By Taddeo Bwambale
The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU), has called for regional cooperation to expedite the elimination of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group.
A report of the regional body tabled at its 508th meeting said significant progress had been made by troops of the Regional Task Force (RTF) in neutralising LRA combatants.
The report also cites progress in the elimination of the LRA through defections of LRA combatants and commanders, including Dominic Ongwen who is on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The AU Peace and Security Council condemned the LRA’s acts of sexual violence against women and girls, and their forced use as household labourers to sustain commanders of the group.
According to a communiqué, the LRA still operates in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic (CAR), abducting, raping, killing civilians and causing the displacement of people.
The AU body warns that the volatile situation in the CAR and the conflict in South Sudan have impacted negatively on the operations of the regional force, giving opportunity to the LRA to reorganize for large-scale attacks against civilians.
The AU wants countries in the affected regions to enhance logistical support to their respective contingents, meet regularly and cooperate on action against the LRA.
The regional body wants the UN Security Council to adjust the mandates of UN peacekeeping operations and facilitate the Regional Task Force and its contingents to wipe out the LRA.
AU Member States and international partners are also required to extend mobilise and extend financial and logistical support for regional diplomatic and military action against the notorious rebel group.
The AU Commission is finalizing an assessment of the rehabilitation needs of the areas affected by activities of the LRA, to prepare for a plan of action for the recovery and rehabilitation of the regions.
The LRA is listed as a terrorist group by the United States and has been accused of widespread human rights violations, including murder, abduction, child-sex slavery, and recruitment of child soldiers.
Led by Joseph Kony, the LRA originated in Northern Uganda in the 1980s as a movement fighting for the interests of the Acholi people.
The ICC issued arrest warrants for Kony, his deputy Vincent Otti, and the LRA commanders Okot Odhiambo, deputy army commander and Ongwen, brigade commander of the Sania Brigade of the LRA.
The four LRA leaders were charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, rape, and sexual slavery.
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