In April, seven men escaped from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and walked for nearly two months before reaching safety at the African Union Regional Task Force (AU-RTF) base, near Obo in the Central African Republic (CAR). This group consisted of four Ugandan males, two South Sudanese males, and one Congolese males.
On top of the simple fact that these seven long-term LRA captives are now safe, it’s an even bigger deal that they reportedly defected from Kony’s group in Kafia Kingi. Since arriving in Obo, they’ve gone through a series of debriefs with the AU-RTF and U.S. forces and have provided valuable information on Kony’s whereabouts and LRA operations. This information will greatly assist ongoing military operations and defection efforts in the region.
For several years, LRA escapees have reported Kony’s declining health – something this group also confirmed – saying that Kony is allegedly suffering from diabetes and arthritis. While we aren’t able to verify these claims, there has been consistency in defector reports.
These seven escapees have also confirmed reports that Kony has found a new way of supporting the LRA – poaching elephants for their ivory. In addition to killing elephants, the LRA is looting minerals to sell and trade for guns and ammunition from Sudanese traders.
Sean Poole, our Director of International Programs & Strategy, talked about what this means for Kony:
“Kony’s ability to lead and keep the LRA intact is under threat like never before. Not only are LRA commanders, like Dominic Ongwen, giving up the fight, the Ugandan fighters who comprise the largest demographic in the LRA are beginning to question Kony’s ability to lead. Joseph Kony’s health is contributing to this doubt and leading to defections, like the most recent defection of seven combatants. While the LRA is continuing to attack communities and abduct civilians, their leadership structure and cohesiveness is being weakened, in large part due to the international coalition applying pressure to the group.”
The U.S. support of the African Union-led counter-LRA mission has been a vital component to reducing the LRA’s fighting capacity in recent years. These seven escapees can now stand amongst thousands of others who have been freed from the terror of the LRA. Given how far we’ve come – and the consequences of giving up too soon – it’s more important than ever before that we stay committed to this mission and help bring an end to this nearly 30 year long conflict.
You can help ensure there is continued progress toward ending LRA violence by joining our CITIZEN team. We’ll keep you updated on ways to engage with your members of Congress to help ensure the U.S. stays committed to the counter-LRA mission until Kony is removed from the battlefield and every abducted man, woman and child is returned home to their families.