Saturday, August 29, 2009

War of attrition

While Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army continue to kill and abduct, most recently in region around Ezo in western South Sudan, their days may be slowly drawing to an end.

According to knowledgeable sources in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, pressure against the LRA by the Ugandan and Congolese armies continues to chip away at the rebel force.

The Ugandan forces are the same ones who supposedly withdrew from the northeastern DRC after last year's abortive attack on the LRA camps in Garamba National Park.

As I suggested several months ago, the so-called Ugandan "advisers" who stayed behind are in reality a fighting force that has been given licence to chase the LRA anywhere they need in the DRC, Central African Republic, and western South Sudan.

The LRA's recent attacks on the communities in and around Ezo are being interpreted by some as desperate moves by the LRA to loot badly needed supplies and abduct soldiers for their dwindling ranks.

Except for a core of Ugandan fighters thought to be from 200 to 300, the rest of his army are abducted child soldiers from the region.

As has been suggested, LRA leader Kony is steadily moving his force to the remote corners of eastern CAR where he hopes to bide his time. Speculation is that he is awaiting for war to erupt between Sudan and South Sudan in advance of, or around the coming 2011 independence for South Sudan.

As those of us who follow this know, South Sudan's shipment of heavy weapons, which were seized and ultimately released by Somali pirates, are making their way to their buyer: South Sudan.

Meanwhile, Sudan continues to arm Messeriya tribesmen in South Khordofan, and build up its forces in anticipation of an outbreak of war. Sudan would most like quickly move to defend it's vital oil supplies in the region.

Kony could benefit from this war by being backed by its former and long-time supporter, Sudan. His LRA could be yet another fighting force in western South Sudan, effectively opening up another front.

But in the meantime, Uganda does not intend to let up as it tracks Kony and the LRA. And, speculation is building that another attack on the LRA is in the planning by the Ugandans, again with the help of US advisers with Africom.

Uganda could get some additional help. The United Nations Security Council is slated to rethink the mandate for the UN troops in northeastern DRC, which have been expanding their presence there.

From their initial base in Dungu, the UN apparently now has about five bases, all of which are better able to help support and supply the Ugandan and Congolese fighters against the LRA.

The possible change in the mandate for the UN in the region, would put it in the position of aggressively imposing security in the region and could include active defense of the villages in the region against LRA attacks.

Such a policy shift would suit the political objectives of the US, which is under increasing pressure to do more to wipe out the LRA. While the US is reluctant to put boots on the ground to do that, supporting and pushing the UN forces is the obvious answer.

Meanwhile, people in the region continue to suffer from the LRA.
In southern Sudan's province of Western Equatoria, the rebels raided Ezo, a town close to the border with Central African Republic. They have also been accused of abducting 10 girls from a local church, according to the UNHCR.

As a result of the intensifying LRA attacks, the U.N. suspended all humanitarian activities in southern Sudan and evacuated 29 humanitarian workers, including seven UNHCR staff.

The U.N. estimates about 28,000 displaced people and refugees in Ezo and Yambio were left without protection or assistance, according to a story by Rueters Alertnet.

The rebels also attacked Bereamburu village, some 35 km from Yambio, the regional capital, burning the local church and a health centre and looting medical supplies, according to UNHCR.

Since the start of this year some 360,000 Congolese have been uprooted in successive LRA attacks in Congo's Orientale province, while some 20,000 others have fled to Sudan and Central African Republic, according to UNHCR estimates.

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