Source: The New Times/allAfrica
Cornered fugitive rebel leader Joseph Kony has increased the number of attacks in the central Africa leading to the displacements of thousands of people just a week after a four-nation joint military task force to pursue him was launched.
The attacks by the much-detested Lord’s Resistance Army have taken place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan, an alert from the UN High Commission for Refugees, which was received by The News Times, has stated.
Efforts by the Rwandan government to secure its border have paid off forcing the LRA to move further into the interior of neighbouring DRC.
Since early March when the regional initiative to confront the Ugandan rebel leader was initiated, a desperate Kony has launched as many as 13 attacks in the DRC, which resulted in two killings and 13 abductions, and the displacement of 1,230 people. These are mostly from the Dungu territory in the country’s north-east. In CAR, LRA attacks have resumed after a lull since April last year, with 11 attacks recorded this year.
« The security situation in south-eastern CAR remains extremely fragile, » said the statement, adding that the one exception is the city of Obo, where United States special agents were deployed in October 2011 to bolster efforts by the joint CAR-Ugandan armed forces to hunt down the LRA and its leadership.
« Our staff on the ground says that patrols around Obo by the two national armies supported by the US military advisers have enabled local authorities to ensure security within a 25-kilometre radius from Obo, compared to five kilometres before patrols were instituted, » it noted. « The extended security is allowing residents to tend their farms. »
Last week, the four countries most affected by LRA activities – CAR, DRC, South Sudan and Uganda – announced that they would launch a joint military task force backed by the UN and the African Union to pursue the rebel fighters and its leader, Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
Regional security heads have welcomed the regional and international initiatives aimed at ending LRA’s atrocities and urged all actors to respect human rights and minimise risk to civilian populations.
High powered joint military operation
The regional meeting in Entebbe decided that both the United Nations and the African Union (AU) contribute a contingent of 5,000 soldiers to set up the high- powered joint military operation which will hunt down the rebel group. It will include the technical support of 100 US special agents.
The LRA was formed in the 1980s in Uganda and for over 15 years its attacks were mainly directed against Ugandan civilians and security forces. In 2002 Uganda dislodged the rebels who then exported their barbaric activities to Uganda’s neighbouring countries, which include the recruitment of children, rapes, killing and maiming, and sexual slavery.
The LRA has also conducted attacks in South Sudan, which last year led to 7,382 people fleeing their homes. Although no attacks have been registered this year, UNHCR noted that South Sudan’s Western and Central Equatorial states host more than 22,000 refugees from the DRC and CAR.
The LRA assaults in these three countries have led to a total of 440,000 internally displaced persons or people living as refugees, of which 335,000 are found in the DRC alone.
« The idea is to put in place a strategy, which has been discussed in Entebbe and then move to Juba in the Republic of South Sudan to launch the joint operations tasks force composed of Ugandan forces, Central African Republic forces, South Sudan and DRC , » the AU Special Envoy for the LRA issue, Francisco Madeira, said in a statement received by this newspaper.
But the flare up of hostilities between Sudan and Southern Sudan have somewhat deflected the focus of the regional assault on the elusive rebels.
Current estimates suggest that the LRA comprises less than 500 combatants operating under Mr. Kony’s leadership, its capacity to attack and terrorise and harm local communities remains, according to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
After a lull in LRA raids in the second half of last year that resulted in improved security in the DRC’s north-east, new attacks on civilians have been reported during the past few weeks in the DRC’s territories of Dungu, Faradje, Watsa, Niangara, Bondo and Ango.
Brutal rebel without a cause
Joseph Kony is one of the most vilified rebel leaders on the planet and stands accused of committing the kidnapping countless children in northern Uganda and neighbouring countries. He is said to have turned the girls into sex slaves and the boys into prepubescent killers, in a most heartless manner that has shocked the world.
His so-called Christian movement has terrorised villagers in at least four countries in central Africa for nearly 20 years, killing tens of thousands of people, burning down huts and hacking off lips. Kony has been a fugitive of the International Criminal Court since 2005.
His followers believe he is a prophet, rarely appears in public which has only added to his brutal mystique.
The United States government has joined the so far futile efforts to crush him, the current administration sending in 100 armed military advisors to help regional forces combat Kony.