AFRICOM’s contribution to LRA fiasco

by Scott A Morgan

The military action in Central Africa that has garnered copious amounts of international criticism about tactics appears to be on the edge of failure for not being able to contain the militia in question.

General William Ward, AFRICOM Commander.

General William Ward, AFRICOM Commander.

The casualty figures from the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sudan are staggering. Since Christmas at least 1,000 people have been killed in acts of reprisal by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army). At least 150 children have been kidnapped and at least 250,000 people have had to flee their homes as a result of the new cycle of violence.

The casualty figures among the Ugandan, Congolese and the forces of Southern Sudan are being held close to the chest at this time.

The criticism has been sent in two directions. First of all the policies of the Uganda Government have been called into question, especially regarding reconstruction of war-ravaged areas and the internal displacement camps (IDP) in northern Uganda. The LRA has drawn its membership from northern Uganda to replenish its ranks from time to time. The group has also expanded its area of operations into the DRC and now, according to reports, the Central African Republic.

In recent weeks the criticism has been sent in a new direction. When Operation Lightning Thunder was first launched after the LRA leadership refused to sign a peace deal that took two years to negotiate, there were calls for the African military forces to get help from outside sources. One of the sources that activists expected to help the Ugandans and their allies was AFRICOM.

In recent weeks information has emerged that AFRICOM did in fact assist in the planning of this offensive. According to media reports in the United States, the command provided the following assistance to anti-Joseph Kony crackdown: Satellite phones, maps, two dozen observers and $1 Million worth of fuel.

The Operations themselves have been a hit or miss affair as empty camps were hit and the LRA started its campaign of reprisal raids. In the eyes of some people the efforts of AFRICOM have been a dismal failure in this effort.

The current situation is now as follows: recently, the LRA ambushed an army patrol from the Central African Republic. So it appears that the goal of preventing this militia from entering that country has failed. Meanwhile, self-defense forces have been formed in the Western Equatoria Province of Sudan. They are being formed to prevent the LRA from “recruiting” and actually regrouping themselves. This fact show in fact how high tensions are in this particular border region.

What can be done?

The goal of this mission has to be redefined. Arresting the senior leadership of the LRA is paramount right now and the analogy of killing the snake by removing its head could be coming into play. Already several church leaders from Sudan have called for Western assistance in reigning in this militia. Sending in Special Forces could be an idea worth considering but is there anyone in Washington or Whitehall that is actually willing to take on such a task?

There has to be greater accountability amongst the forces of the DRC, Government of Southern Sudan and Uganda as well. Maybe this part of Africa can be pulled away from the edge of the abyss.

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