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Kony’s LRA exploits CAR upheaval by launching massive attacks on civilians
- LRA likely using looting raids in destabilized CAR as lifeline for Joseph Kony
- Regional efforts are weakening the LRA, which lost nearly one-fifth of its core fighters in 2013
WASHINGTON, DC (February 11, 2014) – Large-scale raids by the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), have surged in areas of eastern Central African Republic (CAR) under the authority of Seleka fighters who overthrew the country’s central government last March. According to a new brief released today by the LRA Crisis Tracker project, LRA attacks in those areas of CAR increased significantly in 2013 and the group may be using looting raids there to resupply Kony and other senior commanders.
“The deteriorating security and human rights situation in CAR could prove to be a lifeline for Kony,” said Paul Ronan, director of The Resolve. “International leaders must take urgent action to stabilize the country and protect people from horrific violence.”
In one attack last June, suspected LRA forces killed 11 civilians, six of whom were decapitated, in the town of Mouka, CAR. The LRA group proceeded to burn down much of the town, causing many residents to flee.
Instability in CAR is making it more difficult for African Union (AU) forces and their US military advisors to operate there. 47% of all LRA abductions in 2013 occurred in areas controlled by Seleka fighters, even though they comprise just a small fraction of the LRA’s total area of operations.
In contrast, 2013 brought continued progress against the group in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo). From 2008-2010, the LRA was one of the most violent groups in Congo, killing over 2,300 civilians and abducting nearly 2,500 others. LRA abductions in Congo dropped by 64% and killings by 94% over the following three years. However, the LRA committed three attacks in South Sudan in 2013, the first there in over two years.
African Union operations severely weaken the LRA
A reduction in LRA combatants is likely contributing to improved security in most affected areas. In total, the LRA lost as much as one-fifth of its Ugandan fighting force in 2013 alone – a total of 32 fighters. The brief estimates that 160-168 Ugandan officers and fighters remain with the group today.
The US military and non-governmental organizations, such as Invisible Children, have partnered to launch peaceful defection campaigns creatively targeting LRA combatants and captives. These campaigns contributed to the peaceful surrender of 16 Ugandan combatants in 2013, which caused a significant blow to the LRA’s core fighting capacity.
“Collaboration between security forces, local communities and NGOs to promote peaceful defections is working,” said Ben Keesey, CEO of Invisible Children. “More than 70 long-term LRA members peacefully left the battlefield in 2013, and over half of Ugandan male defectors cited the impact of Come Home messaging.”
At least 62 women and children who had been held captive by the LRA for six months or more – and some for over a decade – also returned home in 2013.
Operations by the AU mission pursuing the LRA with US logistics and intelligence support are also helping weaken the organization. Congolese and South Sudanese forces dedicated to the AU conducted their first operations against the LRA in 2013, destroying several LRA camps including acres of arable fields used to sustain the rebel group. In January 2013, Ugandan forces also killed LRA commander Vincent Binany, who oversaw the group’s Congo operations.
“Despite the progress made against the LRA in 2013, hundreds of thousands of civilians remain at risk, and attacks persist,” said Ronan. “As they have done numerous times, the LRA remains capable of rebuilding their force if international pressure eases.”
LRA leader Joseph Kony also reportedly ordered the execution of at least four LRA officers for disobedience in late 2012 and early 2013. The most notable execution was of Otto Agweng, once one of Kony’s most trusted and feared enforcers, after he raped a female captive against Kony’s orders.
The LRA Crisis Tracker is a joint initiative of Invisible Children and The Resolve. For more information about how the data included in the LRA Crisis Tracker 2013 Annual Security Brief was collected, verified, and analyzed, visit http://reports.lracrisistracker.com/en/annual-2013/