The UN Security Council strongly condemned Monday ongoing attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in parts of central Africa, and demanded an immediate end to all attacks by that armed group, particularly those on civilians, and urged the release of all abductees and insisted that all elements of the group surrender and disarm.
In a statement read by the Council president for the month, João Maria Cabral of Portugal, the 15-member body reiterated its grave concern at the atrocities committed by the LRA, which had serious humanitarian and human rights consequences, including the displacement of more than 440,000 people across the region.
The Council condemned the recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming, rape, sexual slavery and other sexual violence and abductions. Noting that more than 12,000 combatants and abductees had left LRA’s ranks and been integrated and reunited with their families, it also encouraged all remaining fighters to leave the group’s ranks and take advantage of reintegration support.
Commending important efforts undertaken by the militaries of the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Uganda to address the threat posed by the LRA, the Council urged those militaries to coordinate their efforts to apprehend Joseph Kony and other senior LRA leaders.
The Council commended further the Secretary-General’s report on the LRA and the efforts made by the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) in coordination with the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU) to engage United Nations missions in the LRA-affected areas.
Given the viciousness of LRA attacks over the years, said Abou Moussa, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNOCA, military operations conducted by the affected Member States should be intelligence-driven and ensure the containment rather than the dispersal of LRA elements, in order to maximize their impact.
He said that the existence of a regional architecture for peace and security was a favourable factor and UNOCA was already generating a new momentum and creating strong expectations for a more robust approach to dealing with the challenges confronting the subregion, and the subregional authorities had the political will needed to collectively address the challenges in Central Africa.
Emphasizing the alarming regional dimension to the LRA attacks, Tete Antonio, Permanent Observer for the African Union, said countries affected by the armed group had been consulted, with the aim of appointing a Special Envoy for the LRA, and a planning team had developed a mission blueprint for operational procedures and for finalizing the strategy for protection of civilians.
The regional cooperation initiative was a major action, he felt, which gave a new impetus to current efforts, and it was imperative to strengthen mobilization of support by the international community for future action.
“Peace has no price,” said General Louis Sylvain Goma, Secretary-General of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), leading the call in the Council for the international community’s increased support to tackle the LRA threat. He underscored the need to bolster training, with a view to the role armed forces could play in a concerted effort to combat the armed group.
Highlighting the United States’ commitment of military personnel to work with the affected States, as well as with the African Union and the United Nations to make a final push to end the long-standing problem, its representative said the LRA was one of the most brutal terrorist organizations on the planet. He encouraged the United Nations, in cooperation with the African Union, subregional organizations and affected States, to encourage LRA defections.
Military means, however, were not the only solution to the LRA, said the representative of the Russian Federation. An across-the-board approach was needed, including programmes to demobilize, repatriate and reintegrate LRA combatants. In the context of military operations aimed at neutralizing the LRA, civilian protection deserved priority attention.
The recent involvement of France and the United States had already shown positive effects in the region, said the representative of the Central African Republic. However, he would be even more pleased if other partners would join ranks in that just fight. Commitment of forces and resources was needed to act together to prevent the LRA from carrying out crimes with impunity, he said.
Around the table, Council members were forceful in urging fulfilment of mandates, including that of UNOCA, to address the common issues facing the region, including piracy, arms smuggling and organized crime. South Africa’s delegate said UNOCA would be central in rising to those and other challenges in a coordinated way to address development and security concerns, among them, the LRA.