In eastern Africa, regional militaries are continuing their major offensive against the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A local NGO has been at the center of an effort to push for a peaceful end to the long-standing crisis and is calling for restraint by the government forces as they go after the rebels.
Michael Poffenberger says unless the government forces have credible intelligence that points to the location of the LRA leadership, they risk killing innocent children “who are being held hostage by Kony.”
Poffenberger says it’s not clear what the impact of the current offensive has been but caution should be used in dealing with a situation in which children’s lives are at risk.
"It's a truly tragic situation,” he says. He adds that while countries in the region cannot sit by as the LRA abducts children and terrorizes communities, “we must not forget that this is an army comprised primarily of children being held against their will.”
Poffenberger calls for an increased role for the United Nations “The UN has a critical role to play in protecting civilians in the area who are vulnerable to the LRA attacks,” he says. “The UN has appointed an envoy for the peace process and “whether or not the secretary general keeps that envoy even though the negotiations have been formally concluded is up to him…but we hope the UN continues to use high-level diplomatic leadership to come up with a joint strategy in terms of how to end this war.”
Poffenberger says he is not surprised by the reaction of the Acholi elders and MPs in Uganda who recently called a halt to the offensive. “They have invested two years of their time and effort to achieve relative peace in Northern Uganda.” But he adds that the LRA is not committing atrocities on in Uganda but has instead been attacking communities both in Congo, where they are based, and in Southern Sudan. “So even though Ugandan elders and local leaders are opposed to the offensive, there have been calls on the Congolese side from people who have been terrorized by the LRA for their government to respond.”