Is Sudan sheltering Kony?
Recent reports (see this one, this one, this one, this one, and this one) indicate a strong possibility that Joseph Kony, along with a large group of LRA combatants, has taken refuge in Sudan’s South Darfur region, where they are out of reach of pursuing African Union (AU) military forces and their US advisers. So far, there has been no “smoking gun” evidence to suggest that the movement of some LRA forces into Darfur occurred due to an actual invitation or cooperation from the Government of Sudan, and the remoteness and inaccessibility of the area makes verification of the movements difficult.
But today, such evidence may be beginning to emerge. In a move that could turn into a game-changing development for international efforts to end LRA atrocities and bring Kony to justice, Sudan and its allies on the UN Security Council are seeking to block investigations by UN peacekeepers in Darfur into whether or not Kony and other members of the LRA are in fact present in the area, raising serious questions about Sudan’s intentions.
According to sources at the UN, last week a member of the Security Council made a proposal to add a provision requiring investigations into LRA activity into the mandate for the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur, or UNAMID. The Security Council is expected to vote on a new mandate for UNAMID by the end of the month.
But China and Russia — Sudan’s allies on the Council — allegedly opposed the provision after initial drafts of the new UNAMID mandate were circulated. And today, Sudan’s ambassador to the UN, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, came out publicly opposed. Osman rejected allegations of collaboration between Sudan and the LRA and threatened that if LRA is included in the renewed mandate, Sudan may refuse to cooperate with the peacekeeping mission as a whole.
“Including this issue is going to be an impediment and cause of refusal, which may affect our cooperation with UNAMID and its actions in Darfur. If we truly wish to establish peace, stability and security then let us discard this issue far away from Darfur and UNAMID… Those who support that position will be responsible for the consequences stemming there from,” he warned.
Just this week, Resolve joined a coalition of organizations in writing to AU and UN officials urging investigations of LRA activity in Darfur. We have reported repeatedly on LRA activity in Darfur, and the group’s interactions with the Khartoum government. In 2009 and 2010 Kony sent LRA delegations to meet with the Sudanese military, allegedly to solicit supplies and support. Evidence of these interactions has come from a wide variety of sources, including former LRA abductees who reported having traveled to Darfur themselves while in LRA captivity.
Kony’s possible presence in Darfur and Sudan’s insistence that the UN look no further into the matter sparks fears that Khartoum may once again hope to use the LRA as a proxy army in its battles against South Sudan, as it did from 1994-2002 during the Sudanese civil war. This can’t be allowed to happen.
A few short weeks ago, the UN launched its own comprehensive strategy to seek Kony’s arrest and address the LRA crisis, which is now affecting communities across at least three countries in central Africa. It would be a shame if — in the first litmus test for whether the new strategy will actually be taken seriously — the world body cannot muster an investigation into where LRA leader Joseph Kony and his fighters are even operating.