Military operations against Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have reduced the rebels to at most 100 in Congo but most remaining fighters are in Central African Republic, the region’s weakest link, the United Nations said.
Having terrorised civilians in northern Uganda for nearly two decades, the rebels crossed into Congo’s remote northeast in late-2005, where a group of 800-1000 fighters were untouched until Uganda led a multi-national strike on them last December.
Joseph Kony, the group’s elusive leader who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, escaped the raid and the rebels launched reprisal attacks, killing hundreds of civilians. But UN-backed anti-LRA operations have continued.
“We feel that there are between 50 and 100 scattered in small pockets, mainly in the eastern part of the Garamba Park and near the border with Central African Republic,” General Babacar Gaye, the UN Congo force commander, said.
The rest, Gaye said, had crossed Congo’s northern border into CAR, one of the region’s poorest and most isolated states, where the LRA has already killed and kidnapped civilians.
“The LRA has always been considered a sub-regional threat. It is not a surprise that the LRA is moving towards the country where they feel they will have less difficulty to settle. They’re moving towards the weakest link,” he said.
Uganda has dispatched military intelligence units and Special Forces soldiers to hunt down the rebels in CAR.
New York-based rights campaigner Human Rights Watch estimates that LRA fighters have killed at least 1200 Congolese civilians in reprisal attacks since the beginning of the multi-national offensive last year. The rebels have also killed and kidnapped people in Sudan and Congo.
The two decades of violence in Uganda displaced 2 million.
Pic: LRA rebel