January 16, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) – The second ministerial meeting of the African Union, on Tuesday, adopted strategic directives, as part of the Joint Coordination Mechanism (JCM) regional cooperation initiative to eliminate threats posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in central Africa.
- Commanders of the African Union Regional Task Force in Juba, March 16, 2012 (ST)
Ramtane Lamamra, Peace and Security Commissioner, reportedly chaired the meeting, held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, which aimed to introduce measures to end the LRA’s quarter of a century long insurgency.
The JCM, the AU said in a statement, was also attended by defense ministers and chiefs of defense staff from countries if the regional initiative, namely the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Uganda.
Also in attendance as observers, the statement adds, were representatives from Chad, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the United Nations.
This week’s meeting was a follow-up of the 20 December 2012 conference for chief of defense staff from member countries of the regional initiative, which took place in the CAR capital, Bangui.
Meanwhile, the AU-led ministerial meeting also adopted the Concept of Operations (CONOPS), the Rules of Engagement (RoE) and the Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Since its launch in November 2011, the anti-LRA regional initiative has reportedly registered commendable progress towards eliminating the Ugandan rebel group. In March last year, the AU and UN initiated a joint Regional Task Force (RTF) comprising of forces from Uganda, DRC, South Sudan and CAR to intensify the hunt against the rebels.
Currently, the force comprises 2,850 troops, provided by CAR, South Sudan and Uganda, while the DRC is reportedly planning to hand over its initial contribution of 500 troops to regional contingent by the end of January 2013.
The United States has also provided military advisers to the region to aid the hunt for the elusive group, whose leadership have been indicted by the International Criminal Court.
In addition, defense ministers from the RTF countries, according to the AU, will meet again in mid-March 2013, in Juba, South Sudan, to evaluate the progress made and chart the way forward for the elimination of the LRA.
Another forum, it says, is planned for early April, as member countries of the anti-LRA initiative seek to mobilize further resources for the successful implementation of the initiative, both from member states and from partners.
The LRA, which has survived since 1987 by kidnapping and forcing children to become child soldiers is accused of fight conducting serious human rights violations against civilians in the areas in which it operates.
Estimates in recent years have put the number of fighter as in the low hundreds. The whereabouts of the LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, has remained unknown for some time but it is widley assumed that he is based in the Central Democratic Republic of Congo, despite some reports claiming that he may have entered the Darfur region of Sudan.
During the Sudanese civil war, the Khartoum was accused of using the LRA as a proxy to fight the former southern rebels that now govern independent South Sudan.