Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Special Representative Moussa, for your briefing.
For almost three decades, the Lord’s Resistance Army has wreaked havoc and perpetrated mass atrocities on the people of Central Africa and the Great Lakes region. The LRA has killed, maimed, and displaced thousands. It has abducted children and forced them to commit unspeakable horrors. It has destroyed families and communities. Its acts are unconscionable and must be stopped once and for all.
This Council has repeatedly condemned the LRA’s atrocities and supported decisive measures to end them. Our goal of permanently ending the LRA threat is within reach, but it will require sustained regional leadership and international support. The United States commends the African Union and governments in the region, particularly Uganda, for their concerted and continuing efforts to neutralize the LRA threat. The United States has provided significant assistance to support these regional efforts, including by sending U.S. military advisors to enhance the capacity of regional forces to pursue top LRA commanders and protect local populations.
Our common commitment has resulted in notable progress. OCHA reports 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.
Nevertheless, the LRA remains a regional threat with an outsized impact because of its brutality and reach. Joseph Kony is still at large, and the LRA continues to conduct attacks and commit abductions. Hundreds of thousands of people remain displaced throughout central Africa because of the LRA.
Instability across the region, particularly in the Central African Republic, threatens to halt and potentially reverse progress in the fight against the LRA. The United States believes that counter-LRA operations under the AU’s Regional Task Force should resume as soon as possible. We welcome the CAR transitional government’s assurances that counter-LRA operations will continue through the AU Regional Task Force. Further suspension of military operations in the CAR could allow the LRA to reorganize and further endanger civilians.
Meanwhile, the LRA continues to wreak havoc in other countries in the region, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to OCHA, the DRC suffered 54 LRA attacks between January and March of this year—the most among LRA-affected countries in the region. FARDC and MONUSCO forces operating in northeastern DRC should renew their efforts to combat the LRA through expanded, more targeted patrols and increased information-sharing.
Furthermore, UN missions in the region and the AU-RTF need to develop a common picture of the LRA’s operating disposition and investigate the LRA’s logistical networks and possible sources of illicit financing.
The UN’s comprehensive regional strategy is critical to coordinating UN and AU action to protect civilians from the LRA and strengthen the resilience of local communities. The United States fully supports this strategy and welcomes the new implementation plan produced by SRSG Moussa and UNOCA. We hope this translates swiftly into action in the region and, in particular, we urge rapid implementation of the DDRRR standard operating procedures and greater focus on roads and infrastructure projects to increase humanitarian access in the region. We request the Secretary-General to ensure that UNOCA has the staffing, particularly the technical experts, it needs to do so.
As we work to end the LRA’s campaign of terror, we must also address the crisis in the Central African Republic, where the breakdown of law and order, ongoing human rights abuses, and the dire humanitarian situation pose a serious threat to regional stability. The United States applauds and appreciates the efforts of UN agencies and NGOs to ameliorate the humanitarian suffering amidst a challenging operating environment. CAR authorities, however, bear primary responsibility for protecting civilians and must do much more in this regard, particularly for women and children. They need to bring the Séléka fighters under control immediately, facilitate humanitarian access throughout the country, and enable a political transition. And perpetrators of human rights violations committed by both sides during the recent fighting must be held to account.
In addition to the LRA and instability in the Central African Republic, piracy and maritime armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea remain serious security concerns for the region. The United States values UNOCA's support for regional coordination and capacity-building to combat these threats and looks forward to the regional Summit of Heads of State and Government this June where countries can demonstrate their leadership in addressing them.
We also welcome UNOCA's important preventive diplomacy and peacebuilding efforts to promote regional stability and urge UNOCA’s continued attention to 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.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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