By Julius N. Uma
March 25, 2012 (JUBA) — The European Union (EU) has allocated €9m for humanitarian assistance to people affected by over two decades of the Joseph Kony-led Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as part of the United Nations and African Union-backed joint military strategy against the rebels.
The announcement was made during Saturday’s official launch of the strategy in Juba, South Sudan, which was presided over by the country’s vice-president, Riek Machar, Francisco Madeira, the AU special envoy for the LRA issue and Abou Moussa, the special representative to the UN secretary general, among other delegates.
Under the initiative, a contingent of 5,000 soldiers, led by senior commanders from Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR) will embark on a mission to hunt down the elusive LRA leader, whose exact location remains unknown.
Formed in Uganda in the late 1980s, the notorious LRA rebels have, for over 15 years, mainly targeted innocent civilians and the army. Following regional armies’ offensive, the LRA moved to neighboring countries and massively killed, abducted and displaced thousands of the population.
At the special session of the AU Assembly held on August 31, 2009, African Heads of states adopted a plan of action on the consideration and resolution of conflicts. This plan of action called upon African countries “to neutralize the LRA and bring an end to its atrocities and .destabilizing activities in the DRC, Southern Sudan and CAR”.
In 2011, the AU drafted a paper on the establishment of a regional task force (RTF) in the countries affected by LRA.
The regional task force headquarters for the joint military operation will be located in Yambio, the provincial capital of South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state, which borders the DRC.
As the anti-LRA operation kicks off, officials in South Sudan government have already expressed skepticism of the process, allaying fears of the poor security road networks in the region, which could hamper effective movement and coordination among the troops.
The vice-president appealed for humanitarian assistance, which he said, should accompany the military actions, outlining a series of economic benefits associated with some of the areas currently affected by the LRA war. He specifically cited Western Equatoria state, which is reportedly a hub for minerals, food crops and fruits.
He further assured the UN and AU delegations of the political will to ensure that security roads in the area are opened up in order to boost the movement of troops involved in the operation.
The AU, its special envoy on LRA issues said, will employ a military, social and humanitarian approach in the joint military operation, although he did not divulge much detail on how long the operation will remain active.
“We have no time frame. This operation can end tomorrow or next week provided our mandate to capture Kony and end the rebellion is successful,” Madeira told Sudan Tribune in separate interview.
Since the launch of operation lightening thunder in 2008, the LRA, has reportedly killed more than 2,000 people, abducted at least 4,000 and displaced over 400,000 people in various parts of Uganda, South Sudan, the DRC and CAR.
Mousa on the other hand described the launch of the joint military strategy as a major step in regional efforts to end the 26-year old insurgency.
“My office will not relent its efforts in the struggle to end the LRA rebellion and bring its leaders to justice,” the UN special representative said.
The joint military strategy, he added, will take into account key elements, involving arresting the LRA leader and bringing him to justice, civilian protection, provision of humanitarian assistance and developing long term development plans in areas worst affected by the insurgency.