By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
November 23, 2011 (ADDIS ABABA) – The African Union on Tuesday imposed a formal ban on the Ugandan rebels group - the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), officially designating the notorious group a terrorist organisation.
This is the first time for the 54 member continental bloc to adopt such a ban which aimed to crush the group’s more than two decades long atrocities in Uganda and across the central African region.
The AU-led initiative further called on the UN Security Council to pass similar resolution against the group.
"The (AU’s) Peace and Security Council has decided to declare the LRA a terrorist group in line with the relevant AU instruments and it requests the United Nations Security Council to do the same," the council’s commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said.
In a communiqué the AU Peace and Security Council said that the decision authorises the implementation of the Regional Cooperation Initiative against the Lord’s Resistance Army (RCI-LRA) for an initial period of 6 months starting from the adoption of the present decision.
"The next step would be for all African countries to consider the LRA as such and to enact regulations and legislation that would forbid the activities of the LRA on their national territories and also make it punishable for any individual to assist in any way the LRA to continue its criminal activities," he said.
AU council’s move comes after the UN Security Council last week reiterated its grave concern to ongoing attacks by LRA and strongly condemned to the atrocities being committed further urging the group to cease to all attacks on civilians, release all abductees and called on all remaining members of the group surrender and disarm.
Since LRA became active in 1987 in northern Uganda, the group has caused serious humanitarian and human rights violations across the region including to the killings of thousands, recruitment and use of children, rape, sexual slavery and other sexual violence and abductions in Uganda and also in other parts of Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan
According to a recent UN report, despite being estimated to have fewer than 500 combatants the LRA’s activities have also led to displacement of nearly around 440,000 people.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that in the first eight months of this year the 240 attacks blamed on the LRA led to the death of 130 people and the abduction of 327. The attacks mostly took place in northeastern DRC.