The UN Security Council (UNSC) has commended Uganda, southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo for a successful recent multinational operation against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who have been waging a brutal and ill-understood insurgency against Uganda for 20 years.
Troops from the three countries targeted bases of the Lord’s Resistance Army in eastern Congo earlier this month after rebel leader Joseph Kony failed to sign a final peace accord and rebels attacked civilians in Congo and Sudan, the Associated Press reports.
Uganda said on Sunday that more than 70 percent of the camps used by the LRA in remote areas of eastern Congo have been destroyed.
A statement approved Monday by all 15 Security Council members “commends the states in the region for their increased cooperation, and welcomes the joint efforts they have made to address the security threat posed by the LRA.”
The UNSC called on Uganda, southern Sudan and Congo to ensure that their military actions comply with international human rights, humanitarian and refugee laws — and that their troops “take appropriate measures to protect civilians.”
The LRA has waged one of Africa’s longest and most brutal rebellions, drawing in northern Uganda, eastern Congo and southern Sudan. It is accused by the UN and human rights groups of cutting off civilians’ tongues and lips and kidnapping thousands of children for soldiers and sex slaves.
The LRA insurgency and the Ugandan government’s response have left at least 100 b000 people dead and forced over two million people to flee their homes.
Peace talks between the LRA and the Ugandan government have stalled because rebel leaders want guarantees they will not be arrested under international warrants. Kony and other top LRA members are accused by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
UN News Centre adds that the UNSC also strongly condemned recent attacks by the LRA in the DRC and southern Sudan, and demanded that it immediately sign a previously negotiated peace accord.
A presidential statement, read out by Ambassador Nevin Jurica of Croatia, which holds this month`s rotating presidency of the 15-member body, condemned the repeated failure of LRA leader Joseph Kony to sign the Final Peace Agreement negotiated between the Government of Uganda and LRA.
It recalled that the International Criminal Court (ICC) had issued arrest warrants for “certain LRA leaders” on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and the enlistment of children through abduction.
The ICC issued arrest warrants for Kony and two other LRA leaders, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, in 2005.
“The Council reiterates its deep concern at the long-running and brutal insurgency by the LRA, which has caused the death, abduction and displacement of thousands of innocent civilians in Uganda, the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” the statement said. “It demands that the LRA cease its recruitment and use of children and that it release immediately all women, children and other non-combatants.”
Noting that “it attaches vital importance to promoting justice and the rule of law, including respect for human rights, as an indispensable element for lasting peace,” the Council reaffirmed that “ending impunity is essential for a society recovering from conflict to come to terms with past abuses committed against civilians and to prevent their recurrence.”
It called on the LRA to sign the peace accord immediately and begin the process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration to ensure a peaceful, political solution to the 21-year-long conflict.
The Council welcomed the re-establishment of peace and security in northern Uganda, which has seen the LRA disperse into Southern Sudan and eastern DRC, and called on the Ugandan Government to accelerate reconciliation, recovery and development in the north by disbursing anticipated financing without delay.
Reuters meanwhile reports that Kony escaped the attack by regional armies and is hiding in Uganda near the border with the Central African Republic.
“He is somewhere very near there (Central African Republic),” LRA spokesman David Matsanga told a news conference in Nairobi, declining to be more precise.
“The entire LRA command is intact and was not destroyed by the operation,” added Matsanga, who said he spoken to Kony a few days earlier.
Matsanga said Kony had instructed him to tell the world that he was ready to resume talks but at a neutral venue such as Tanzania or South Africa and under a new mediator to replace South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar.
Uganda’s government has said it will ask the U.N. Security Council to suspend the warrants after the rebels lay down their arms but Kony remains suspicious.
“The LRA wants to reiterate its stand and reaffirm its total and unequivocal support for the peace process despite the failed attacks on its forces in Garamba,” Matsanga said.