Reflections on the African Union’s announcement of new efforts to address LRA violence
The gears of the international community are turning after the launch of the Kony 2012 campaign. On the heels of bipartisan U.S. Congressional resolutions about the LRA, the African Union (AU) separately announced two weeks ago that it would be launching a regional initiative and forming a 5,000 person military force to fight the LRA. The AU plans have been in the works for months and there are still a lot of details to be worked out, but the announcement is a welcome sign that the AU is bringing renewed energy and attention to the LRA crisis. Abou Moussa, the UN envoy for the region, sounded a note of urgency while announcing the plan, saying that “the most important thing is that no matter how little the LRA may be, it still constitutes a danger … they continue to attack and create havoc.”
Regional cooperation is essential to capturing Kony and ending the havoc that the LRA produces (see our recent report that explains why), so the AU initiative is a step in the right direction. Right now, Ugandan troops that are pursuing LRA leaders don’t have permission to cross into the Democratic Republic of Congo, thereby creating a potential safe-haven for LRA leadership in the DRC. And some fear that the LRA might also find refuge in the Darfur region of Sudan. The AU efforts will hopefully improve regional cooperation, and make ending Kony’s reign of terror something that governments cooperate on, not squabble over. To boost the AU’s efforts, the Obama Administration should strongly support the work of AU LRA envoy Francisco Madeira, who is leading diplomatic efforts to defrost tensions between regional governments.
As for the troops, at least part of the force will be made-up of Ugandan, Congolese, Central African, and South Sudanese troops who are already deployed in LRA-affected areas. The AU military force will have a headquarterns in Yambio, South Sudan and a political office in Central African Republic.
Some might wonder: Is the Kony 2012 campaign the reason this is happening? In short, not entirely: these plans have been in the works for months. But it seems clear that the Kony 2012 campaign certainly added urgency to the launch of the AU initiative. Indeed, Moussa said international interest in Kony had been “useful, very important”.
If the AU efforts result in increased regional cooperation, we believe they could significantly hasten the day that LRA violence finally ends and Joseph Kony is brought to justice. We will keep you updated as more information about this AU initiative becomes available. Stay tuned.
*Photo credit: Reuters