Perspectives | New CAR Government and the hunt for Joseph Kony

26 April 2013 | Becky Dale

Becky Dale is an American based in Ghana and has spent several years working for international advocacy NGOs focused on ending regional violence inflicted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). She is currently a research intern for Resolution:Possible working on a wide range of projects and topics. As part of a spotlight series on the Central African Republic, this contribution shares Becky’s expertise on the international effort to track the LRA.

The new government in Central African Republic (CAR) has faced many challenges in its first month. A first order of business upon taking control of Bangui was ejecting all foreign troops from within country borders. For the past several weeks, this has left several regional and international actors concerned about the status of ongoing efforts to stop violence by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). In eastern CAR, the joint AU-UN mission assisted by United States advisory troops has been temporarily but indefinitely stopped due to political uncertainty.

Uganda, the leading force supplier to the operation, pulled its troops back and will only resume activities in CAR once the African Union has clarified the country’s status. Uganda has twice expressed intent to resume the mission – most recently at a conference attended by representatives of the UN and AU.

Advocacy groups in the United States have called for similar action, especially in regards to the advisory troops supplied by their government. They cite specific successes the joint operation has experienced. The suspension also comes at an inconvenient time: newly appointed US Secretary of State John Kerry recently announced a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of Joseph Kony and his top commanders. At the time of writing no military operations have been set to resume.

Americans are not the only ones pushing for a swiftly resumed mission against the LRA. Ten local civil society organizations in CAR issued individual, handwritten statements in a meeting where they discussed the suspended operation. A powerful quote comes from the Local Protection Committee of Obo (a city in Southeast CAR): “If these two force leave us, we will fall back in the same situation that we found during the highest times of the LRA conflict.”

In fact, Michel Djotodia himself has expressed a dislike for the Lord’s Resistance Army and a desire to see them removed from CAR. It is unclear how he plans to make that happen with a suspended African Union membership. A recent statement by Djotodia – his first as elected president – hinted that foreign troops going after the LRA may have patrolling rights in the 16th district of CAR under a new agreement. Further details have not yet been made public.

There appears to be quite a bit of pressure on the African Union to take action. After several years of speculation on its effectiveness, is this an opportunity for the AU to really throw its weight? The LRA has shown in previous years that a lack of consistent pressure allows the various bands to regroup and resupply. Can the new government of CAR establish itself quickly enough to regain AU membership? Will the regional governments be willing to work with the Djotodia government to end the scourge of the LRA on eastern CAR?

 

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