By Ronald Ssekandi, Yuan Qing
KAMPALA, April 5 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations envoy to the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) affected areas and his African Union counterpart have urged Uganda, the United States and other partners to sustain the hunt down of the rebel outfit which has caused mayhem in the region.
The Ugandan military, the U. S. troops and other regional armies had suspended the hunt down of the LRA in the jungles of the Central African Republic (CAR) following the seizure of power in the central African country by Seleka rebels on March 24.
The Uganda military on Tuesday announced that it had suspended its military operations following the AU, under whose mandate it was operating, suspended CAR membership to the continental body following the seizure of power by Seleka rebels.
The Seleka rebels who deposed President Francois Bozize's government had also demanded that all foreign troops must leave the country.
The envoys who on April 3 met Ugandan authorities represented by foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa and his defense counterpart Crispus Kiyonga said that despite change of government in CAR, the hunt down of the LRA whose leader Joseph Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) must continue.
They said the hunt down was authorized by the UN and the AU on the basis of a decision by the affected member states.
"The sudden change of regime in CAR has caused confusion in some minds. I want to reassure the national and international opinion that this has no impact on the commitment and the determination of the Ugandan authorities to support the fight against the LRA," said Francisco Madeira, the AU Special Envoy for the LRA.
"There is no reason to consider any suspension of the participation of the UPDF (Uganda People's Defense Force) or even that of other troops already in place. It should be recalled that it is an authorized Force led by the African Union on the basis of a decision of the sovereign states concerned," he said, noting that his upcoming visits to CAR will clarify and strengthen this position.
"We have no doubt of the interest that the new leaders will give to this issue," Madeira added in a joint statement issued here on Friday.
Abou Moussa, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa, said the UN was keenly monitoring the development in CAR.
"The United Nations is very attentive to the evolution of this situation, given the negative impact of the LRA activities not only on peace and regional security, but also its unacceptable humanitarian consequences," he said.
"We must not give any chance to Joseph Kony and his elements to believe that there is a release and that, they can continue to commit atrocities on the people with impunity," he said.
The envoys on April 4 also met Scott DeLisi, the U.S. ambassador to Uganda, to seek confirmation of the maintenance of the American military advisors deployed in the region in late 2011 to support the ongoing efforts in the fight against LRA.
The U. S. government on April 4 announced a five million dollar reward for any information leading to the arrest of rebel leader Joseph Kony and his top commanders, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, who are all wanted by the ICC to answer charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Meanwhile, local and international civil society organizations operating in areas affected by LRA rebel activities in CAR have appealed to Uganda and the U. S. to remain committed to efforts aimed at ending threats by one of Africa's most brutal rebel group.
Invisible Children, Enough Project, and The Resolve in a joint statement said civilians will face heightened atrocities if Uganda and the United States end operations to counter Kony.
"As the international community seeks to address the upheaval in CAR, it is critical that they find ways to sustain efforts to address LRA violence. A premature withdrawal would have devastating and immediate consequences for civilians in LRA affected areas," said Ben Keesey, Chief Executive of Invisible Children.
"It gives Kony a new lease on life, enabling him to regain power by initiating new rounds of abductions in communities that will be left totally unprotected and vulnerable to LRA attacks," said Keesey.
"After 27 years of Kony's attacks on civilians, the international community has come too close to seeing it finished to let everything fall apart now. The stakes are too high," said Michael Poffenberger, Executive Director of The Resolve.
"The AU also needs to intervene with the Ugandan government to urge patience and persistence with its LRA mission until the situation in CAR becomes clearer, or else risk reversing all the progress that has been made."
Over the past three years, the Ugandan led, U. S. supported operations helped reduce the LRA's killings of civilians by more than 90 percent and enabled dozens of LRA fighters and abductees to safely defect from the group, according to the civil society organizations.
Last week, 28 women and children were released from LRA captivity in the Democratic Republic of Congo.