UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council and the United States said Wednesday that the Lord's Resistance Army's decades-long reign of terror can be stopped if the international community helps the African Union capture fugitive warlord Joseph Kony and his henchmen.
In a briefing to the council, the head of the U.N. Office for Central Africa, Abou Moussa, applauded the African Union's recent decision to dispatch a Uganda-led brigade of some 5,000 troops to hunt down Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
The Lord's Resistance Army has ranged across Uganda, Congo, and the Central African Republic, and is now believed holed up in Kafia Kingi, Sudan, near the border with the Central African Republic.
"It must be stopped once and for all," U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said Wednesday. "Our goal of permanently ending the LRA threat is within reach, but it will require sustained regional leadership and international support."
Other African countries contributing troops to the anti-Kony brigade are the Central African Republic Congo, and South Sudan. President Barack Obama has sent U.S. military advisers to aid the dragnet.
But Moussa said only the Ugandans are ready to take to the field.
Also complicating the deployment is unrest in Central African Republic, where a rebel alliance, known as Seleka, overthrew the president in December. Rebel elements have since been accused of killing civilians and looting.
But Moussa said that after recent AU talks with Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye, Central African Republic is ready to cooperate with the United Nations and African Union in the hunt for Kony and the remnants of the LRA.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that from 1987 until 2012, the LRA was responsible for more than 100,000 deaths. Between 60,000 and 100,000 children are believed to have been abducted by the rebel group and that 2.5 million civilians have been displaced.
Kasper Agger of the U.S.-based Kony watchdog group Enough Project said last month that the LRA seems to be undergoing turmoil amid the manhunt and is releasing abducted women. "It could be an indication that they are trying to become more mobile," Agger said. "We have seen this before but not on this scale."
Rice told the Security Council that "Overall, there was a significant drop in the number of LRA attacks in 2012, compared to 2011. Some of those displaced by the LRA in South Sudan have begun to return home. And two of the LRA's most senior commanders, Ceasar Acellam and Vincent 'Binany' Okumu, have been removed from the battlefield while scores of LRA members have defected or been released."
"To help bring the LRA's top commanders to justice, the United States, through the War Crimes Rewards Program, is offering rewards of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest, transfer, or conviction of LRA leaders Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen," Rice said.