Central Africa: Access to Remote Areas Needed to Eliminate The LRA Rebel Group
Washington, D.C. --- Today, as the U.N. Security Council meets to discuss the status of the counter-Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, mission, the Enough Project released a new report, highlighting gaps in the fight to eliminate the LRA. The report, “Blind Spots: Gaining Access to Where the LRA Operates”, based on field research across central Africa, emphasizes a major obstacle in eliminating the rebel group: the lack of access to remote areas in central Africa where the LRA is known to be hiding and operating.
The counter-LRA mission, led by Ugandan forces and backed by the U.S.-supported African Union Regional Task Force, or AU-RTF, has made significant progress in the past two years, including increased defections from the rebel group, a decrease of more than 50 percent in attacks, and significant improvement for human security and protection of civilians.
“Gaining Access” argues that despite the AU-RTF’s progress in eliminating some of the LRA’s safe havens, including longtime strongholds in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, LRA history reveals that the group can survive in a shrunken state and expand rapidly when circumstances and external support allow, a factor that can significantly curb the momentum of the mission, unless the senior leadership of LRA is removed and the group completely dismantled. The rebels are down to only 250-300 fighters, but are responsible for the displacement of more than 350,000 civilians. The LRA have found safe havens in remote areas of northeastern DRC, the eastern parts of Central African Republic and in the Sudan controlled Kafia Kingi enclave---where logistical and political blocks have denied the AU-RTF access to pursue the LRA.
Kasper Agger, author of the report, states:
“The endgame of removing LRA leader Joseph Kony from the battlefield and neutralizing the LRA is imperiled by the lack of access to wide swathes of central Africa where the group still hides. Expanded regional cooperation and increased logistical support for the mission are critical to boosting ongoing counter-LRA efforts and bringing a final end to the LRA rebel group.”
Currently, the largest hindrances to access are the lack of cooperation among regional governments and uncoordinated international support for the AU-RTF. Counter-LRA efforts are also undermined by the lack of full cross-border coordination, information sharing among regional forces, and limited logistical capabilities to cover large areas where the LRA reside. The report calls on international stakeholders, the United Nations, the African Union and the U.S. to use diplomatic leverage to forge an agreement between the leaders of the Sudans, Uganda, the DRC and the Central African Republic to ensure access for AU-RTF troops to all areas where the LRA operate and general support for counter-LRA efforts within their territories. The international community can also play a key role in ensuring a fully operational AU-RTF, equipped with sufficient communications assets and increased logistical capacity.
Consolidating and increasing the support for the mission will not only boost the decades-long effort to eliminate the LRA, but could also serve as a model for how to secure the long-term security of remote border areas in Africa.
Last week, the Ngok Dinka community of the contested Abyei region that lies between Sudan and South Sudan announced the results of a historic unilateral referendum. Over 99 percent of Ngok Dinka voted in an expression of collective will to transfer Abyei from Sudan’s sovereignty to South Sudan. Read More »
I am currently in Kou Kou Angarana, Chad which is less than 30 miles from the Chad-Sudan border. I’ve been in this area for almost two weeks visiting Djabal and Goz Amer refugee camps for the Enough Project’s Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program, or DDT and have just a few days remaining in my trip. Read More »
Enough Project Urges US and African Union to Act on Abyei
Frustrated residents of the contested Abyei region that lies between Sudan and South Sudan announced the results of a historic unilateral referendum on Thursday. A new Enough Project reportcontextualizes the Ngok Dinka community's vote to join South Sudan and calls for the U.S. and the African Union to take immediate action to help determine Abyei’s final status.
The fate of Abyei is one of the most important issues left unresolved since South Sudan became an independent state in 2011. The region is home to the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya, nomadic Arab herders, who migrate across the Abyei region twice a year. The two groups have lived there together in mutual interdependence, but a long history of unfulfilled promises for self-determination and the politicization of Abyei’s final status has raised tensions. In 2008 and 2011, Sudanese army attacks left towns burned to the ground, and resulted in the displacement of 120,000 people.
The report,"What Happens to a Dream Deferred" calls on the African Union to carry out its intended visit to the region, report on key findings, outline a clear timeline for a credible and internationally-sanctioned vote as called for in the African Union’s proposal, and hold Sudan to its existing wealth-sharing promises for Abyei.
Akshaya Kumar, Sudan and South Sudan Policy Analyst, and co-author of the report, says, "The people of Abyei's dreams have been deferred for too long. Unless the African Union makes it clear that it is willing to stand behind President Mbeki's proposal, violence could once again seize the region."
Over 99 percent of the Ngok Dinka who voted on the unilateral ballot expressed a desire to transfer the Abyei territory from Sudan’s sovereignty to South Sudanese control.The Misseriya tribe has now vowed to hold their own referendum to voice their desire to stay with Sudan.
Timothy May, Enough Project Field Researcher, and co-author of the report, says "The Sudanese government already owes both the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya 2% of the region's oil revenues since 2005. While they might not agree on the area's final status, both groups can work together to push Khartoum to turn over those funds, which could help develop their communities."
Neither Sudan nor South Sudan recognize the validity of the vote. The report authors explain that the Ngok Dinka’s unsanctioned vote is an expression of collective will and should be seen as a precursor to an internationally-recognized referendum for the disputed area.
John Prendergast, Enough Project Co-Founder, explains, "Abyei's peace can be secured only by honoring the multiple past agreements allowing its residents to vote on their future. The UN peacekeeping mission led by Ethiopia acts as a deterrent to armed conflict, but they cannot stay forever. The international community must use this moment to support a lasting resolution."
Warped and exploitative regional relationships have been one of the most critical factors in Congo becoming the site of the deadliest war in the world over the past two decades. Several of Congo’s neighbors have been deeply involved in the war, and the Congolese government’s deep corruption and bad governance have created conditions in which the army and a host of militias have operated with impunity and destabilized eastern Congo. The Congo-Rwanda relationship, however, has been at the heart of the decade-and-ahalf-long war in Congo and is thus the focus of this report.
By Sasha Lezhnev and John Prendergast | Oct 16, 2013