|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Strategy against Lord's Resistance Army
Senior United Nations and African Union officials today announced plans to launch within the next 24 hours a regional strategy targeting notorious warlord Joseph Kony and his dwindling, but still vicious, band of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighters, suspected of committing mass atrocities in Uganda during the 1990s, now preying on civilians across a broad swath of Central Africa.
Addressing reporters at Headquarters via video link from Entebbe, Uganda, Abou Moussa, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), said he had just wrapped up a two-day meeting, in line with the directive given his Office last year by the Security Council, to cooperate with United Nations peacekeeping missions and African Union bodies to develop a regional strategy for international assistance, as well as peacebuilding in areas affected by LRA violence.
He said that the meeting, a follow-up to earlier talks at African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, had focused on finalizing the strategy and updating Ugandan officials on the continuing threat to the region posed by Kony and his LRA fighters. It had also outlined regional and international measures to combat LRA and launch development activities in the affected areas.
Joining in to offer some specifics, Francisco Caetano José Madeira, Special Envoy of the African Union on the Lord’s Resistance Army Issue, said the discussions had been “very fruitful”, and that United Nations and African Union officials would, in the next 24 hours, head to the South Sudanese capital of Juba to launch the Joint Operations Task Force, which would be composed of troops from Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as South Sudan, representing the countries most affected by LRA activity.
Once that force had been officially launched, he said, the officials planned to visit the regional Task Force headquarters where the respective militaries would garrison their troops, and “after those visits, the Task Force will be commissioned and can begin its work.”
Major-General Adrian J. Foster, Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), added that the Mission had long been working with Congolese and other partners to address the “LRA menace”. A key aim had been to highlight the important fact that although LRA had largely been driven out of Uganda, its former home base, it had begun to exploit the Great Lakes region’s porous borers and, in particular, it’s near impenetrable forest areas, to terrorize civilians.
Asked if the Kony 2012 documentary — the controversial centrepiece of an online video campaign to bring down the elusive warlord that went viral two weeks ago and swept across the Internet — had had any impact on the efforts of the United Nations and African Union, Mr. Moussa acknowledged that it had indeed thrown an international spotlight on LRA.
But the campaign, for all the issues it raised, had also increased global awareness about what intergovernmental and other organizations were already doing to combat the LRA threat. Controversial or not, he said, the film made two things clear: LRA killed and maimed people; and its leaders needed to be brought to justice.
A correspondent wondered if the United Nations or African Union had any idea where Kony was currently hiding out, and Mr. Moussa said the organizations had received information that he might be in the Central African Republic. He was now believed to have only between 200 and 700 fighters under his command, but those numbers were not important, Mr. Moussa said; what was important was that however many they were, they still posed a threat to civilians in the region.
Responding to questions regarding cooperation with the 100-man special forces unit authorized in October 2011 by United States President Barack Obama to work with African regional mechanisms to combat LRA, Mr. José Madeira said that he had visited the United States’ embassies in the four concerned countries and received pledges of support, including regarding the United States military forces. LRA was essentially a “guerrilla group” moving freely throughout the jungle and border areas in central Africa. The threat must be tackled through cooperation between regional and international partners, including the United States, he said.
He added that, during those visits, which had been carried out in early January, the four Governments had agreed to cooperate with the Joint Operations mechanism. Of course, there might be some difficulties, but the countries had agreed to discuss them. Noting that the joint operations centre in South Sudan hosted representatives from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and the Central African Republic, he said the aim was that there should be cross border cooperation on impeding the LRA’s movements and regarding prosecuting its members.
* *** *For information media • not an official record