The Security Council strongly condemned ongoing attacks carried out by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) across Central Africa and demanded an immediate end to the atrocities.
In a presidential statement that followed a briefing from the top United Nations official in the region, the Council reiterated its grave concern at the atrocities committed by the LRA, which have serious humanitarian and human rights consequences, including the displacement of over 440,000 people across the region.
“The Council remains deeply concerned that its previous calls for the LRA to cease its attacks have not been heeded,” the statement added.
The LRA was formed in the late 1980s in Uganda and for over 15 years its attacks were mainly directed against Ugandan civilians and security forces, which in 2002 dislodged the rebels, UN News Service reports.
They then exported their rampage to Uganda’s neighbours, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan, with practices that include the recruitment of children, rape, killing and maiming, and sexual slavery.
Over the course of the group’s existence, more than 12,000 combatants and abductees have left the LRA’s ranks and have been integrated and reunited with their families.
“The Security Council encourages the remaining LRA fighters to leave the group’s ranks and take advantage of offers of reintegration support,” the 15-member body said.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the LRA-affected areas, the UN envoy for Central Africa, Abou Moussa, told the Council that the affected countries’ limited capacity to control their porous borders stretching over vast areas means that the group can move easily between the affected countries.
He also noted that the governments of the affected countries have recently taken important steps to address the threat, including through coordinated military operations.
“However, the national security forces of these countries lack the full range of resources and capabilities in areas such as logistics, intelligence-gathering and air mobility, to effectively deal with the problem on their own as well as extend their authority throughout their respective territories, protect the civilian populations and enforce the rule of law,” he stated.
Moussa added that the military operations being conducted by the affected countries should be “intelligence-driven, targeted and ensure the containment rather than the dispersal of LRA elements” to maximize their impact.
Meanwhile, the UN system is taking a number of actions to address the LRA problem in a more effective and coherent manner through its political, peacekeeping, human rights, humanitarian and development efforts in the CAR, the DRC, South Sudan and Uganda, said the envoy.
Among other actions, the UN peacekeeping operations in the region are strengthening their capacities within their mandates and capabilities in strategic locations in the LRA-affected areas to help deter attacks against civilians and facilitate humanitarian operations.
Moussa is also the head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), which was established on 1 January and acts as the UN political focal point for the LRA in the region.
Briefing the Council on the work of UNOCA, he said its presence is generating a “new momentum” and creating strong expectations for a more robust approach to dealing with the challenges confronting the sub-region.
These challenges include cross-border security and the activities of armed groups such as the LRA, the circulation of small arms and light weapons, drugs and human trafficking, transnational organized crime, youth unemployment and stability, illegal exploitation of natural resources, and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
He added that the fallout in Libya presents new challenges for countries in the sub-region, particularly Chad and the CAR.
“The vulnerability of returnees, the loss of revenue from remittances and the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons by armed groups, including the LRA, are of grave concern. There are concerns that stolen weapons from Libya could fuel criminality and undermine the progress achieved in the sub-region,” said Moussa.
Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the launch in the CAR of a peace and reconciliation caravan in conflict-affected areas of the impoverished country’s northeast.
Ban “commends this effort to reduce tensions and promote reconciliation and peaceful coexistence between local communities,” his spokesperson said in a statement, adding that he hoped key parties in the CAR would use the caravan to further consolidate peace.
The Secretary-General also urged the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) and the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UDFR), the parties to a ceasefire agreement signed last month in Bangui, the Central African capital, to implement all provisions of the deal.