Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

The Lord's Resistance Army: The U.S. Response *

Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

The Lord's Resistance Army: The U.S. Response *

Article excerpt

OVERVIEW AND KEY QUESTIONS

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is a small yet vicious armed group that originated in northern Uganda in 1987. Founded and led by Joseph Kony, the LRA currently operates in the remote border areas between the Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and, reportedly, Sudan. The LRA's actions-which include massacres, abductions (notoriously of children), sexual assault, and looting-have caused humanitarian suffering and instability. The group is active in a region marked by other complex security and humanitarian challenges, and the conflict has eluded a negotiated or military solution. The Ugandan military has prevented the LRA from operating within Uganda since roughly 2005, and LRA's numbers have greatly declined from thousands of fighters in the late 1990s and early 2000s to a reported 150-200 -core combatants," traveling on foot and equipped with small arms.1 Still, according to the non-governmental LRA Crisis Tracker, the LRA has killed over 2,300 civilians and abducted thousands more since December 2008, when an attempted peace process with the group broke down (see -Background on the LRA" below).2

In May 2010, Congress enacted the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-172), which states that it is U.S. policy -to work with regional governments toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict," and authorizes and calls for a range of U.S. humanitarian, security, and development responses. The act followed more than a decade of congressional activity related to the LRA, and it passed with 201 House cosponsors and 64 Senate cosponsors.3 The Administration's approach to the LRA, submitted to Congress in November 2010 as required under P.L. 111-172, is organized around four broad objectives that closely respond to provisions of the legislation (see -U.S. Policy").4 More broadly, the Administration has expressed a commitment to preventing and responding to -mass atrocities," including in its 2010 National Security Strategy and a Presidential Study Directive (PSD-10) issued in August 2011.5

In October 2011, the Obama Administration announced the deployment of about 100 U.S. military personnel to act as advisors in support of Ugandan-led military efforts to capture or kill senior LRA leaders. The United States has provided significant logistical support for Uganda's counter-LRA operations beyond its borders since late 2008. Members of Congress have expressed support for the U.S. advisor deployment in statements and legislation, though some initially stated concerns about its duration, cost, unintended consequences, and the precedent that it might set. While P.L. 111-172 did not specifically authorize U.S. troop deployments, it directed U.S. policy to provide -political, economic, military, and intelligence support for viable multilateral efforts ... to apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield," and the Administration has portrayed the counter-LRA deployment as consistent with congressional intent.6 Campaigns by U.S.-based advocacy groups have contributed to U.S. policy makers' interest in, and U.S. public awareness of, the LRA issue.7

In addition to the United States, other international actors have devoted resources to responding to the LRA, including African governments; United Nations (U.N.) agencies, political missions, and peacekeeping operations; the African Union (AU); and the European Union (EU). In 2012, the AU launched a Regional Task Force (AU-RTF) against the LRA, which is led by Uganda and has subsumed previous Ugandan, South Sudanese, and DRC operations. However, the AU-RTF has not reached its authorized troop strength of 5,000.8 Although the Ugandan military (Ugandan People's Defense Force or UPDF), is regarded as the most effective of the African forces involved, some observers have questioned its capacity and commitment to complete the mission. …

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