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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid