The United States condemns the continued atrocities and abductions committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) across central Africa. We remain committed to supporting our regional partners’ efforts to mitigate and eliminate the threat to civilians and regional stability posed by the LRA. Since 2008, the United States has provided over $40 million in critical logistical support, equipment and training to enhance counter-LRA operations by regional militaries. We continue to join regional governments in calling on LRA fighters to peacefully disarm and return home.
With the consent of the Government of Uganda, and as notified to Congress, the United States has sent a small number of U.S. military advisors to the region to assist the forces that are pursuing the LRA and seeking to bring top commanders to justice. These advisors will work with our regional partners and the African Union in the field to strengthen information-sharing, enhance coordination and planning, and improve the overall effectiveness of military operations and the protection of civilians. These advisors will not engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense.
This is one component of an ongoing, comprehensive U.S. strategy to address the LRA threat, in accordance with the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Act signed into law in 2011. This strategy includes efforts to help increase the protection of civilians, encourage and facilitate defections of lower-level LRA fighters, and provide continued humanitarian relief.
In May 2010, President Obama signed into law the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, which reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to support regional partners’ efforts to end the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army (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. Since 2008 alone, the LRA has killed more than 2,400 people and abducted more than 3,400. The United Nations estimates that over 380,000 people are displaced across Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and South Sudan as a result of LRA activity.
The United States’ comprehensive, multi-year strategy seeks to help mitigate and end the threat posed to civilians and regional stability by the LRA. The strategy outlined four strategic 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 United States’ decision, announced today, to send a small group of military advisers to assist the forces that are countering the LRA forms part of our continuing effort to achieve these strategic objectives.
To summarize the lines of effort in which the United States has been engaged:
Increasing Civilian Protection: The protection of civilians is central to the U.S. strategy. The United States is working with the governments in the region, the UN, and other partners to reduce the vulnerability of communities and increase the capacity of communities to make decisions related to their own safety. We also strongly support the UN peacekeeping forces in DRC and South Sudan, and we continue to work with the UN to augment their efforts in the LRA-affected region. In the DRC, the State Department and USAID are funding projects to help communities develop protection plans and bolster early warning capabilities. These projects include high frequency radios and cell phone towers.
Countering the LRA: Over the last year, the United States has worked with partners at the UN Security Council and African Union to maintain momentum and enhance coordination to counter the LRA. We have also continued to engage frequently and at a high-level with the governments in the region on the importance of their continued military efforts to pursue the LRA and protect local communities. We have provided significant support for those efforts. Since 2008, the United States has provided over $40 million in critical logistical support, equipment and training to enhance counter-LRA operations by regional militaries.
Today’s announcement forms part of our support for the international community’s efforts to counter the LRA. As notified to Congress, with the consent of the Government of Uganda, we have sent a small number of U.S. military advisors to assist the forces that are pursing the LRA. These advisors will work with the forces in the field to strengthen information-sharing, enhance coordination and planning, and improve the overall effectiveness of military operations.
Providing Humanitarian Assistance: The United States is the largest provider of humanitarian assistance to LRA-affected populations in CAR, DRC and South Sudan. In Fiscal Year 2011, the United States provided more than $18 million to support food security, humanitarian protection, health, and livelihoods initiatives for internally displaced persons, host community members, and other affected populations. We also continue 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.
Statement by the President on the Signing of the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009
Today, I signed into law the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009. 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 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.
Of the millions affected by the violence, each had an individual story and voice that we must not forget. In northern Uganda, we recall Angelina Atyam’s 14-year old daughter, whom the LRA kidnapped in 1996 and held captive for nearly eight years — one of 139 girls abducted that day from a boarding school. In southern Sudan, we recall John Loboi — a father, a husband, a brother, a local humanitarian assistance worker killed in an ambush while helping others in 2003. Now, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, the people of Dungu and of Obo, too, have their stories of loss and pain.
We mourn those killed. We pray for those abducted to be freed, and for those wounded to heal. We call on the ranks of the LRA to disarm and surrender. We believe that the leadership of the LRA should be brought to justice.
I signed this bill today recognizing that we must all renew our commitments and strengthen our capabilities to protect and assist civilians caught in the LRA’s wake, to receive those that surrender, and to support efforts to bring the LRA leadership to justice. The Bill reiterates U.S. policy and our commitment to work toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict in northern Uganda and other affected areas, including northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, southern Sudan, and the Central African Republic. We will do so in partnership with regional governments and multilateral efforts.
I commend 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.
I also want the governments of other LRA-affected countries to know that we are aware of the danger the LRA represents, and we will continue to support efforts to protect civilians and to end this terrible chapter in central African history. For over a decade, the United States has worked with others to respond to the LRA crisis. We have supported peace process and reconciliation, humanitarian assistance and regional recovery, protection of civilians and reintegration for former combatants, and have supported regional governments as they worked to provide for their people’s security. Going forward, we will call on our partners as we all renew our efforts.
I congratulate Congress for seizing on this important issue, and I congratulate the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have mobilized to respond to this unique crisis of conscience. We have heard from the advocacy organizations, non-governmental organizations, faith-based groups, humanitarian actors who lack access, and those who continue to work on this issue in our own government. We have seen your reporting, your websites, your blogs, and your video postcards — you have made the plight of the children visible to us all. Your action represents the very best of American leadership around the world, and we are committed to working with you in pursuit of the future of peace and dignity that the people of who have suffered at the hands of the LRA deserve.