Late last week, Uganda announced plans to pull back approximately 2,500 troops from the Central African Republic who are searching for high-ranking members of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The LRA is an organization that bases its belief system on the pillars of Christianity. It gained international notoriety through the Kony 2012 campaign in which Joseph Kony, the leader of the group, was highlighted in a documentary depicting a rogue army shown to have committed mass atrocities through killing, inducting child soldiers into his army, and sexual slavery for girls. There has been an arrest warrant for Joseph Kony since 2005 although he is still at large for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Spokesperson for the Ugandan army, Paddy Akunda, relayed reasoning behind the pullout to be a combination of believing the threat of the LRA to have been downgraded, and a lack of support. The African Union has asked for a reconsideration of the removal of Ugandan forces hoping for a stay until May 2017. There are worries that without consistent measures in place to counter LRA efforts, they will be able to regroup and extend within the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan.
Akunda has expressed that there has been insufficient resources and support being offered to the task force. Although the combative efforts have been a collaboration, including allies such as the U.S. through its Special Forces, the belief is that there is currently not enough international and regional cooperation in ending the LRA’s reach. However, Akunda has said that the withdrawal does not mean operations against the LRA will cease.
One of the LRA commanders, Dominic Ongwen, was sent to trial at The Hague last year. His case is an example of a full circle child soldier. Abducted at a young age he was forced into the LRA as a combatant, rose in ranks, and eventually became a leading figure.
The LRA has had a generational impact in creating grown leaders from abducted children, and continuing to use the same tactics in building its base. It has been a decades long movement that began in the 1980’s and still affects Central African countries today. With the momentum gained in diminishing the LRA, the international community would like to end the organization’s power, although without further backing of troops and resources it is unrealistic to leave the responsibilities to underdeveloped countries.