Peace Can Be: President Obama’s chance to help end LRA atrocities in 2012
New Report Argues Deployment of Advisors Creates Unprecedented Opportunity to End LRA Atrocities
February 21, 2012 (Washington, DC) – Despite the political pressures of an election year, the United States government must continue to prioritize efforts to help combat the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and actively work with central African governments to arrest LRA leader Joseph Kony and put an end once and for all to the group’s atrocities in the region, argues a report issued today by Washington-based human rights organization Resolve.
“2012 is a make or break year for President Obama’s efforts to see an end to LRA violence,” says Resolve Executive Director Michael Poffenberger. “The LRA has relentlessly attacked civilians for over two decades. The President’s decision to deploy U.S. military advisors to the region creates a limited window of opportunity to finally see these atrocities come to an end.”
The Obama Administration released the first-ever White House strategy to address the LRA in 2010 and built on that effort by deploying 100 advisers to the region late last year, helping the Ugandan and other regional militaries protect civilians and apprehend senior LRA commanders.
LRA forces currently comprised of 200-300 fighters and commanders, down from as many as 10,000 in the 1990’s, have been skillful in adapting and evading efforts to defeat them. After a military surge led by the Ugandan government reduced the group’s core capacity in 2009, regional efforts have faltered, allowing a small number of LRA fighters to have an outsize impact on the civilian population. 465,000 people have been displaced as a result of the group’s attacks in an area the size of France which includes parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and the newly-formed Republic of South Sudan.
“Joseph Kony and senior LRA commanders remain a very real threat to peace and stability in central Africa, and have proven they can survive half-hearted efforts aimed at defeating them,” Ronan added. “While it’s a huge step forward, President Obama’s LRA strategy runs the risk of becoming another well-intentioned but ultimately unsuccessful effort unless additional steps are taken immediately.”
In “Peace Can Be: President Obama’s Chance to Help End LRA Atrocities in 2012,” Resolve argues that only progress in reducing the LRA’s threat to civilians should drive decisions made about the deployment of U.S. forces and other policy measures. “This kind of bold leadership from the White House may be threatened by political attacks made in an election year. But persistence could provide a real victory for the Administration’s commitment to stop and prevent mass atrocities,” added Poffenberger.
The report, based on three months of research conducted in late 2011 in remote areas of central Africa impacted by LRA violence, also argues that the U.S. needs to augment the troop deployment with additional steps, including:
- High-level diplomacy, in partnership with the African Union, to overcome a breakdown in cooperation among regional governments;
- Deployment of helicopters to help regional military respond to reports of LRA attacks and movements; and
- Investments in civilian infrastructure, including early warning systems, and programs focused on securing peaceful defections from LRA ranks to complement military investments.