In May 2010, President Obama signed into law the Lord’s Resistance (LRA) Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, which reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to support regional partners’ efforts to end the atrocities of the LRA in central Africa. For more than two decades, the LRA has murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children. In 2011, the LRA reportedly committed over 250 attacks. The United Nations estimates that over 465,000 people were displaced or living as refugees across Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and South Sudan as a result of LRA activity in 2011.
The United States’ comprehensive, multi-year strategy seeks to help the governments of Uganda, CAR, the DRC, and South Sudan as well as the African Union and United Nations to mitigate and end the threat posed to civilians and regional stability by the LRA. The strategy outlines four key objectives for U.S. support: (1) the increased protection of civilians, (2) the apprehension or removal of Joseph Kony and senior LRA commanders from the battlefield, (3) the promotion of defections and support of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of remaining LRA fighters, and (4) the provision of continued humanitarian relief to affected communities.
The national militaries in the region have made progress in reducing the LRA’s numbers and in keeping them from regrouping. However, there are significant challenges in pursuing small groups of LRA and protecting local populations across this vast, densely-forested area that lacks basic road and telecommunications infrastructure. The United States has sent a small number of military advisers to the LRA-affected region to enhance the capacity of the national militaries to pursue senior LRA commanders and to protect civilians. The U.S. embassies in the region are also working closely with bilateral and multilateral partners to advance the overall strategy, and the Department of State has deployed a field representative to augment this engagement.
The lines of effort in which the United States is engaged include:
Increasing Civilian Protection: The protection of civilians is a priority for the U.S. strategy. National governments bear responsibility for civilian protection, and the United States is working to enhance their capacity to fulfill this responsibility. The United States also strongly supports the United Nations peacekeeping missions in the DRC and South Sudan and the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the CAR. We continue to work with the United Nations to help augment its efforts in the LRA-affected region. At the same time, we are working with other partners on projects to help reduce the vulnerability of LRA-affected communities and increase their capacity to make decisions related to their own safety. To promote the protection of civilians, the Department of State and USAID are funding communication networks, including high-frequency radios and cell phone towers, to enhance community-based protection in Bas- and Haut-Uélé districts in the DRC. USAID is also funding a Community Radio Correspondents Network in CAR to increase the availability of accurate information on LRA activities and general livelihoods for citizens.
Enhancing Regional Efforts to Apprehend LRA Top Commanders: On November 14, 2011, the United Nations Security Council commended ongoing efforts by national militaries in the region to address the threat posed by the LRA, and welcomed international efforts to enhance their capacity in this respect. The Council noted the efforts of the United States, which, since 2008, has provided nearly $50 million in critical logistical support, equipment and training to enhance counter-LRA operations by regional militaries. On October 14, 2011, President Obama reported to Congress that he had authorized a small number of U.S. advisors to deploy to the LRA-affected region, in consultation with national governments, to act as advisors to the militaries that are pursuing the LRA. The U.S. military advisors are working to help strengthen cooperation and information-sharing among regional forces, and to enhance the capacity of the militaries to fuse intelligence with effective operational planning.
Encouraging and Facilitating LRA Defections: Over the course of this conflict, more than 12,000 former LRA fighters and abductees have been reintegrated and reunited with their families through Uganda’s Amnesty Commission. The United States continues to support efforts across the affected countries to demobilize and reintegrate former LRA fighters and all those victimized by this conflict back into normal life. In Fiscal Year 2011, USAID provided nearly $2 million to support the rehabilitation of former abducted youth in CAR and the DRC and their reunification with their families. The United States is working with the United Nations, the African Union, and national governments in the region to enhance processes across the region to facilitate the safe return, repatriation, and reintegration of those who defect or escape from the LRA’s ranks.
Providing Humanitarian Assistance: The United States is the largest bilateral donor of humanitarian assistance to LRA-affected populations in CAR, the DRC, and South Sudan. In Fiscal Year 2011, the United States provided more than $18 million to support the provision of food assistance and implementation of food security, humanitarian protection, health, livelihoods initiatives, and other relief activities for internally displaced persons, host community members, and other populations affected by the LRA. The United States also continues to provide assistance to support the return of displaced people, reconstruction, and recovery in northern Uganda, where the LRA carried out its brutal campaign for nearly two decades until it fled Uganda in 2006. In Fiscal Year 2011, the United States provided approximately $102 million to support programming in health, education, water and sanitation, infrastructure, local governance and peace and reconciliation in northern Uganda. With the LRA’s departure and Ugandan and international recovery and development efforts, northern Uganda has undergone a significant post-conflict reconstruction and recovery in just a few years.