Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Special Representative Moussa, for your briefing today.
The Lord’s Resistance Army remains a vicious and persistent menace to the people of central and east Africa. Although its capacity is diminished and it is on the run, the LRA’s brutal attacks and abductions continue. We must bring an end to this horrific organization and its atrocities. The United States commends the governments of Uganda, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan for their steadfast efforts to do so. The United States is taking action, in partnership with the African Union and the UN, to provide wide-ranging support to regional efforts to counter the threat posed by the LRA. We also support the ICC cases against Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen, who must be held accountable.
Despite significant challenges, the region is making progress. The LRA has been weakened and pushed out of many areas. Communities at risk are better connected and sharing information. Defections from the LRA are rising, and the United States is working with the region’s governments, UN missions, and NGOs to encourage more defections by airdropping more leaflets, expanding radio broadcasts, and establishing safe reporting sites. Our collective efforts have made an impact.
And yet, the LRA continues to sow fear and victimize populations across CAR, the DRC and South Sudan. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the LRA continues to perpetrate attacks in the Central African Republic and DRC and has displaced an estimated 443,000 people.
Clearly, more must be done to protect civilians, to improve the flow of information on LRA activities, and to increase humanitarian access. The UN has a critical role to play in each of these areas.
The United States fully supports the UN’s comprehensive regional strategy to counter the LRA. We efforts by SRSG Moussa and UNOCA to implement the UN strategy, and urge a continued push for implementation. As we said in June, the real test of this strategy is how it translates into action on the ground and the results its produces.
The UN strategy rightly emphasizes protection of civilians. Both the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the UN Mission in South Sudan have mandates to help protect civilians from LRA attacks, which we encourage them to pursue aggressively, including via targeted patrols in LRA-affected areas. Strengthening civilian protection requires affected communities to become more resilient. Thus, the United States is funding programs to help LRA-affected communities develop protection plans and better communicate with other communities.
Expediting and enhancing the flow of information about LRA activities is essential to protecting civilians and hunting down the LRA’s top leaders. The Secretary-General’s report expresses concern about possible LRA presence in and around the disputed area of Kafia Kingi along the Sudan-South Sudan border and, earlier this year, the LRA committed attacks farther west than ever before, near Bangassou, CAR. There are credible reports of the LRA poaching elephants in the DRC and illegally trafficking ivory. With UN leadership, we must together develop a common operating picture of the LRA’s positions in the region and target its logistics networks. The Security Council has directed four UN missions in the LRA-affected region, including UNAMID, to share information on the LRA and cooperate on efforts to combat it. Designating a focal point in each mission for this purpose would improve such cooperation and help facilitate a truly regional response to this menace.
Finally, we must continue providing for the humanitarian needs of local populations. We commend the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and its partners for expanding the delivery of humanitarian aid to LRA-affected communities. But many LRA-affected areas in CAR and the DRC are still inaccessible due to poor infrastructure and insecurity. Increasing humanitarian access must remain a priority for all stakeholders. We urge UNOCA to work with UN missions in the region to facilitate better access by humanitarian actors to vulnerable populations in remote areas affected by the LRA.
Eliminating the LRA threat in central Africa depends on the unwavering resolve of the governments in the region, who have the primary responsibility for protecting their citizens. The African Union can solidify regional cooperation through its Regional Task Force. We hope the UN will do all it can to help the AU’s initiative succeed.
Countering the LRA is a critical part of UNOCA’s agenda, but the United States also welcomes UNOCA's support for regional coordination and capacity-building to combat terrorism, as well as piracy and maritime armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea. UNOCA's preventive diplomacy and peacebuilding efforts contribute to regional stability. We share the Secretary-General’s concerns about the challenges faced by women and girls in the sub-region, including female genital mutilation, early forced marriage, denial of access to education, and low political participation. We urge UNOCA's continued attention to these priorities, and ongoing efforts to advance human rights, media freedom, and peaceful, free elections.
Mr. President, Central Africa is beset by problems, but filled with promise, which it cannot realize fully until the LRA is no more. From the countries of the region to New York and Addis, to the capitals of those sitting around this table, we share a common interest in bringing about the demise of the LRA. We all want those whom the LRA has displaced to return home and the communities it has plagued to heal. We seek lasting security and economic development for the people of Central Africa. We demand that those who commit atrocities and terrorize innocent civilians are brought to justice. Those goals are worthy, they are possible, and the United States will not rest until they are achieved.
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