Reports say this week’s regional
offensive against Ugandan rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
has inflicted considerable damage on the rebels’ military bases. Ugandan troops have entered the area in
Congo’s Orientale province to search for rebel commander Joseph Kony, who has
reportedly fled from his DRC headquarters.
The UN envoy for northern Uganda says the Security Council is backing
the attack, which began on Sunday when Ugandan war planes, backed by troops
from the DRC and southern Sudan, raided LRA installations harboring Kony, who
is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against
humanity. Executive director Michael Poffenberger
of the group Resolve Uganda says that international powers should ensure that
the operation protects civilians and LRA captives from collateral violence.
wish that there could have been an operation developed with more support from
the international community that could target just the LRA leaders. The situation is something akin to a hostage
situation where the LRA leadership has resorted to abducting kids, who serve as
the majority of the LRA fighters. And
so, it’s really tragic when we see any kind of military operation like this
launched against a group where we know that kids are going to comprise a large
majority of those who are killed,” he said.
moved LRA operations from southern Sudan to the eastern DRC three years ago. Since
October, after frustrated negotiators had all but given up on empty pledges that
he would attend scheduled peace treaty signings in southern Sudan and at the
DRC border, stepped-up LRA attacks displaced 100-thousand civilians from their
homes in Congolese areas – mainly in northeastern Orientale province. Resolve Uganda’s Michael Poffenberger says
local populations in the region are developing sophisticated tactics for
alerting communities to avoid being victimized by attacks and forced
many years, the LRA were more active in northern Uganda, and in response, the
local communities came up with some really creative ways to try to entice LRA
fighters to try to escape and defect from the LRA ranks. But one thing is to sensitize these communities
in Congo about the fact that most of these fighters are abducted, so that if
they have interactions with the fighters, they can try to get them to escape
and invite them back into their communities.
Another thing is to set up radio stations which broadcast messages of
peace and help inform LRA fighters where they should go if they should try to
escape from the LRA command,” he said.
governments of Uganda, southern Sudan, and the DRC issued a statement claiming
Joseph Kony’s main rebel base was destroyed.
Poffenberger says he has credible information that the rebel leader was
not apprehended or killed in the attack, is on the run, and may be headed
further away rather than closer to earlier theaters of operations.
“Some people are concerned that the
LRA, in response to these attacks, will try to return to northern Uganda and
wreak havoc there once again. But so
far, it seems as though the LRA actually is escaping in the opposite direction
and heading further northwest from the Congo into Central African
Republic. So I don’t think it’s really
likely that the LRA attacks will result in upsetting the fragile situation in
northern Uganda itself. But certainly,
people there are on guard because that has happened before,” he warned.