US Pulling Out From Uganda LRA Mission; AU Mulls Drawdown

The Ugandan military says an aide to Lord’s Resistance Army chief Joseph Kony has surrendered, a day after the United States said it will withdraw from the task force chasing the notorious rebel group.

Ugandan military officials said Thursday that Michael Omona, Kony’s chief communications officer, gave himself up in the Central African Republic.  Omona was part of the LRA for 23 years after being kidnapped by the group in 1994.

On Wednesday, the U.S. military said it will remove its forces from Operation Observant Compass, the task force established in 2013 to hunt down bands of LRA fighters roaming across Central Africa and bring Kony and other LRA leaders to justice.

In a statement, the U.S Africa Command said the task force has “dramatically weakened the LRA in numbers and overall effectiveness.”  It said the LRA has shrunk from 2,000 to under 100 fighters, and noted that four of the five key LRA leaders have been captured.

Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, remains at large.  A former LRA senior commander, Dominic Ongwen, is currently on trial at the ICC in The Hague.

The African Union Peace and Security Council met in Addis Ababa Thursday to discuss the future of the anti-LRA task force.  The council said on Twitter that it may recommend the force be increased, decreased, shut down or left as is.

“Though weakened, LRA remains a security threat,” the council said.

A self-styled prophet, Kony launched a brutal rebellion in Uganda that displaced more than 1.5 million people before taking his group into Sudan, the CAR and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

The United Nations estimated in 2013 that the LRA had killed more than 100,000 people and kidnapped more than 60,000 over the previous quarter-century.

Both numbers have likely increased since then, as the group has continued to attack villages in remote areas.

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