Following US President Barack Obama's decision to deploy US forces to Central Africa, advisers from the US military, deployed to assist the Ugandan army in its operation against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), have arrived in the region. By the middle of January 2012, about 30 US Special Forces were based in the Central African Republic (CAR), settling in the towns of Djemah and Obo where Ugandan troops are also stationed. US and Ugandan troops are also based in Nzara, in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state, which hosts the Ugandan army’s operational headquarters in the fight against the LRA.
In addition, a small group of US forces is based in Entebbe where Ugandan forces completed a training exercise in improved air logistic capabilities in December 2011. According to US military officials, the joint effort against the LRA is going well. The commander of the 17th Air Force and US Air Forces Africa, Major General Margaret Woodward, told Ugandan journalists recently that, ‘it is not going to be that long before the war ends and the LRA will no longer be a problem.’ Nothing significant has been achieved so far, however, nor are there any signs of planning for a major offensive against the LRA.
LRA attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) intensified from the middle of December 2011 until mid-January 2012, perhaps due to a possible move of LRA troops from CAR to DRC. At least 12 attacks attributed to the LRA were reported in the last four weeks. Most of these took place in Haut-Uélé, Province Orientale. Areas around the small towns of Ngilima, Dungu and Faradje have been repeatedly attacked by groups of 20-30 fighters. A recent UN report says that over 30 LRA combatants attacked and looted small villages near Djabir on 7 January 2012, abducting at least four people, including a 12-year-old girl.
While most of the attacks have taken place in areas traditionally targeted by the LRA, recent reports indicate a resurgence of LRA groups in northern Bas-Uélé, which was considered free of LRA elements for most of 2011. Local NGO representatives said LRA elements were spotted around 25 December 2011 about 30 kilometers south-west of Banda. It is unclear whether these are forces moving from Haut-Uélé to Bas-Uélé via the Doruma-Banda axis, or LRA groups moving back from CAR.
Despite reports of a large concentration of LRA combatants in CAR, there have been no reported attacks for the last few weeks. At least one LRA attack was reported in neighboring South Sudan; on 23 December 2011, LRA combatants seem to have abducted and killed two young girls in Boro el Madina in Raja county, Western Bahr al Ghazal. South Sudanese officials have said the LRA is active in Raja as combatants move to South Darfur to connect with Sudan Armed Forces.
Colonel Philip Aguer, spokesperson for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, told journalists on 30 December 2011, that Sudan Armed Forces had been bombing territory in South Sudan to help LRA combatants who move from South Darfur to CAR. He said that the army bombed Raja and Parieng counties in Western Bahr al Ghazal and Unity state on 28 and 29 December, killing 17 people. There has been no independent verification of this.
One of the first acts of the newly appointed African Union envoy on the LRA, Francisco Madeira, was to tour the countries affected by the rebel group. The head of the United Nations Office for Central Africa, Abou Moussa, joined him on visits to CAR, South Sudan and DRC at the beginning of January 2012. The diplomats spoke publicly about the need for better coordination in the fight against the LRA.
Moussa is responsible for overseeing UN work relating to the LRA and is expected to report to the UN secretary-general by the end of May 2012. The full extent of Madeira’s role is still unclear although he is expected to coordinate the regional effort against the LRA.
Former LRA commander Thomas Kwoyelo remains in prison despite being judged eligible for amnesty by Uganda’s Constitutional Court. Essentially ignoring the legal ruling, the director of public prosecutions (DPP) wrote a letter to the Amnesty Commission saying Kwoyelo could not be released because of pending charges against him. An application prepared by Kwoyelo’s defence team, seeking to compel the DPP to release him, has not been filed to the Uganda High Court for the last two weeks, as the responsible judge is absent.
Click here to see the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' overview of LRA activity January-August 2011.