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Rights body urges Obama to prioritise anti-LRA efforts

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February 22, 2012 (JUBA) The United States government, despite the political pressures of an election year, must continue to prioritise efforts to help combat the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a UK-based rights human rights organisation has said.

The Obama adminstration, according to Resolve, should actively work with central African governments to arrest LRA leader Joseph Kony and put an end once and for all to the group’s atrocities in the region.

“2012 is a make or break year for President Obama’s efforts to see an end to LRA violence,” said Michael Poffenberger, Resolve’s executive director.

“The LRA has relentlessly attacked civilians for over two decades. The President’s decision to deploy U.S. military advisors to the region creates a limited window of opportunity to finally see these atrocities come to an end.”

In 2010, the Obama administration released the first-ever White House strategy to address the LRA issue, and later deployed 100 combat troops to offer advice to governments in countries affected like Uganda, where the group originate.

In addition to protecting civilians from LRA attacks, these troops were also expected to apprehend senior LRA commanders.

Currently believed to have only 200-300 fighters down from close to 10,000 in the early 1990’s, the LRA are renowned for their brutality, killing and displacing over 450,000 people in Uganda, neighboring South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Attempts in the recent past to broker a peace deal between the rebel and the Ugandan government have been fruitless, and have been made harder by the issuance of arrest warrants for the LRA’s top commanders by the International Criminal Court.

The inability of the Ugandan government to convince the head of the LRA, Joseph Kony, that he would be immune from prosecution if he signed a deal, which was on the table in Juba in 2008, was thought to be the main reason he walked away from negotiations.

“Joseph Kony and senior LRA commanders remain a very real threat to peace and stability in Central Africa, and have proven they can survive half-hearted efforts aimed at defeating them,” said Paul Ronan, Resolve’s co-founder and director of advocacy.

He added, “While it’s a huge step forward, President Obama’s LRA strategy runs the risk of becoming another well-intentioned but ultimately unsuccessful effort unless additional steps are taken immediately.”

The report, based on three months of research reportedly conducted in late 2011 in remote areas of Central Africa impacted by LRA violence, further urged the U.S to:

  • Employ high level diplomacy by partnering with the African Union to overcome breakdown in operations
  • Deploy helicopters to help regional military respond to reports of LRA attacks and movements
  • And invest in civilian infrastructure, including early warning systems, and programs focused on securing peaceful defections from LRA ranks to complement military investments

(ST)

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