Please note this email has been reformatted and my real name omitted, no other content changes have been made.
Dear Mr Magic
Thank you for your letter of 31 July to the Prime Minister about the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). I am replying as a Desk Officer in the Central Africa Team.
The UK Government condemns in the strongest possible terms the atrocities carried out by the LRA. Although much reduced in numbers, the LRA remains an unprincipled and violent threat to civilians and regional security. According to the most recent UN estimates the LRA now numbers around 250-300 fighters operating in small groups in remote parts of South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic. This is considerably fewer than the number that used to adhere to the LRA, particularly at the height of its activity in 2002 when we believe there were approximately 3,000 active LRA fighters.
We are particularly concerned that the inhuman actions of the LRA have caused enormous suffering to children, including through the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, abduction of children from families and communities, and sexual violence against children. The UK strongly supports efforts to stop the use of child soldiers in LRA- affected regions and internationally. We work at the highest political levels to protect children affected by armed conflict, including through the European Union (EU), the United Nation’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and the African Union (AU). Through protecting children from the threats posed by the LRA, we can make them feel safer within their communities. The UK is giving half a million pounds to a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) programme that will help improve the capacity of AU forces to protect children and women in LRA-affected areas. We are providing this money over a period of two years.
In addition to the efforts outlined above:
- The UK leads the work in the UN Security Council on LRA matters. The Special Representative of the Secretary General for Central Africa presented a regional strategy to the UN Security Council in June 2012 aimed at combating the LRA, and it was endorsed in a UK-drafted Presidential Statement. The UK has continued to encourage the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) to coordinate the anti-LRA work of the UN, the EU, the AU and the LRA-affected states. In our most recent statement on the LRA at the UN Security Council in May 2013 we welcomed the finalisation of the strategic documents for the operationalisation of the AU Regional Task Force (RTF) against the LRA. We see the full implementation of the UN regional strategy on the LRA and the operationalisation of the RTF as key in seeking to defeat the LRA.
- The UK acknowledges the important work of the UN peacekeeping missions in the region in protecting civilians. We have stressed the need for continued and improved coordination and information sharing between these missions, and with the broader international community and local stakeholders, to enhance these efforts further. This is why the UK currently funds the deployment of a British Military Officer in an information cell in the northern part of the DRC, who has strengthened the capability of the cell to provide useful intelligence with which to counter the LRA and has assisted with the improvement of information exchange between the missions.
- The EU, with UK financial and political support, has helped fund the establishment of the AU Special Envoy on the LRA, who has made progress in co-ordinating the response from the four LRA affected countries. The UK has welcomed the work that the AU has undertaken towards the implementation of its Regional Task Force and, whilst we understand that there are technical challenges to implementation, we have urged the full deployment of troops across the region as soon as possible.
- The UK continues to make significant contributions to programmes to disarm and demobilise combatants and reintegrate them into their home communities. These programmes have helped to remove a steady stream of members from the LRA and other armed groups by encouraging defections.
We should not underestimate the ingenuity of the LRA, and their ability to survive. However, the capture of senior LRA commander Ceaser Acellam in May 2012, the destruction of the base of a key general of the LRA in the Central African Republic in August 2012, and the death of Brigadier Binani in January 2013 demonstrate that progress is being made in reducing the capacity of the LRA and ultimately bringing Kony and other senior LRA members to justice.
I hope that this letters addresses your concerns.