Home | News    Monday 12 March 2012

Protect civilians against LRA, UN tells peacekeepers


March 11, 2012 (JUBA) - A senior United Nations (UN) official has said
civilian protection remains the major focus of the UN Organization
Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(MONUSCO) in its efforts against the Lord Resistance Army (LRA), a notorious Ugandan rebel group operating around the border area in the
eastern part of the country.

Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations
in an interview with the UN news centre on Friday, also reiterated
peacekeepers commitment towards ending the more than two decade conflict,
using a “range of strategies”.

“Our Blue Helmets have been offering military escorts to merchants
transporting their goods to markets as well as to churchgoers,”
Ladsous said, adding that, “By patrolling in and around villages and
towns where LRA presence was signalled, they have maintained a level
of security and saved lives”.

The LRA came into existence in the late 1980s and in the past years it has built a reputation as notorious gang known for forcefully recruiting children, raping, killing and abductions in Uganda and neighbouring DRC, South Sudan and Central Africa Republic (CAR).

The LRA leader, Joseph Kony and other senior commanders are wanted by
Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) for various crimes.

Ladsous, however, said although current estimates suggest that the LRA
comprises less than 500 combatants operating under the leadership of
Joseph Kony, its capacity to attack, terrorize and harm local
communities cannot be ignored.

The UN official further decried the rebels recent activities in parts of the DRC, especially new attacks on civilians which reportedly occurred in the past few weeks in Dungu, Faradje, Watsa, Niangara, Bondo and Ango.

The peacekeeping mission, Ladsous maintained, has taken a robust
military approach against the LRA and other armed groups in recent
years, specifically citing its “blue helmets”, which reportedly work
with the Congolese armed forces in leading military operations against
the LRA and other armed groups.

The UN mission, he added, also facilitates the provision of
humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations in areas affected by
the LRA.

The peacekeeping chief also lauded the role of US military advisor’s
recently deployed by the American government to support regional
armies against the LRA, and said coordinated pressure by the national
armies of CAR, DRC, South Sudan and Uganda is weakening the LRA.

In 2010, United States President Barrack Obama 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 like Uganda and
other regions affected by the insurgency.

“But the peacekeepers have also taken a softer approach to encourage
combatants to give up their weapons and return to civilian life,”
Ladsous told the UN news centre.

“Radio programmes and leaflets target rebels to convince them give up
arms and return to civilian life,” he added.

In a related development, B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under Secretary General
for Political Affairs, said that the UN, for years, had made several attempts
to bring the group into a peace deal, and used its peacekeeping forces
to protect civilians from the LRA.

Pascoe further noted that although the organisation continues to work
through its political office in Central Africa to forge an effective
regional response to end the LRA insurgency, success is still far from
being achieved in reality.

“I think we need to redouble our efforts to see what we can do because
these are really ferocious crimes,” he said, adding that he hoped that
Mr. Kony would be captured and tried for his alleged crimes.

The UN’s top political official also expressed appreciation for the
awareness raising potential of a video about the LRA which has gained
wide notoriety on the internet.

“One of our biggest problems with the LRA and dealing with the LRA has
been getting the attention to it. So I think it is very good that this
gets around, that people see what’s there,” he told reporters.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, in a recent report, assessed
the threat posed by the LRA and openly urged the UN, the African Union
and governments in the region to step up military, political and
humanitarian efforts towards bringing an end to the menace.


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