By Henry Mukasa
The United Nations has welcomed the deployment of forces with the African Union mandate to hunt down LRA rebels led by Joseph Kony who have meted out terror in region during their two decades atrocious war.
A total of 2,000 Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF) soldiers and 500 from the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) were on Tuesday handed over to the Regional Task Force (RTF) of the African Union (AU) in Yambio, Western Equatoria State of South Sudan.
According to a statement issued by the UN office in Kampala, the Special Representative the UN Secretary-General to LRA affected areas, Abou Moussa, welcomed this decisive step, thanking the “troop contributing countries for their efforts and commitment despite other pressing national priorities.”
"This important moment is the culmination of our collective efforts to put an end to the activities of the LRA, a renegade rebel movement that has become infamous over the years for the untold sufferings wrought upon the local populations of the affected countries," Moussa, who also heads the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), commented.
The ceremony in Yambio follows an earlier one in Obo (Central African Republic) where 360 soldiers of the Forces Armées Centrafricaines (FACA) were handed over to the AU on 12 September. The Democratic Republic of the Congo will in the near future give its contribution at Dungu. UPDF’s Col. Dick Olum will command the 5000-strong force and will be deputized by Col. Gabriel Ayok Akuok of SPLA.
Moussa indicated that he UN will continue to support the AU and other partners, in the implementation of the regional strategy against the LRA adopted by the UN Security Council on June 29, 2012.
He commended the outstanding work that the various UN missions on the ground have been doing over the years to address the LRA threat. He mentioned in particular the UN Mission for Stabilization in Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which provide support to national authorities in the two countries in their responses to the LRA.
“The UN Peacekeepers have been offering military escorts and patrols in and around villages and towns where the LRA has been seen, thereby maintaining a level of security that has saved lives,” he noted.
Moussa called for efficient and effective coordination between all stakeholders including the UN Missions and offices, with a view to combating the LRA and providing security to innocent civilians. "Together we will succeed," he said.
The AU Special Envoy for the LRA issue, Francisco Madeira, expressed his gratitude to the United Nations, the European Union, the USA and all other partners for their support.