The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), with origins from northern Uganda, is a violent, militant group, led by Joseph Kony. Between 1987 and 2004, it committed heinous and horrendous atrocities in northern Uganda, before extending operations into South Sudan in 1994. In 2001, the U.S State Department placed the LRA on its list of terrorist Organizations, and in December 2003, the government of Uganda referred five of the most senior LRA leaders to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Consequently, in July 2005 the ICC issued Arrest Warrants for Joseph Kony (fugitive), Raska Lukwiya (killed on 12 August 2006), Okot Odhiambo (fugitive), Dominic Ongwen (fugitive), and Vincent Otti (executed by firing squad, on Kony’s orders, on 2 Oct 2007).
Faced with defeat in northern Uganda, and pressure of the Sudan Peace process which culminated into the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, the LRA was forced to seek negotiations as a pre-text to relocate its fighters from northern Uganda and South Sudan to new bases in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in September 2005. Today, the LRA has become a regional problem, perpetrating grave human rights abuses against civilians in the region, with catastrophic humanitarian consequences. It thrives by intimidating vulnerable populations in remote areas through massacres, abductions, mutilations, sexual enslavement, and brutal indoctrination including forcing recruits, mainly women and children, commit crimes such as burning homes, killings, looting, and raping of victims. These atrocities have induced the internal displacement of about 416,000 civilians and refugees in the region. They have also impeded the delivery of essential services, and undermined governance as well as development in the affected areas. They are also exacerbating the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the region.
Deeply concerned about the continued criminal activities of the LRA activities and their resulting catastrophic humanitarian impact as well as threat to regional security and stability, the African Union Peace and Security Council authorized, on 22 November 20132011, the Regional Cooperation Initiative for the elimination of the LRA (RCI-LRA), with the support of the international community. It also declared the LRA a terrorist organization. The RCI-LRA has three components, namely the Joint Coordination Mechanism (JCM), the Regional Task Force (RTF), and Headquarters of the RTF. The JCM is chaired by the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, and comprises Ministers of Defence of the affected countries (Uganda, South Sudan, DRC, and CAR), as an ad hoc structure at the strategic level to coordinate efforts of the AU and the affected countries, with the support of international partners. The RTF, as the military component of the RCI-LRA, has an authorized ceiling of 5,000 troops to be contributed by the affected countries, its Headquarters, including a Joint Operations Centre, comprises Staff Officers seconded by the affected countries. The overall strategy is coordinated by a Special Envoy for LRA issues, in close coordination with the affected countries.
The mandate of the Initiative is to strengthen the operational capacity of the LRA-affected countries to eliminate the LRA, create conditions conducive for the stabilization of the affected areas, and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the affected populations. Since its operationalization, the Regional Task Force (RTF), with a current total strength of 3,085, composed of 30 Headquarter Staff Officers at Yambio, South Sudan, 2,000 soldiers from Uganda, 500 from South Sudan, 500 from the DRC, and 85 from the CAR, is making a steady progress against the LRA, and will sustain pressure on the group until Kony is removed from the battlefield and his terrorist group is dismantled. The on-going military operation code-named “Operation Monsoon” and launched on 9 August 2013, has increased pressure on the LRA and put its leaders on the run throughout the theatre of operations.