Under the leadership of Joseph Kony, the Lord's Resistance Army has displaced, maimed and terrorized millions of innocent people since launching an insurgency against the Ugandan government in 1986.
For nearly three decades, a rebel group has conducted a campaign of murder, rape and kidnapping across four nations in central Africa. Under the leadership of Joseph Kony, the Lord's Resistance Army has displaced, maimed and terrorized millions of innocent people since launching an insurgency against the Ugandan government in 1986.
Under the auspices of an African Union Regional Task Force, nations in the region terrorized by the LRA have worked together to end the threat posed by the group, and have had some success. Encouraged to defect and rejoin their families, scores of rebels have abandoned the fight, providing information on LRA leaders and operations. But while weakened, the group remains elusive and continues to commit attacks.
Two and a half years ago, to support the AU-led regional efforts, United States deployed a 100-member contingent of military personnel to advise and assist ongoing operations. They provide regional forces with training, operational intelligence and logistical support.
Besides this military aid, we also continue to work with partners to enhance protection of civilians by funding community-based programs using high frequency radios and cell phone towers to help communities better protect themselves from the LRA threat. Considerable humanitarian aid is provided as well.
On March 24, President Barack Obama ordered about 150 additional U.S. military personnel and some U.S. aircraft to join the effort. The planes, CV-22 Osprey with the capacity to take off and land in tight spaces, will be used to transport AU troops on anti-LRA missions, providing quick military response in a heavily forested region with few roads. As with the initial contingent, the additional U.S. troops won’t be used in combat operations.
Moreover, this approach isn’t a new one. The United States is engaged in many African nations to help build the professional capacity of their armed forces to more effectively protect their civilians and address regional security threats.
Our country stands with the governments and the people of central Africa in their efforts to confront the LRA. We call on LRA fighters to put down their arms, leave the organization’s ranks and come home. We will continue to work with the governments in the region to ensure that low-level fighters and abductees who escape from the LRA are able to reunite with their families and reintegrate into normal society.