The hunt for Joseph Kony, the leader of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), infamous for chopping off limbs and deploying child soldiers, is over according to a statement by the Ugandan army on Wednesday.
Due to the LRA movement having been significantly weakened and several of its leaders killed and others captured, Uganda decided that the group no longer poses a security threat and has pulled troops that were hunting the LRA in the Central African Republic (CAR) out of the country, according to media reports.
“The decision to withdraw was premised on the realisation that the mission to neutralise the LRA has now been successfully achieved. The LRA’s capacity and means of making war against Uganda have been degraded,” said the spokesperson of the Ugandan Army, Richard Karemire.
“Joseph Kony, with less than 100 armed fighters is now weak and ineffective. He no longer poses any significant threat to Uganda’s security and Northern Uganda in particular,” said Karemire.
He added that the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) operations had contributed significantly to the restoration of peace and tranquility in big areas of the CAR.
“The future for stability in CAR now lies on the shoulders of its government. However, the Ugandan military as a Pan-Africanist force remains ready to support the capacity building of the Armed Forces of Central Africa (FACA) for counter-LRA operations.
“We may also join the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission (MINUSCA)in the CAR under a strengthened mandate,” Karimere stated.
According to the Sudan Tribune, on March 29, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced the removal of US military forces participating in the Regional Task Force (RTF) against the LRA due to its weakened status.
“While its leader Joseph Kony remains in hiding, the AU-RTF has captured four of the five key LRA leaders,” said AFRICOM, which had helped the Ugandan military by providing advice and assistance to troops operating under the auspices of the African Union (AU).
Sudan, meanwhile, for the first time ever participated in the recent AFRICOM Chief of Staffs meeting in Stuttgart, Germany.
This participation followed the recent temporary suspension of Khartoum from a US list of countries supporting terrorism, following Sudan’s previous refusal to partake in regional anti-LRA efforts.
The Sudanese authorities are now actively supporting the Americans in their fight against terrorism, including allowing US military experts to search areas in Sudan where Kony and his men had been suspected of hiding.
Washinton will decide in June whether Sudan’s removal from the list of countries supporting terrorism will become permanent.
Last March, the Sudanese army also participated for the first time in the meeting of the AU-led Regional Cooperation Initiative for the Elimination of the LRA.
While Kony remains wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), key rebel commanders, Dominic Ongwen and Okot Odyambo have been killed.
Initially purporting to fight against Uganda government suppression during the Ugandan Bush War of the 80s, the LRA allegedly turned against Kony’s supporters, supposedly to “purify” the Acholi people and turn Uganda into a theocracy.
Proclaiming himself a spokesman of God, Kony has been accused by Kampala of ordering the abduction of children to become child soldiers and sex slaves.
His efforts resulted in 66,000 children becoming soldiers and the internal displacement of two million people in Uganda, the CAR, Congo and South Sudan from 1986 to 2009.
Kony was indicted for war crimes by the ICC at The Hague, Netherlands, in 2005 but has evaded capture.
He has been subject to an Interpol Red Notice at the request of the ICC since 2006.