Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Special Representative Moussa for your briefing and for all your efforts on behalf of stability and peace in the Central African region.
Since its founding more than a quarter century ago, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has been a constant source of terror and suffering. Tens of thousands of Africans have died because of its rapacious violence, and countless young people have been compelled to serve as underage soldiers and sex slaves.
We commend the progress achieved against the LRA over the past several months and welcome the renewed vigor with which a number of regional and international partners have taken on the LRA threat.
We would all like to see the day when Joseph Kony and those indicted with him are brought to justice and we can pronounce the LRA a thing of the past. Important gains are being made, but that day of reckoning is not yet here, and experience warns that we should take nothing for granted. For our government, what makes the LRA threat a key issue on the Council's agenda is our belief that, with sustained engagement, it is now within the international community's reach to eliminate the LRA threat entirely.
It is essential, therefore, that we remain united in our determination to crush the LRA, which has proven its willingness to wait the international community out and to exploit to its advantage every opportunity to regroup - such as the increased instability in the Central African Republic over the past year. We cannot allow the LRA to believe that it will get a reprieve or to continue intimidating and terrorizing local populations in countries where institutions are already fragile, governance is weak, and the scale of human suffering is high.
Success in these efforts will have ramifications that extend beyond the LRA. Indeed, coordinated efforts against the LRA by regional states, the African Union, the UN, and the entire international community serve as one of the best models of an African-led security initiative, bolstered by international support, bilateral partners, the Security Council, and civil society.
My government specifically commends the AU Regional Task Force's armed contingents from Uganda, the DRC, and South Sudan for ramping up operations and increasing their cooperation in recent months. Their efforts have placed unprecedented pressure on the LRA, reducing the number and intensity of attacks; fragmenting its forces; encouraging defections; and shrinking by 25 percent the size of the population displaced by LRA-related violence over the past year.
UNOCA has the vital job of coordinating UN activities in the region, and we urge the Secretariat to provide the Special Representative Moussa with the necessary staff and support, including providing at least one full-time staff member dedicated to counter-LRA efforts within UNOCA. We also commend the Special Representative and AU Special Envoy Madeira for their diplomatic efforts to ensure the resumption of Task Force operations in the Central African Republic, along with more wide-ranging efforts in the DRC. Their partnership is not only crucial to the success of counter-LRA efforts overall, but also provides a useful model for collaboration between the AU and the UN.
We also encourage the UN missions in South Sudan and the DRC to work more closely with the AU Regional Task Force to protect civilians, provide logistical support, and persuade LRA members to lay down their arms.
The United States is fully committed to doing its part and will continue to provide military advisors, airlift support, and civilian protection assistance to counter-LRA efforts. We are proud of the contribution that our Special Forces and other military and civilian personnel are making to this joint effort and hope that partners such as the European Union will also maintain their backing for the AU Regional Task Force.
As the LRA threat reduces, we cannot turn our backs on the communities that have been terrorized by the LRA for so long. We should begin planning now for the day after Joseph Kony and the LRA are a thing of the past. We are concerned by reports that several international aid organizations have withdrawn from LRA-affected areas in the DRC. In this regard, leadership from the OCHA and the World Bank will be crucial to support the recovery of LRA-affected populations. The International Working Group on the LRA, co-chaired by the United States and European Union, recently identified telecommunications, road rehabilitation, and support for civil society as priority areas to support communities' recovery. We call on global donors to contribute to these efforts.
As SRSG Moussa has rightly pointed out, the LRA does not operate in a vacuum and a number of pressing issues that impact the region as a whole also merit our attention. Most concerning is the ongoing security, human rights, and humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic.
The U.S. government remains committed to finding a timely solution that will allow for the protection of civilians, restoration of security and state authority, and humanitarian access in the CAR. We believe that adherence to the February 2015 elections cycle laid out in the Libreville Agreements remains critical to the long-term success of stabilization efforts in the CAR. We also note that close cooperation between the AU-RTF and any AU peacekeeping mission deployed in the CAR will be essential.
UNOCA efforts to combat disturbing regional trends, such as the threat of terrorism, increased trafficking in conventional weapons, ivory poaching, and a surge in piracy through the Gulf of Guinea, are also welcome. My government strongly supports efforts by UNOCA to mobilize regional action on these issues.
In closing, I note that we are in the midst of a pivotal moment in the Central African region. If, today, we apply the necessary forethought to invest adequate attention and resources to a number of crises brewing across the region - whether the LRA, the broader human rights and humanitarian crisis in the CAR, or preventing the scourge of terrorism and piracy from further taking root - we have a real opportunity to save countless lives, precious resources, and help to usher this region toward the stability and prosperity that its people deserve. Thank you.
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