For more than two decades, a small, ruthless armed band has terrorized a large area of Central Africa in a campaign of kidnapping, murder and rape. The group, calling itself the Lord’s Resistance Army, has committed hundreds of attacks across Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic, forcing some 465,000 people to flee their homes.
Uganda, where the group originated, and its neighboring countries have struggled for years to counter the LRA. With the support of the African Union, the United Nations, the United States and the wider international community, efforts to end the group’s depredations against civilians have seriously weakened, but not yet completely eliminated, the group.
Operating in the vast areas of South Sudan, eastern and southern CAR, and northern DRC, the LRA has been reduced to what is believed to be a force of just a few hundred fighters. Since 2012, Over 250 LRA fighters and non-combatants have abandoned the group and come out of the bush. Early this month, one of the group’s three top leaders joined them in abandoning the fight, surrendering to U.S. military advisers in the C.A.R. And he called on others in the LRA to do the same.
Dominic Ongwen’s surrender was a major step forward toward securing the future of the LRA-affected areas of Central and Eastern Africa. It is a visible symbol of our successful partnership with the African Union’s Regional Counter-LRA Task Force. Ongwen has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. All parties have agreed that he should face justice, and we commend the governments of the Central African Republic and Uganda for their collaboration and cooperation in this process.
Per an agreement between the AU and the governments of CAR and Uganda, Ongwen was transferred to the custody of the AU force. He will then be handed over to CAR authorities for transfer to the ICC.
The fight will not end there, however. Joseph Kony, the LRA’s supreme leader, and his deputy Okot Odhiambo, who still command a small cadre of fighters, remain at large. Their surrender or capture would end a reign of terror for the people of the region.