Spike in LRA child abductions in eastern CAR highlights Kony’s resilience
+ Surge in LRA violence in eastern CAR in 2016, including abduction of dozens of children
+ LRA attacks and abductions persist in Congo, driven by elephant poaching
+ Despite high profile defections, fewer LRA fighters escaping in recent years
+ Presence of LRA splinter group in northeastern Congo
WASHINGTON (3 March 2016) – Joseph Kony’s LRA fighters have abducted dozens of children in recent weeks during a surge of attacks in eastern Central African Republic (CAR). The LRA Crisis Tracker, a project of Invisible Children and The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative, has recorded 217 abductions by the LRA in eastern CAR since 1 January 2016. 54 of these abductees have been children, of which 41 remain in captivity or otherwise unaccounted for. The State of the LRA in 2016, a new Crisis Tracker report released today, highlights trends in LRA violence, including persistent attacks and abductions in CAR and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo).
“The LRA is once again abducting children in central Africa, betting that the international community will fail to protect those most vulnerable to Kony’s forces,” said Paul Ronan, director of The Resolve. “So far in 2016, that bet has paid off.”
The recent LRA attacks highlight gaps in civilian protection in eastern CAR, despite the presence of troops from the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR (MINUSCA), the African Union’s counter-LRA Regional Taskforce (AU RTF), and the US military. The LRA has already abducted nearly twice as many people in CAR so far in 2016 than they did in all of 2015. It is too early to tell if the LRA will try to permanently integrate these children into the group as child soldiers, forces “wives,” and camp laborers, or simply release them after a longer-than-usual period of transporting looted goods.
In Congo, LRA attacks and abductions have slowed in recent months after peaking from January-August 2015. Many LRA attacks in Congo in 2015 were aimed at sustaining an LRA group tasked by Kony with collecting dozens of ivory tusks by poaching elephants in Garamba National Park. Should Kony order another poaching mission to Garamba, LRA violence in Congo could increase again.
“Kony and a handful of senior LRA commanders continue to prey upon vulnerable communities and ecosystems,” said Lisa Dougan, President of Invisible Children. “A holistic approach to protecting people, wildlife, and natural resources in the region is urgently needed to end this ongoing cycle of violence and exploitation.”
Other LRA attacks in Congo’s Bas Uele province were conducted by an LRA splinter group led by Achaye Doctor, which is operating independently from Kony and the LRA’s central command structure. Several of these attacks targeted young boys and girls who have been subsequently trained to become soldiers, forced “wives”, and camp laborers, illustrating that even splinter LRA groups are capable of recruiting new members.The report also documents patterns of defections from the LRA. In addition to the separation of Achaye Doctor’s group, several high profile LRA commanders have defected, such as Dominic Ongwen in January 2015. However, Kony and his top commanders have slowed the attrition rate of Ugandan fighters, which comprise the core of the LRA fighting force. In the 20 months between November 2012 and June 2014, the LRA lost at least 51 Ugandan combatants: 32 defected, 14 killed or captured in battle, and five executed on Kony’s orders. In the 20 months between July 2014 and February 2016, only nine Ugandan combatants defected to external forces, while one was killed.
“The LRA is one of the most resilient rebel groups in modern history,” said Ronan. “If given the chance, Joseph Kony and his inner circle will continue to exist at the expense of vulnerable civilians in central Africa.”
Learn more about the LRA Crisis Tracker at lracrisistracker.com.
Please direct all media inquiries to:
Sean Poole, Director of International Programs, Invisible Children email@example.com // +1 626.319.7971 Paul Ronan, Project Director, The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative firstname.lastname@example.org // +1 315.569.8051