s ranks. This is a welcome development,” said Wycoff.

Wycoff also made clear why President Barack Obama decided last year to send about 100 U.S. troops to help African countries battle the LRA.

“It is intrinsically an organization that needs to be removed, eliminated, reduced, so that it is no longer a threat to regional security and human security,” said Wycoff.

The group emerged in northern Uganda in the late 1980s as an anti-government and religious rebellion. It is believed to have killed, kidnapped and mutilated tens of thousands of people over the past 25 years in wide areas of Central Africa.

Nearly half a million people remain displaced because of the violent group.

The group has been pushed out of Uganda, and its elusive leaders now are believed to be hiding in the Central African Republic, while a core group of 50 fighters has been waging attacks in the Garamba area of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

Researchers who have studied the LRA say the group’s ideology remains based on revenge against Uganda’s government for past abuses on northern ethnic Acholi people.

A main partner of the U.S. mission is long-time and increasingly autocratic Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. This worries Uganda expert Joel Barkan from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“Unless there is a healthy relationship and particularly long-term peace, security and development in Uganda, it seems that the pursuit of the LRA will ultimately fail,” said Barkan.

Regional experts say the task at hand also is extremely difficult, and may require a U.S. commitment that is longer than possible.

They also say it goes much beyond simply capturing or killing LRA leader, Joseph Kony. The guerilla leader has faced an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for crimes against humanity and war crimes since 2005.

But researcher Ledio Cakaj said it is not even certain he is still alive.

“As far as we know, Kony could be dead already. It is just hard to know. You have people who pretend to be him. His brother looks like him. At least as far as the Congo group is concerned, they operated without Kony for a while,” said Cakaj.

Cakaj said that even though the LRA often is described as a ragtag cult led by a madman, he asserts it is a very organized group of highly skilled fighters operating in extremely difficult terrain.

He said they move along waterways in forested areas where the rainy season will start soon, which will make it very difficult for even U.S. aided militaries to track them down.

Additionally, Cakaj worries about abuses committed by Ugandan soldiers involved in anti-LRA missions, including accounts of rape of civilians in affected areas, and cross-border timber smuggling, which also could have destabilizing effects.

The anti-LRA pressure group Resolve is urging more U.S. funding in the effort, now estimated at about $40 million. One suggestion is to pay for helicopters to track down the insurgents.

Researchers and activists also point out the same military actors, including U.S. advisors, were involved in previous and failed attempts to wipe out the LRA.

Four years ago, a Uganda-led military effort with U.S. funding and planning led to a surge of deadly LRA attacks.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid