For more than two decades, a small but ruthless armed band has terrorized a large area of Central Africa in a campaign of murder, rape and kidnapping. The group, calling itself the Lord’s Resistance Army, committed over 250 attacks in the region last year alone. The United Nations estimates that across the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic, approximately 465,000 have been forced to flee their homes because of the group’s rampages.
Those three nations and Uganda, where the group originated, have been struggling for years to counter the LRA, and with the support of the African Union, the United Nations, the United States and the wider international community, they are stepping up their efforts to end this group’s terror once and for all. The AU has launched a new initiative to help affected states work more effectively together in the fight against the LRA. For its part, the U.S. has sent a number of military advisers to the region to enhance the capacity of the forces that are pursuing the LRA and protecting local populations. The U.S. advisers are working to enhance information-sharing, operation planning and overall effectiveness.
Most actors agree, though, that military efforts alone won’t be sufficient to end the LRA threat. Therefore, the United States is also pursuing a number of efforts to help governments in the region and affected communities to increase telecommunications, enhance early warning systems and improve civilian protection. The U.S., European Union and other donors also are providing humanitarian assistance to help communities terrorized by the LRA.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and United Nations are working with governments in the region to encourage more defections and escapes from the LRA’s ranks. The United States is heartened by the release and escape of more than 50 women and children from the LRA’s ranks over recent months. These individuals have received food, medical attention, and transportation assistance to return home and reunite with their families. We are encouraging the remaining members of the LRA to escape from the group and take advantage of these offers of support. The world looks forward to a day when the LRA is no longer a threat to innocent people.