The United States and the LRA

Ugandan Soldiers fighting the LRA

The LRA has changed drastically since its inception almost 25 years ago. The force is now divided into many small groups operating hundreds of kilometers from one another, and as Ugandans defect or are killed they are replaced by Congolese, Central African, and Sudanese fighters. Additionally, it is generally fear rather than ideology that keeps fighters in the LRA today.

The number of LRA troops is dwindling. About 300 fighters remain operational today, supported by hundreds more abducted children, less than half of the number in action two years ago. There has been a slow but steady defection of Ugandans since December 2008. Were this rate to remain constant for the next 12 months, there would hardly be any Ugandan fighters left in the LRA.

In May 2010 after intense pressure by U.S.-based activist groups, the U.S. Congress passed and President Obama signed legislation aimed to end this crisis. The "Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act" was the most widely supported Africa-specific legislation in recent congressional history. As required by the legislation, President Obama submitted the "Strategy to Support the Disarmament of the LRA" on November 24, 2010.

On October 14, 2011, President Obama announced that he would deploy a force of 100 American soldiers to serve in an advisory role to remove Kony from the battlefield.

The advisory force deployed to Entebbe, Uganda, in late 2011, and from there moved to positions in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo in early 2012. The African Union officially launched its own military force on March 23, 2012, but the force has not materialized yet.

Now, the U.S.-supported Ugandan troops are facing a series of challenges:

  • Agreements must be brokered between the governments in the region to allow Ugandan troops access to LRA safe havens.
  • Further intelligence and logistical support is needed to locate Joseph Kony and respond rapidly to intelligence.
  • Only 800 Ugandan troops are covering an area the size of Arizona – they need to deploy more of their most capable special forces.

LRA Access Map

The Ugandan army is the only regional force conducting offensive operations against the LRA, and without the support of the United States, more prioritization of this mission, and a major strategic shift, the operation is likely to fail.

Learn more: The LRA and U.S. Policy: May 2010 to Present (2011).

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