From the Crisis Tracker: Good news on defections, but LRA still abducted 517 people in 2012
Today we released the 2012 LRA Crisis Tracker Annual Security Brief. The brief analyzes trends and patterns in LRA activity from January – December 2012 and compares LRA activity between 2010, 2011, and 2012. You can download the pdf here, or view the report online in the plug-in above.
For those of you hesitant to read another densely-worded thesis by a DC-based NGO: fear not. This report will dazzle you (we hope) with a mix of maps, charts, and graphs. It’s no Beyonce half-time show, but we did our best.
The top six trends from the report, including a spike in Ugandan combatant defections in 2012, are pasted below. The full report includes analysis on LRA weapons use, size of attacking forces, and patterns in the location of large scale abductions/killings and the relation of LRA attacks to time of day.
1. LRA violence spiked in the first half of 2012 (191 attacks) and then tapered off in the second half of the year (84 attacks).
This trend is similar to LRA activity patterns seen in 2010 and 2011. These patterns have been influenced by the LRA’s tendency to reduce attacks during the rainy season, and indicate that civilians are at increased risk of LRA violence in the first several months of 2013.
2. Senior LRA commanders are operating primarily in the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Sudanese-controlled Kafia Kingi enclave.
Commanders operating primarily in these areas include International Criminal Court-indictees Joseph Kony, Dominic Ongwen, and Okot Odhiambo. Maj. John Bosco Kibwola and Col. Otto Agweng, two increasingly influential LRA commanders, are also reported to be in CAR or Kafia Kingi. Lt. Col. Vincent Binansio “Binany” Okumu, formerly a personal bodyguard to Kony, was allegedly the ranking LRA commander in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo) for much of 2012. He was killed by the Ugandan military in CAR in January 2013.
3. The number of Ugandan adult males returning from the LRA increased in 2012.
Though accurately tracking Ugandan returnees from the LRA is difficult, the LRA Crisis Tracker recorded a spike in the number of Ugandan adult males who escaped or were captured in 2012. Because the LRA can no longer actively recruit Ugandans, each Ugandan adult male who returns from the group is a significant loss to the LRA’s core fighting force and command structure. Of the 20 who returned in 2012, 15 saw or heard defection messaging in the form of leaflets, FM or shortwave radio broadcasts, or helicopter-mounted speakers. In addition, 8 surrendered to newly introduced Safe Reporting Sites in CAR.
4. The majority of LRA abductees in 2012 were adults used as temporary porters, not children trained to become future fighters.
Available data indicates that 69% of LRA abductees in 2012 were adults and 64% of all 2012 abductees escaped or were released within one month of their abduction. The preference for temporary adult abductees suggests that instead of seeking to train young children as new fighters, the LRA is in need of strong adults capable of carrying heavy loads of looted goods.
5. In 2012, LRA groups committed unusually large and brazen attacks in areas of CAR beyond the reach of Ugandan troops and US military advisers.
These include the massacre of 13 artisanal gold miners on a hunting reserve northeast of Bangassou, an attack on a French uranium mining camp in Bakouma, and the abduction of 97 people in two separate attacks near Fode. LRA groups have directed threats of future attacks at communities in this area. There are few CAR troops deployed in this area and it is largely out of reach for Ugandan troops and US military advisers, who are deployed further east in CAR.
6. The LRA is intentionally killing fewer people.
LRA combatants killed a total of 51 civilians in 2012, the lowest figure since 2007. The LRA killed civilians in only 10% of total attacks in 2012, compared to 30% in 2011 and 50% in 2010. Similarly, the average number of people killed per attack has decreased steadily in the past three years: 1.5 (2010), 0.52 (2011), and 0.18 (2012). Though the LRA’s fighting force has been reduced since 2010, the drop in killings does not indicate that the group no longer has the capacity to kill civilians or commit large massacres.This trend is also the result of a strategic decision by Kony in mid-2011 to reduce killings of civilians.