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The Lord’s Resistance Army war has now gone on for 25 years, leaving over 60,000 children and youth abducted and tens of thousands of people killed. A quarter of a century later, there is a serious chance to end this scourge of humanity. The contribution of U.S. military advisors to the LRA battlefield needs to now spur the needed additional steps to make the resolution of the conflict a reality: more and better African troops and equipment on the ground, an agreement to deploy forces in all LRA-affected areas, and a more effective defection strategy.
The Enough Project’s latest report, “Ensuring Success: Four Steps Beyond U.S. troops to End the War with the LRA,” outlines a comprehensive strategy for helping U.S. and African Union, or A.U., forces end the LRA and bring reconciliation to affected communities. Based on interviews in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Washington, D.C., in December and January, this military and civilian focused approach is comprised of four specific strategies known collectively as TTID: increased special forces troop contributions, robust transportation options, enhanced intelligence capabilities, and renewed commitment to promoting the defections of LRA commanders and rank-and-file fighters.
Military operations to apprehend the LRA senior leadership and protect civilians should be bolstered with more capable troops from the regional armies or another African country, greater intelligence and transport capabilities including helicopters, and an agreement between the countries in the region to allow the regional troops to deploy in all LRA-affected areas including the Democratic Republic of Congo. On the civilian side, a two-tiered defection strategy should include an initiative targeted at senior commanders and a substantial aid package to increase radio programming and sensitize communities to accept ex-combatants peacefully.
Enough Policy Consultant and report author Sasha Lezhnev warns that the recent decrease in attacks by the LRA should not be interpreted as the immediate success of the U.S. advisors or suggest that the mission is no longer needed. History has shown that a decrease in activity by the LRA is its predictable response in the face of a military campaign. Lezhnev writes:
The LRA has decreased its attacks by two-thirds over the past six months in an effort to reorganize and lie low. But this is not a sign of LRA weakness. It is part of the group’s historical pattern of waiting out military incursions and then launching attacks. The LRA are among the best survivors on the planet—and they could simply be playing a waiting game for the departure of the U.S. soldiers.
Accordingly, a prolonged commitment to the area is of utmost importance.
The A.U. and supportive countries should take full advantage of the United States’ recent commitment to the cause. By providing U.S. military advisors and local military forces with the resources they need, coupled with an effective defection policy, ending the LRA’s 25 year reign of terror in central Africa is a realistic, timely, and ultimately achievable goal.
Read the full report “Ensuring Success: Four Steps Beyond U.S. troops to End the War with the LRA”
Photo: A former child soldier is reunited with his family in northern Uganda after defecting from the Lord's Resistance Army (Caritas)