The LRA and the most popular Africa legislation in recent US history(Read article summary)
US Congress passed legislation in 2010 aimed at bringing an end to the Lord's Resistance Army. What is the status of that effort?
Editorâ€™s Note: This post is a brief history, intended to provide a contextual background for understanding the complex issues that the Enough Project works on. It is part of the seriesÂ Enough 101.
InÂ May 2010Â after intense pressure by U.S. based activist groups, the US Congress passed legislation aimed at ending the Lordâ€™s Resistance Army crisisâ€” theÂ â€śLRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act,â€ť the most widely supported Africa-specific legislation in recent congressional history. As required by the legislation, President Obama submitted theÂ â€śStrategy to Support the Disarmament of the LRAâ€ťÂ on Nov. 24, 2010. The strategy outlines actions in support of the following four strategic objectives:
- Increase civilian protection;
- Apprehend or remove from the battlefield LRA leader Joseph Kony and his senior commanders;
- Promote the defection, disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of LRA fighters;
- Increase humanitarian access and provide continued relief to LRA-affected communities.
However, implementation of the strategy by the Obama administration has been slow and continued pressure is necessary.
Today, the LRA has changed drastically since its inception almost 25 years ago. The force is now splintered in many small groups operating hundreds of miles from one another, and as Ugandans defect or are killed the LRA replenishes with Congolese, Central African, and Sudanese fighters. In addition, it is generally fear rather than ideology that keeps Ugandan and foreign fighters in the LRA today, according to interviews with fighters who have defected or escaped.
Crucially, the number of LRA troops is dwindling. About 400 fighters remain operational today, less than half of the number in action two years ago. There has been a slow but steady defection of Ugandans since December 2008.
OnÂ October 14, 2011, President Obama announced that he wouldÂ deploy approximately 100 USÂ military personnel to advise and assist the regional armies in apprehending the LRA senior leadership and bringing them to justice.
Key Numbers about the LRA:
- During its 24-year existence, the LRA has abducted approximately 70,000 civilians, killed tens of thousands, and displaced more than 2.2 million.
- Since 2008, the LRA has killed over 2,400 civilians, abducted 3,400 others, many of whom are children, and displaced over 400,000 people from their homes.
- Based onÂ Enough interviewsÂ conducted inÂ 2010Â with former LRA fighters, there are aboutÂ 400 LRA fightersÂ operating in three countries. This number does not include women, men, and children, who are used solely to carry food and other looted materials or serve as sex slaves or â€świves.â€ť
- As ofÂ NovemberÂ 2010, close toÂ 250 fightersÂ are Ugandans, the otherÂ 150Â being from Sudan, Congo, and CAR.
Where are they now?
Joseph Kony and many of his top commanders have relocated to the Central African Republic.
According to aÂ 2011 Small Arms Survey publication:
- By September 2011, Kony and his top deputies were believed to have moved from Congo into the Central African Republic, or CAR, possibly to the Zemongo forest near the border with South Sudanâ€™s Western Bahr el Ghazal state. At least one LRA group of about 50 fighters stayed in Congo, based in the Garamba National Park, a former LRA base.
- A small LRA group led by Dominic Ongwen, appears to have moved into Western Bahr el-Ghazal or possibly CAR. The move might be an attempt to join forces with Konyâ€™s troops, who cross frequently into Western Bahr el Ghazal from CAR.
On 31 September, Government of South Sudan interior minister Alison Magaya said that the Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF, are training LRA fighters in a camp between
Western Bahr el Ghazal and South Darfur. This statement has been impossible to confirm. Government of Sudan officials have repeatedly denied supporting the LRA.
How to end the LRA:
See our latest paperÂ about the U.S. military advisors and how the nearly 25 year-old LRA crisis can be finally ended. In it, we explain that what is needed for the effort to succeed: capable and committed special forces from Uganda or another African country, greater intelligence support from the U.S., and logistical assistance from European and other countries.
â€“ Mollie Zapata blogs for the Enough Project at Enough Said.