Today, President Obama announced that the United States will continue the deployment of a small number of U.S. military advisors to assist Uganda and other regional forces pursuing the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and seeking to protect local populations. The President said that upon ordering the deployment last year that he directed his National Security Council to review our progress after 150 days. Having completed this review, he announced that our advisors will continue their efforts to support the regional forces. “This is part of our regional strategy to end the scourge that is the LRA and help realize a future where no African child is stolen from their family, no girl is raped and no boy is turned into a child soldier,” as the President said. The President made this announcement in remarks discussing the United States’ development of a comprehensive strategy to prevent and respond to mass atrocities.
The United States remains deeply engaged in support of the governments and people of central Africa in their efforts to end the threat posed by the LRA and reduce the human consequences of the LRA’s atrocities. The United States is providing support for both military and civilian efforts to comprehensively address the LRA threat and help affected communities.
In May 2010, President Obama signed into law the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, which reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to support regional partners’ efforts to end the atrocities of the LRA in central Africa. As the President said at the time, “the legislation crystallizes the commitment of the United States to help bring an end to the brutality and destruction that have been a hallmark of the LRA across several countries for two decades, and to pursue a future of greater security and hope for the people of central Africa.”
The United States’ strategy outlines four key objectives: (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 from the LRA and support of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of remaining LRA fighters, and (4) the provision of continued humanitarian relief to affected communities.
• For more than two decades, the LRA has murdered, raped, and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women, and children in central Africa. The LRA continues to commit atrocities in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security.
• As the President has said before, “the Lord’s Resistance Army preys on civilians – killing, raping, and mutilating the people of central Africa; stealing and brutalizing their children; and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. Its leadership, indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, has no agenda and no purpose other than its own survival. It fills its ranks of fighters with the young boys and girls it abducts. By any measure, its actions are an affront to human dignity.”
• The LRA’s top leaders are responsible for the murder, rape, and kidnapping of tens of thousands of men, women, and children over the last two decades, and we believe they should be brought to justice. In 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants against Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen for war crimes and crimes against humanity. (Two other senior leaders subject to an arrest warrant are now believed to be dead.)
Sustaining Pressure on LRA Leaders while Encouraging Defections and Protecting Civilians
• Last October, the President authorized the deployment of a small number of U.S. military advisors to enhance the collaboration and capacity of the regional forces pursuing the LRA and seeking to protect local populations. We believe the advisors are making progress in their efforts, despite a difficult operating environment.
• The Governments of Uganda, CAR, DRC and South Sudan, in collaboration with the African Union, continue to dedicate significant material and human resources to bring an end to the threat posed by the LRA. They are leading this effort, and the United States is committed to their efforts to keep the pressure on the LRA’s top leaders, encourage fighters to leave the group, and protect and assist civilians in need. Continuing the deployment is contingent on the continued leadership and collaboration of affected states.
• The United States commends the governments in the region for their continued efforts to pursue top LRA commanders and protect local populations. They have made progress keeping the LRA from regrouping. However, there are significant challenges in pursuing top LRA commanders and protecting local populations across this vast, densely-forested area that lacks basic road and telecommunications infrastructure.
• The United States is working with the governments in the region, the United Nations and non-governmental partners to increase opportunities for non-indicted LRA fighters and abductees to safely leave the group. We believe that targeted efforts to facilitate defections and support their reintegration, in parallel with increased military pressure, can help reduce the LRA’s capacity. We continue to call on non-indicted LRA fighters to leave the group and take advantage of opportunities for reintegration.
• In addition, we are also working on other actions to protect civilians, including strengthening early warning networks and local protection planning, and providing humanitarian assistance to LRA-affected communities.
Partnering in Support of Regional Efforts
• We are working closely with the African Union, the United Nations, and the European Union as well as the four affected governments.
• We have a strong interest in working with our regional partners to enhance their capacity and cooperation to address shared threats to peace and security, such as the LRA, and to increase the protection of civilians.
Post-Conflict Recovery in Northern Uganda
• The President has commended “the Government of Uganda for its efforts to stabilize the northern part of the country, for actively supporting transitional and development assistance, and for pursuing reintegration programs for those who surrender and escape from the LRA ranks.”
• The Government of Uganda pushed the LRA out of Uganda by 2006, through a combination of military pressure and an aggressive campaign to encourage defections using its Amnesty Act. Since that time, the Ugandan government has overseen a significant recovery process in northern Uganda.
• The United States has played a leading role, among other donors, in supporting northern Uganda’s recovery.