The United States on Sunday reaffirmed its intention to help Uganda eliminate the Lord’s Resistance Army following reports that Uganda may soon stop taking part in the hunt for LRA leader Joseph Kony.
Kampala has notified the African Union that it plans to withdraw its 2,500 troops from a joint anti-LRA operation in the Central African Republic, Ugandan People’s Defence Force spokesman Lt Col Paddy Ankunda told the Associated Press on Friday. “The LRA has been degraded. They no longer have the means to make war,” Lt Col Ankunda said in comments to Agence France Presse.
“International support has not been enough,” he added.
A State Department official told the Nation Media Group that the US is aware of these reports and is “working to confirm the facts on the ground.”
The official, who spoke on the condition of remaining anonymous, added that the US is “working closely” with Uganda and other countries in the region “to ensure a successful completion of the mission.”
Nearly five years ago, the Obama administration dispatched about 100 US Special Forces to assist Uganda’s efforts to wipe out the LRA. Mr Obama doubled down on that commitment in 2014, adding 150 more military advisors and several US aircraft to the pursuit of the elusive Kony and his remaining followers.
The LRA had once terrorised parts of Uganda, killing and abducting thousands of civilians.
Evicted a decade ago from the country of its origin, the LRA went on to commit atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan.
The regional African Union task force that the US is aiding includes troops from each of those countries as well as from Uganda.
The offensive has achieved some key aims, the State Department official said on Saturday.
The Ugandan military and its partners in the AU operation have “removed four of the LRA’s top five most senior and notorious commanders from the battlefield,” the official said.
“During that time there have been about 275 defections and releases from the LRA, and the number of people killed by the LRA has dropped by over 90 per cent.”
Kony and several score of his loyalists are believed to be hiding in Kafia Kingi, an enclave on the border of the CAR and South Sudan that is controlled by the Sudan government in Khartoum.
Sudanese authorities do not permit African Union troops and US advisors to operate in Kafia Kingi.
The US official did not respond to Lt Col Ankunda’s reported complaint that Uganda has received insufficient support for its efforts to eliminate the LRA.
The UPDF spokesman had also warned last month that Uganda might withdraw its troops from the African Union mission in Somalia that is battling al-Shabaab.