Populations at Risk Previously Studied Situations

Central Africa (Lord's Resistance Army)

The Lord's Resistance Army, which has perpetrated crimes against humanity, continues to pose a threat to populations in the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.
BACKGROUND: The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) was formed by Joseph Kony in northern Uganda in 1987 as a religiously-inspired militia group. Since its founding, the group has been responsible for widespread and systematic abuses of human rights across central Africa, including in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan, that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

According the United Nations, the LRA was responsible for more than 100,000 deaths, the abduction of between 60,000 to 100,000 children, and the displacement of as many as 2.5 million civilians between 1987 and 2012. There have been no reported LRA attacks in Uganda since 2006 or in South Sudan since 2011. After several years of small-scale attacks on remote populations, the group has increased its activity since late 2015, particularly in eastern CAR and northeastern DRC.

A 25 May report of the UN Office for Central African noted that the LRA "has demonstrated increased boldness by attacking larger or less isolated population centres" in CAR during 2016. The LRA also continues to perpetrate attacks and abductions in DRC, particularly in remote areas in the northeastern Haut-Uélé and Bas-Uélé provinces. On 8 June 2016 alleged LRA fighters kidnapped approximately 35 people in Gumbu, DRC. The LRA Crisis Tracker has reported that the group is responsible for 417 abductions and 14 civilian fatalities in CAR and the DRC since the start of 2016 — a marked increase compared to 2015.

Credible sources indicate that the LRA only has a core force of approximately 150 fighters. Joseph Kony's last reported location was in the Kafia Kingi enclave, a remote area within the territory of South Sudan that borders CAR but is effectively controlled by Sudan.

ANALYSIS: Despite a significant reduction in the number of LRA fighters since 2012, the group remains a threat to populations in Central Africa.

The LRA has exploited insufficient national and international presence in remote areas of eastern CAR and northeastern DRC. The group continues to illicitly traffic natural resources to sustain its operations, and the cross-border movement of the LRA has hampered regional attempts to halt its activity.

Protecting civilians from the LRA is considered a lower priority as compared to other threats to populations in CAR and DRC, including by respective UN peacekeeping operations presently deployed to both countries.

Counter-LRA efforts will be further constrained by the impending withdrawal of the Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF) contingent from the African Union (AU) Regional Task-Force (AU-RTF) at the end of 2016.

CAR and DRC require enhanced international assistance to uphold their Responsibility to Protect in response to the going threat posed by the LRA.

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE: Significant regional and international initiatives to neutralize the LRA have been implemented since 2011.

The AU-led Regional Cooperation Initiative for the Elimination of the LRA (RCI-LRA) launched operations during March 2012, with CAR, DRC, South Sudan, and Uganda contributing troops to the AU-RTF. The force is currently comprised of 2,498 troops with the majority coming from the UPDF.

On 14 October 2011 United States President Barack Obama announced the deployment of approximately 100 Special Operation Forces (SOF) to advise and assist the AU RTF. On 23 March 2014 the United States committed an additional 150 SOF to the AU RTF.

In April 2013 the UN Secretary-General released a regional counter-LRA strategy which tasked the UN Office for Central Africa to coordinate a more effective UN response in LRA-affected areas, including by UN peacekeeping forces.

On 29 May 2013 the UN Security Council (UNSC) issued a Presidential Statement supporting the UN's Regional Strategy and emphasizing the "primary responsibility of States in LRA-affected regions to protect civilians."

On 7 March 2016 the UN Security Council added Joseph Kony and the LRA to the sanctions regime for CAR pursuant to UNSC resolution 2127.

On 23 March the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes against Dominic Ongwen, a former LRA commander, and set a trial date for 6 December 2016. The ICC has also indicted Kony and Vincent Otti, another LRA commander.

NECESSARY ACTION: The governments of CAR and DRC must enhance state authority and uphold their primary responsibility to protect populations in areas where the LRA poses an ongoing threat.

The UN Peacekeeping Operations in CAR and DRC (MINUSCA and MONUSCO) should enhance their respective military, police and civilian presence in LRA-affected areas in order to uphold their mandate to protect civilians. The two missions should enhance inter-mission coordination to combat the LRA threat given its cross-border nature.

The UN, AU and donors need to ensure that the UN Regional Strategy and RCI-LRA are fully implemented and adequately resourced. Particular attention should be paid to enhancing early warning and expanding DDRRR efforts.

Additional assistance should be provided to communities in LRA-affected areas to enhance broadcasting capacity so that locals can issue warnings of LRA attacks and broadcast defection messages to fighters.

Last Updated: 28 June 2016

The five most recent issues of R2P Monitor are available in the side-bar. To see previous assessments of this country, please see R2P Monitor and Atrocity Alert on our Publications page. Central Africa (Lord's Resistance Army) has been featured in the R2P Monitor from March 2012 to September 2013.