Uganda’s foreign affairs minister says his nation and its neighbors are cooperating to battle the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in the East and Central African regions.
“There has been a very good cooperation between the DRC, Uganda, the government of South Sudan and the government of the Central African Republic,” said Henry Okello Oryem, Uganda’s foreign minister. “We have already put in place a joint force led by a Uganda brigadier, in order for us to join together to flush out the LRA, or arrest them from the forest or the jungles of the Central African Republic.”
Originally based in Uganda, the LRA is accused of killing and mutilating tens of thousands of people over the past two decades and of kidnapping children to use as soldiers and sex slaves.
LRA leader Joseph Kony is charged by the International Criminal Court with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama dispatched 100 military advisers to central Africa to help hunt down the LRA.
Oryem says intelligence support from the U.S. Special Forces in the region has helped reduce the level of atrocities often carried out by LRA rebels.
“We have reduced the number of atrocities and killings that the LRA has been [carrying out] in the Central African Republic,” Oryem said. “Even though there are some killings by the LRA, but I must say … the arrival of the U.S. troops has helped reduce it. They have assisted us with intelligence, giving us technological hardware and availing to us techniques that have assisted us up to now, to be more effective on the ground.”
Oryem admitted that recent forceful seizure of power in the Central African Republic by Michel Djotodia’s Seleka rebel group has hampered military efforts there against the LRA.
“The leaders of the coup have asked and ordered that all foreign forces that are in the borders and boundaries of the Central African Republic should leave and vacate immediately. So in that manner, the UPDF [Uganda Defense Force] and its allies of South Sudan and the DRC have chosen to obey orders and leave that area.” said Oryem.
He said the regional cooperation will continue with the military offensive against the LRA despite the recent political and security situation in the Central African Republic.
“We have withdrawn from the Central African Republic, but we have drawn a line in the DRC where … forces have taken positions. So we are confident they (LRA) cannot go beyond that line and return to Uganda or come near communities and villages in the DRC,” said Oryem.
“We as a country give assurance to the community [that] we have chosen deliberately not to wash our hands of the LRA. Even though they are not in Uganda, we have chosen to pursue them, and support our brothers and sisters in the Congo, in South Sudan ensure that we help them [bring] this menace of the LRA to an end,” he concluded.