Despite the surrender of Dominic Ongwen and other gains in the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army, the rebel group is still capable of terrorising civilians, a new report warns.
Ongwen, the 34-year- old abductee-turned-rebel commander, surrendered to Seleka rebels who handed him to the US forces in Central African Republic (CAR) last month and is currently awaiting trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity at The Hague.
According to The State of the LRA in 2015; eight key trends in LRA Activity, Ongwen’s surrender and appearance at the ICC represents “a significant deterioration of morale and loss of experienced leadership within the LRA”.
The report points out that some 127 people left the rebel group, while 13 male fighters either defected or were captured last year. Yet the Joseph Kony-led outfit continues to wreak havoc in the region.
The report, published by The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative, Invisible Children and Africa Non-Profit Chore, reveals increased rebel activities. While attacks increased by 10 per cent, abductions rose by 30 per cent in 2014, compared to 2013. The attacks were visited on remote and vulnerable communities in CAR in the wake of dwindling pressure – heralded by withdrawal of humanitarian organisations.
“… even at its weakest, the LRA still has the ability to terrorize civilians en mass, and to potentially regenerate, especially if pressure from regional and international actors wanes,” said a statement by the authors of the report.
The rebel outfit survives on proceeds from looting, trafficked ivory, gold and diamond. According to the report, a one Omila, an LRA commander, delivered about 50 elephant tusks allegedly poached from Garamba national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Kony in mid 2014; Kony promoted this fighter in return.
With LRA reduced to 150 combatants, the outfit is now recruiting non-Acholi fighters into its junior ranks. Kony has also promoted his loyalists and relatives to positions of command following the defection and killing of the group’s commanders since 2012.