UN and partners build momentum in the fight against the LRA
Efforts by the United Nations, African countries and international partners to address the threat and impact of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and its leader Joseph Kony, have gained substantial momentum in recent years. The UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), a political mission established in 2011, is playing an important role in fostering a coordinated UN response and in building on the growing international support.
Decades-long history of human rights violations
Throughout its history, the LRA has been known for its atrocities – including the abduction and forced recruitment of children, rape, amputations and murder. This was the LRA’s modus operandi in Uganda from the 1980s until it was forced out by the national army in 2004, and when it later spread its terror to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan as well as to the Central African Republic. The LRA’s actions have caused massive displacement of civilian populations. And while its numbers have dwindled to less than 500 armed combatants, the group still has the capacity to attack and terrorize.
Video: UN efforts against the LRA
Regional Strategy on the LRA
In late 2011, the UN Security Council requested UNOCA, in coordination with the UN Office to the African Union, to work with UN entities and the African Union to develop a regional strategy on the LRA. Under the leadership of Special Representative Abou Moussa, UNOCA quickly went to work.
Between January and April 2012, Mr. Moussa and the African Union Special Envoy on the LRA, Francisco Madeira, carried out joint assessment visits to LRA-affected areas prior to organizing several stakeholders’ meetings in Addis Ababa and Entebbe. In March, the two officials were together at the launch of the African Union’s Regional Cooperation Initiative against the LRA in Juba, South Sudan. The four affected countries pledged to provide a total of 5,000 troops to form the Regional Cooperation Initiative's military component, the Regional Task Force, to hunt down the LRA and its leaders.
UNOCA and UN Office to the African Union, as well as the UN Integrated Peace-building Office in the Central African Republic, have been working with the UN peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and in South Sudan (UNMISS), as well as with the UN’s agencies, funds and programmes to increase the UN’s response both to humanitarian needs and the protection of civilians.
In June 2012, the Security Council endorsed a comprehensive anti-LRA strategy arrived at through extensive consultations involving UN entities and partners. The strategy focuses on five key objectives: (i) implementation of the African Union-led Regional Cooperation Initiative against the LRA; (ii) Enhancement of efforts to promote the protection of civilians; (iii) Expansion of current disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration activities to cover all LRA-affected areas; (iv) Promotion of a coordinated humanitarian and child protection response in all LRA-affected areas; and (v) Provision of support to LRA-affected governments in the fields of peacebuilding, human rights, rule of law and development, so as to enable them to establish state authority throughout their territory.
Need for International Support
While the four LRA affected countries have demonstrated the political will to tackle the LRA issue, it is clear that international cooperation, including financial support, is required.
“The strategy must only represent the beginning of vigorous attention by the Council to address the LRA issue, in order to put an end to these atrocities once and for all,” Mr. Moussa said. “Its successful implementation will depend on the level of cooperation and engagement among the affected countries and on resource mobilization to address funding gaps.”
In his most recent report to the Security Council on the LRA, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed for such assistance: “Only by providing the necessary resources will we be able to ensure the success of continuing efforts by the national authorities, the African Union and other international partners in this regard.”
The United Nations is not alone in supporting the African-led actions against the LRA. A group of United States military advisers deployed in the region is providing training and intelligence assistance. Furthermore, efforts by civil society and human rights advocates – including the release of an online video sensation “Kony 2012” – have helped build public awareness and support for addressing the threat and impact of the LRA.
A determined push is needed now to translate plans into action so that the LRA’s reign of terror – which has victimized hundreds of thousands of civilians in four countries for more than two decades – may soon come to an end. A Presidential Statement issued in December 2012 by the Security Council focuses on this objective, among other matters, and stakeholders adopted a roadmap outlining the division of work at a meeting in February 2013 in Entebbe, Uganda.
More about the UN's political efforts in Central Africa
Website of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa