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The Achilles Heel of the Anti-Kony Mission

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The Achilles Heel of the Anti-Kony Mission

Post by Mazy on Sat Nov 23 2013, 02:30

I'm putting these articles together because John relates to them.

John Prendergast Co-founder, Enough Project
The Achilles Heel of the Anti-Kony Mission
Posted: 11/20/2013 4:36 pm

In a time of deeply divided governance, Republicans and Democrats have been united in supporting U.S. efforts to help African forces bring an end to the terror sowed by Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) militia. U.S. military advisers have trained, equipped and supported troops from Uganda, South Sudan, and Congo in their operations, and the tide is beginning to turn in the efforts to end the Kony insurgency. But the operation's success is at risk because there are large areas of Central Africa to which the forces chasing Kony have no access. My colleague at the Enough Project, Kasper Aggar, has written a compelling report about this critical gap in the overall strategy to neutralize the LRA.

The African Union (AU) is the umbrella under which regional forces led by Uganda are undertaking counter-LRA operations. Both the military and the diplomatic components of the AU mission have observed significant progress over the past six months and -- with further support -- have the potential to help break the access deadlock.
Key achievements include:

• In addition to their extensive work with the Ugandan military, the U.S. advisors have trained troops from South Sudan and DRC, and they are now undertaking offensive operations against the LRA in Congo.
• South Sudan forces have undertaken operations against LRA camps in the northern part of Garamba National Park in Congo.

• Congolese military, or FARDC, troops have pursued operations against LRA groups in the Bas Uele District in northeastern Congo. These latter two areas had been without any counter-LRA operations for up to two years.
• Diplomatic involvement by the senior AU and UN diplomats for the region helped to pave the way for access to Congo by South Sudan forces, and they helped to secure a cooperation agreement from the authorities in the Central African Republic (CAR), which allowed the operations to restart in CAR.

To maintain progress, additional support should come in the form of 1) communications assets to enable direct communication between the troops and the headquarters in South Sudan, 2) vehicles to enable ground transport of troops, and 3) an increased number of helicopters to accelerate redeployment and to carry out offensive operations and distribute defection messages simultaneously.

The access issue remains the main challenge for now, with safe havens in Kafia Kingi, south Darfur; north and east of the Haut-Mbomou province in CAR; and in the Bas Uele district in Congo. Concerted efforts from all actors are needed to break the deadlock.

Furthermore, it is crucial that the European Union reconfirm its support and funding for the AU envoy to keep the AU office operational. The diplomatic component of the AU mission has shown its relevance, but needs funds to continue its work. The EU, however, keeps delaying funding, and needs to move that forward.U.S. support for the mission and the deployment of the advisors remain utterly crucial to mission success. But the access gaps create structural obstacles to finishing the job. The U.S. can play an even more important role diplomatically in the counter-LRA mission by working with key African states to eliminate those blind spots and finally bring an end to one of the most sustained sources of instability in the entire central African region.

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Blind Spots: Gaining Access to Areas Where the LRA Operates
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The Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, has grown weaker in the past two years as the Ugandan-led and U.S.-supported counter-LRA African Union Regional Task Force, or AU-RTF, has pursued its mission to eliminate the rebel group. The regional force,however, lacks the logistical capacity and authorization to access key areas where LRA groups operate in remote areas in Central Africa.

By Kasper Agger | Nov 20, 2013

The Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, has grown weaker in the past two years as the Ugandan-led and U.S.-

supported counter-LRA African Union Regional Task Force, or AU-RTF, has pursued its mission to eliminate the rebel group. The regional force,however, lacks the logistical capacity and authorization to access key areas where LRA groups operate in remote parts of three countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC; the Central African Republic, or CAR; and the Kafia Kingi enclave in South Darfur, Sudan.

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. The AU forces must secure access to those areas as well as additional helicopter assets to increase rapid force mobility in order for the mission to succeed.

A fully operational AU-RTF that can access these key areas within the context of a regional agreement would allow greater progress in the counter-LRA mission. More robust international support from the United States and the European Union for the diplomatic efforts of the AU special envoy on the LRA issue and the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa, or UNOCA, could advance efforts toward a regional access agreement.

Stronger coordination among U.N. peacekeeping and support missions in the region would also enhance the operational effectiveness of the AU-RTF. Finally, to complement more robust diplomatic and military measures in support of the mission, the international community should also support local-level civil-society institutions that promote regional cooperation through exchange visits and cross-border defection programs.

Because of important advances over the past couple years in the counter-LRA operation, the LRA is down to perhaps 250 core fighters. The LRA, however, has shown a capacity over its 25-year history to survive in a shrunken state and then expand rapidly when circumstances and external support allow. That is why eliminating its safe havens is essential.

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You can download the full report here

US Must Pressure African Governments For Access To Kony's LRA Safe Havens

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With the help of US military advisers, African forces have made progress in the push to apprehend Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, but challenges remain. The US, UN, and African Union must pressure the region's governments to allow access to LRA safe havens.

By Kasper Agger, Commentary contributor / November 20, 2013

A US Army special forces captain speaks with troops from the Central African Republic (CAR) and Uganda, in Obo, CAR, April 29. Obo is one of four forward operating locations where US special forces have paired up with local troops and Ugandan soldiers to seek out Joseph Kony, head of the Lord's Resistance Army.
The more-than-two-decades-old rebel group is known for its use of child soldiers to fill the ranks. More than4,500 people have been abducted by the group since December 2008, and at least 2,300 civilians were killed over the same period. The United Nations estimates that 350,000 civilians have been displaced across central Africa because of LRA atrocities.

The excitement of the children I saw in Odo reflects new optimism among locals – and a renewed sense of safety.

The arrival of US Special Forces has had a game-changing impact on the counter-LRA efforts. Their presence provides real hope for ending the rebel group and providing a brighter future for the thousands of people that suffer because of weekly attacks and lootings from the rebels. Local religious and traditional leaders have appealed to US advisers to stay, saying their security has improved. The Obama administration must heed this appeal and ensure that the advisers remain deployed until the senior leadership of the LRA has been removed.

A team of approximately 100 US military advisers was sent to central Africa in late 2011 to help African forces – mainly Ugandan – dismantle the LRA. The US advisers are based in field locations in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and at a tactical headquarter in Uganda. The advisers are combat-equipped but only authorized to use lethal force in self-defense. They rely on partner forces to fight the LRA, and the counter-LRA campaign has yielded measurable progress.

The LRA faces mounting pressure, and is weaker than ever before. Attacks are down by 53 percent since the advisers’ deployment, and LRA killings decreased 67 percent from 2011 to 2012. Reports estimate that only 200 – 300 fighters remain with the group and operate in the border region between CAR, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

By contrast, regional counter-LRA military forces are growing stronger. The US advisers have provided hands-on military training for regional troops and have improved their jungle-tracking capabilities, intelligence gathering, and capacity to protect civilians.

Working together with regional forces, international organizations and local civil society leaders, the advisers have promoted LRA defections with “come home” radio messages, fliers and safe reporting sites where LRA fighters can surrender peacefully. The majority of LRA fighters were abducted forcefully – often at a very young age – and desire to escape, but their fear of punishment from rebel commanders or retaliatory attacks from local communities, make them stay with the group. Seventy-nine percent of LRA who surrendered in the past year cited come-home fliers as influential in their escape.

Keeping the US military advisers in place and allowing them to keep working with local forces to build their capacity to contain mutual security threats provides a sustainable and cost-effective model for future US military engagements of this nature. The model should be considered carefully, particularly as defense budgets shrink and appetites wane for direct US combat operations.

US advisers and their regional military partners still need support, because despite progress, the collective counter-LRA operations face severe challenges that hamper efforts to apprehend the senior LRA commanders.
Top leaders, including Joseph Kony, have found safe havens in southern Darfur and the Bas Uele district in Congo.

LRA groups are able to move freely in south Darfur, growing vegetables to sustain their survival, and at times receiving medical and arms supplies from Sudanese forces, according to testimonies from LRA defectors. The Sudanese government denies these allegations and does not allow independent African Union and UN verification teams to access the area.

Meanwhile, new LRA safe havens are developing in CAR, where Ugandan counter-LRA operations were suspended from March to September, due to hostility from the Seleka leaders in Bangui who overthrew the previous CAR government in a military coup in March. The destabilized areas, which face humanitarian disaster, provide the LRA with ungoverned spaces to rebuild their forces.

US diplomats should work with UN and African Union partners to place diplomatic pressure on regional governments to support counter-LRA operations, by allowing access to all areas where LRA rebels have found safe haven.

US policymakers and the international community must continue to seek an end to the LRA. The excited and hopeful children in Obo deserve a bright future, and they deserve the right to grow up without fear of brutal LRA attacks. US advisers must remain deployed on the ground, and diplomats must renew efforts to foster regional cooperation towards ending the LRA.

Kasper Agger is a Kampala-based LRA field researcher with the Enough Project. He recently authored the report "Blind Spots: Gaining Access to Areas Where the LRA Operates" as well as "Completing the Mission: U.S. Special Forces Are Essential for Ending the LRA."

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It is so hard to stay away from Darfur articles xxx

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Re: The Achilles Heel of the Anti-Kony Mission

Post by chiki on Mon Nov 25 2013, 12:42

Thank you, Mazy!
Interesting reading. About Kony and LRA, I was reading in twitter this morning, 'Joseph Kony is in talks with CAR to surrender', but now I find this...

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False hope or is Kony nightmare finally drawing to an end?

The world was last Wednesday gripped by a new sense of anticipation when the BBC reported that the government of the Central African Republic had been in contact with Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, with a view to the latter’s surrender.
This could end 25 years of rebellion in which Kony has turned northern Uganda, parts of Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan and Central African Republic into a theatre for one of the Great Lakes region’s most brutal conflicts.

However, it has emerged that the reported proposition by Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony to surrender could be far from real, but it still points at fault lines that are becoming more pronounced in the rebel force’s camp.

The EastAfrican has learnt that there has been no contact between the CAR government and the evasive Kony. However, talk of his surrender was triggered by contact between the CAR government and a small group of LRA fighters a few days ago.

“What we know is that one group of LRA fighters, between four and 15, mostly of mid-level ranks and one senior officer, made contact with the government in Central African Republic. It’s this group that gave the impression that Kony is under a lot of pressure and would be willing to surrender,” said Kasper Agger, field researcher for the US-based NGO Enough Project, which has been tracking the LRA conflict.

This development of a small group talking of surrendering indicates that there is growing apathy and disagreement within LRA ranks on how the rebel force can continue to execute its insurgency in territories distant from the Uganda government, the main target of the LRA uprising in 1987-88. Another top LRA commander, Caesar Acellam, surrendered with his family in CAR in May last year.

In September this year, the UN issued a statement saying that some 1,200 LRA fighters wanted to defect, but this raised questions of credibility, as the entire rebel force is believed to be down to a core of 250 fighters, and another 200 auxiliary members who include children and wives of LRA fighters.

Mr Agger argues that the credibility of Kony’s surrender proposition of Wednesday 20 should have been accompanied by letters or announcements from LRA spokespersons.

Indeed, other organisations like Invisible Children and the International Crisis Group that have kept tabs on this conflict — especially in the DRC and CAR, where it has mostly played out since 2005 when LRA fled northern Uganda — also argue that a rebel leader keen on surrendering, should by now have made goodwill gestures, by starting to release women and children that the LRA has been holding in captivity.

The UN, the 100 United States Special Forces troops and the African Union regional task force that are hunting the LRA are not sure of Kony’s current whereabouts after he got away in March this year following a raid by the Ugandan contingent of the regional task force on the LRA hideout in the Sudanese controlled Kafia Kingi area of South Darfur.

Indeed, the US Special Forces and Uganda troops are yet to make a decisive strike at Nzako in CAR, the location where Kony is suspected to have fled after he was driven out of Kafia Kingi.

According to a new report by Enough Project released on November 20, titled “Blind Spots: Gaining access to areas where the LRA operates,” the LRA is a much weakened outfit but the regional forces hunting it down are hampered by specific political and logistical challenges to access the remote areas where the rebel force operates.

But the report concludes that LRA’s surrender for now is still a farfetched proposition unless the rebel group’s safe havens are completely eliminated.

“Military pressure and defection programmes have reportedly reduced the number of LRA fighters to approximately 250 and largely pushed the group into hiding.

news are very confusing right now. Let's see!

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Re: The Achilles Heel of the Anti-Kony Mission

Post by Atalante on Mon Nov 25 2013, 13:22

You just need a special team of the best to find him and get him out. Cool Cool 

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Re: The Achilles Heel of the Anti-Kony Mission

Post by Mazy on Mon Nov 25 2013, 17:04

Thanks Chiki for this update about Kony. The Blind Spots article that this one relates to is above. They just fell into my lap but still not spending a lot of time on-line. Thanks again so much.

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Re: The Achilles Heel of the Anti-Kony Mission

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