Empowerment of Socio-economic Associations: A Regional Initiative in LRA Affected Areas

  1. Context and Background

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has inflicted enormous suffering on millions of civilians in several countries of the Great Lakes and Central African regions since it began operating in the 1990s in Northern Uganda. In the 1990s and early 2000s, successive Ugandan People’s Defense Force (UPDF) operations in northern Uganda largely drove the LRA into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), what is now Republic of South Sudan, and Central African Republic (CAR).

In March 2008, after months of intensive efforts by regional and international stakeholders to bring the conflict to an end, representatives of the Government of Uganda and the LRA finalized the Final Peace Agreement. LRA leader Joseph Kony, however, refused to sign the agreement and in December 2008 Uganda and DRC launched joint military operations (Operation Lightning Thunder) against the armed group. While these operations dislodged the LRA from several parts of DRC, they resulted in severe humanitarian consequences with many civilians displaced.

Following the conclusion of military operations in March 2009, the LRA has fragmented into several highly-mobile groups operating across a wide area ranging from Aba in Haut Uele district to Ango in Bas Uele district in the DRC, from Birao in Vakaga prefecture to Obo in Haut Mbomou prefecture in CAR, and into Western Equatoria and occasionally Western Bahr el Ghazal states in South Sudan. To counter the LRA, the national security forces of DRC, CAR and South Sudan have continued to conduct military operations against the LRA in the affected areas of their respective countries. In particular, the UPDF, with the agreement of the relevant governments and with logistical support from the United States, has conducted joint military operations in CAR, DRC and South Sudan.

The military operations have significantly reduced the strength and operational capacity of the LRA over the past three years. Despite the relative success of the joint military operations, the group continues to pose a serious security threat to civilians due to the limited capacity of the national security forces in the affected countries. The LRA’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians constitute serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws and have caused a serious humanitarian crisis in the affected countries.