UN backs fight against African rebels
New York - The United Nations Security Council on Monday backed stepped-up military action in central Africa to apprehend commanders of the Lord's Resistance Army in the coming months and eliminate the notorious rebel group, a campaign supported by US special operations advisers.
The council welcomed efforts by the African Union, the United Nations and the international community, including the United States, to improve the ability of regional military forces with limited intelligence, communications and transport to conduct operations against the LRA, whose leaders have been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Obama administration recently deployed 100 military advisers to help forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, South Sudan and the Central African Republic pursuing the LRA, which has waged one of Africa's longest and most brutal rebellions.
It is accused by the UN and human rights groups of cutting off the tongues and lips of innocent civilians and kidnapping thousands of children and forcing them to be soldiers and sex slaves.
LRA fighters began their attacks more than 20 years ago in northern Uganda. When Ugandan troops flushed them out of the country, they moved into South Sudan, DRC and the Central African Republic.
In 2003 the LRA had 3 000 armed troops and 2 000 people in support roles, but now the Ugandan military says their forces are fractured and scattered, with only about 200 fighters.
The LRA insurgency and the Ugandan government's response have left at least 100 000 people dead, and the Security Council said over 440 000 people across the region are displaced.
After briefings on Monday by AU and UN officials, the Security Council urged the militaries of the four countries "to co-ordinate and concert their efforts to apprehend Joseph Kony and LRA top commanders in the coming months and bring them to justice".
Kony, the LRA leader, and three of his top commanders are wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of murder, rape, mutilation and the forced enlistment of child soldiers.
A statement adopted by the council demanded an immediate end to LRA attacks and urged all remaining fighters to defect and reintegrate into normal life in their countries. It also urged the governments of the four affected countries to "better protect civilians" and ensure that all actions against the LRA comply with international human rights laws.
Abou Moussa, the UN special envoy for Central Africa, said military operations should be intelligence driven "and ensure the containment rather than the dispersal of LRA elements in order to maximise their impact".
Moussa said the US deployment should enhance efforts already being undertaken by the African governments.
US deputy ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis called the LRA "one of the most brutal terrorist organisations on the planet".
Tete Antonio, the African Union's UN observer, said the AU Peace and Security Council will meet on November 20 to consider the appointment of an AU special envoy for LRA-affected areas and to finalise plans to promote co-ordination on LRA issues.