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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

5/1/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

African warlord drafted children to fight battles, serve as prostitutes

African warlord Joseph Kony is widely believed to be hiding out in the rugged terrain northwest of central African village of Obo. The town was the first place that Kony's Lord's Resistance Army attacked in 2008. Obo is now where U.S. Special Forces have paired up with local troops and Ugandan soldiers to seek out the much despised general.

Among the many atrocities committed by Jospeh Kony's Lord Resistance Army has been the abduction and exploitation of children to serve in armed combat.

Among the many atrocities committed by Jospeh Kony's Lord Resistance Army has been the abduction and exploitation of children to serve in armed combat.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/1/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Africa

Keywords: Jospeh Kony, Africa, Lord's Resistance Army, American soldiers


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - It's been seven years that Kony has been wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Kony's forces cut a wide and bloody swath across several central African nations with rapes, abductions and killings.

The LRA has successfully eluded government forces due to its ability to slip back and forth over the porous borders of the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo. U.S. forces have since been providing intelligence, looking at patterns of movement and setting up better communications to link the countries' forces together so that they can better track the guerrilla force.

The One hundred U.S. soldiers, sent by President Barack Obama at the end of 2011 are split up about 15 to 30 per base, bringing in American technology and experience to assist local forces. Specific improvements that the American forces have brought remain classified, to avoid giving Kony the ability to take countermeasures.

"We don't necessarily go and track into the bush but what we do is we incorporate our experiences with the partner nation's experiences to come up with the right solution to go out and hopefully solve this LRA problem," a 29-year-old captain from Texas says, giving his first name in accordance with security guidelines.

The U.S. troops also receive reports from local hunters and others that they help analyze together with surveillance information.

"It's very easy to blame everything on the LRA but there are other players in the region - there are poachers, there are bandits, and we have to sift that to filter what is LRA," he said.

Central African Republic soldiers chiefly conduct security operations in and around the town, while the Ugandan soldiers, who have been in the country since 2010, conduct longer-range patrols looking for Kony and his men.

Soldiers have killed seven LRA fighters in the area and captured one since January, while rescuing 15 people abducted by the group that included five children, said their local commander, Col. Joseph Balikuddembe.

There has been no contact with the LRA since March. Military officials say that the LRA is now in survival mode. The LRA is thought to today number only around 150 to 300 die-hard fighters.

With Kony still around and breathing, there are fears that the LRA will be able to rebuild.

"There's periods of time when the LRA will lie low when the military pressure is too high or where there's a threat that they don't understand such as the American intervention," Matthew Brubacher, a political affairs officer with the U.N.'s mission in Congo says. Brubacher was also an International Criminal Court investigator on the Kony case for five years.

"But then after a while after they figure it out, if they have the opportunity they'll try to come back, so it's just a matter of time they'll try to come back. Kony always said 'if I have only 10 men, I can always rebuild the force.'"

Expectations are running high with the Americans serving in Obo and Djema in the Central African Republic, as well as those in Dungu in Congo and Nzara in South Sudan.

"For all the communities, the U.S. bases in Obo and Djema means one, Kony will be arrested, and two, there will be a lot of money for programs, humanitarian programs," Sabine Jiekak of the Italian humanitarian aid agency Coopi says.

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