New Resolve report: Moment of truth for US advisers
Today we released a new report, Moment of Truth: The Potential and Limits of the US Military’s Counter-LRA Deployment. The report is based on field research I did earlier this year, including meetings with US military advisers based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo), Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Uganda.
One of the key findings from my trip was that the travel restrictions placed on the advisers, which confine them to a handful of bases scattered in the region, severely restrict their ability to understand the “ground truth” in communities affected by the conflict. If the advisers are to be more effective in helping regional military forces tasked with protecting civilians and capturing senior LRA commanders, they need greater freedom to visit remote communities and accompany Ugandan military patrols deep in the bush.
Another big takeaway from my trip was that quarrels between governments affected by the LRA are derailing the advisers’ chances to succeed in their mission. For instance, Congo is denying Ugandan troops to operate in areas affected by the LRA, while doing little to address the problem themselves. Meanwhile, Kony is exploiting tension between Sudan and South Sudan by operating near Sudan’s Darfur region, possibly seeking safe haven there.
Though State Department officials have repeatedly testified before Congress in recent months that they are trying to improve collaboration between regional governments, their efforts so far have clearly had little impact. It’s time for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to get personally involved in regional diplomacy, including by getting some facetime with the heads of state of LRA-affected governments on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting this September.
Last but not least in the report, we make the case for “defeating the LRA with development.” The LRA is a predatory group that thrives in areas that are marginalized and lack roads, electricity, and mobile phone and radio networks. Of course, development can’t fix the LRA crisis in the short-term, but over time improved infrastructure and better governance can make it much more difficult for LRA groups to attack civilians with impunity.
Note: We have changed our name since the time of publication and now operate as The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative. You can find more information on our name change here.