UGANDA, February 26, 2013 – On February 17, Africa woke to the news that the Democratic Republic of Congo dispatched troops for the hunt for Joseph Kony, the war lord who has destabilized the region for more than two decades. The DRC now joins several other African nations in the quest.
Activists as well as tribal and religions leaders are urging the African troops to use persuasion, rather than force, to end the conflict. They say military confrontation with the Lord’s Resistance Army will only create more turmoil and violence for the affected communities, especially in the Central African Republic (CAR).
Several groups are even calling for the renewal of a law granting amnesty to rebel fighters. Some former LRA combatants have already received amnesty from the Ugandan government in an effort to soothe tensions and end fighting.
The Government of Uganda, however, continues to promise not only the apprehension of Kony, but his prosecution by the International Criminal Court for atrocities against innocent civilians.
The east African nation says the law granting amnesty to rebels is no longer active.
The government says it will continue its armed approach to defeating the LRA, since Kony and the associated Allied Democratic Forces leader Jamil Mukulu failed to surrender during the term of the amnesty.
Currently, Uganda has 2,000 troops delegated to the fight against the LRA, which work with 500 troops from South Sudan in the Central Africa Republic. In contrast, the rebels reportedly currently have only 350 fighters. Despite the imbalance, rebel forces continue relentless attacks against government troops.
The African countries complain that they are not receiving enough external support for the effort.
The DRC is most affected by the activities of the LRA. The LRA has turned to hunting elephants in the DRC for ivory, an illegal activity that they reportedly use to finance their campaigns.
Uganda previously attempted peace talks with Kony, but was unsuccessful. In 2007, Kampala abandoned talks after Kony repeatedly sought promises that his armies would not be prosecuted. Another obstacle to talks took place when Vicent Otti, Kony’s long-time ally and mediator of the talks, was murdered. After his death, sources claimed Kony had ordered his execution.
After the fall of peace talks, the LRA stepped-up its campaign, causing chaos and violence and killing hundreds.
Residents of northern Uganda oppose any type of amnesty for the LRA, saying they have witnessed Kony’s atrocities. They say the LRA stole their children for soldiers, raped their women, killed families and looted properties.
The residents note that those calling for amnesty have never faced the direct results of rebel atrocities. “Those who lived in towns can off course forgive but not those who were affected directly,” says Francis Okello a resident of Lira, where Kony started his operations after taking over from Alice Lakwena, the women believed to be Kony’s cousin.
Okello, a Kampala-based architect, says Lira continues to face agony, especially in the resettlement camps where abuse is rampant. “A family of six was killed, in another family of three the elder bread winner was taken never to be seen again. Do you expect the close ones of such victims to forgive?” he asked.
Okello said the situation continues to deteriorate, “Every one is [still] affected [by the war]”
Kony has waged his war since 1986 when the NRA under Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni came to power.
The rebel leader claims to be fighting for a religious cause, and cites The Bible’s Ten Commandments, to justify his killing of ‘sinners’.
Okello believes efforts to end the rebellion are fruitless.
“People have talked, people have prayed but the man cannot come out”.
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