Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lord's Resistance Army: African States and UN agree to beef up measures against LRA

South Sudanese children displaced by attacks by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the town of Mundri, Western Equatoria state

UN - Central African countries affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the United Nations agreed to toughen up measures against the notorious rebel group to stop its deadly activities on the continent.

During a meeting in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which ended on Saturday, countries discussed ways in which they could collaborate to combat the LRA, and addressed future challenges that can be tackled jointly.

According to the UN Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) one of the key advancements during the meeting was the acceptance by the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, Uganda and the DRC for their troops to cross borders without hindrance if they are pursuing LRA forces.

UNOCA stated in a press release that the terms for the patrols beyond borders must be well defined, justified and targeted, and that the types of troops to be mobilized should also be specified.

During the meeting, the DRC also firmed up its support for the AU to combat LRA activities. “We have obtained guarantees as to the significant contribution of the DRC in the implementation of the regional cooperation initiative of the African Union against the LRA,” said the Special Envoy of the AU to the issue of the LRA, Francisco Madeira.

The joint mission also received the names of the Congolese officers that will integrate the operational and military structures to track the LRA.

UNOCA chief Abou Moussa stressed the importance of the regional meeting to enhance cooperation on the issue. “We had reason to make this joint mission,” he said. “We know how to guide our future actions to better coordinate the fight against the LRA.”

Before 31 May, Mr. Moussa is expected to report to the Secretary-General on the progress in the exchange of information between the AU, States affected by LRA activities and UN missions.

The LRA was formed in the 1980s in Uganda and for over 15 years its attacks were mainly directed against Ugandan civilians and security forces, which in 2002 dislodged the rebels. They then exported their activities to Uganda’s neighbours, such as the DRC, the CAR and South Sudan, with practices that include the recruitment of children, rapes, killing and maiming, and sexual slavery.

Over the course of the group’s existence, more than 12,000 combatants and abductees have left the LRA’s ranks and have been integrated and reunited with their families.