Don’t forget about the LRA

The UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has just released a documentary to highlight the plight of the population at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Apparently, in 2009 alone, the LRA killed 849 people, kidnapped 1486 (including 185 children) and displaced 365,000. According to OCHA, that is four times as many killed by the FDLR over the past four years in the Kivus. I don’t know how they did their math (FDLR killings reported? Estimated? Are the estimates as exact in LRA areas as in FDLR areas?), but suffice it to say that the situation in the Haut Uele and Bas Uele districts is very bad. Even if there are now reports that Joseph Kony has fled to the Central African Republic, his troops still operate in the Congo.

The US government had backed a Ugandan offensive against the LRA in the last days of the Bush administration. The support, which included intelligence sharing (mostly satellite imagery and tracking of sat phone and cell phone calls) and training/advising of Ugandan troops in the Congo, then was briefly put on hold under Obama as they re-evaluated the operations. I hear that, as of several months now, they have begun supporting the operations again, although there is only one Ugandan battalion left in the Congo, I believe. Operation “Lightning Thunder,” as it had been called, came under harsh criticism for having provoked LRA violence against civilians (as described by OCHA report) without taking steps to prevent such retaliation. A bunch of LRA top commanders deserted, but there was no sign of Kony, and enough new kids were recruited to make up for their losses.