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

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech 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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs