Warlord blamed for rape and mutilations ‘chased out Congo’

FUGITIVE warlord Joseph Kony and leaders of his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have been chased out of Democratic Republic of Congo to the neighbouring Central African Republic and no longer pose a threat in Congo, a Congolese general has said.

The comment follows a complaint by nearby Uganda that Congo was obstructing its US-backed hunt for Kony, who has been thrust into the headlines after a celebrity-backed internet campaign calling for his arrest.

Self-proclaimed mystic Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

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“We have reduced the capacity of the LRA. For us it’s no longer an issue of defence. It’s a public order issue,” General Jean Claude Kifwa, who is in charge of fighting the LRA in Congo, said in Kinshasa.

Known for using child soldiers and raping and mutilating its victims, Kony’s LRA has been blamed by the United Nations for fresh attacks this year in Congo, causing thousands to flee.

Two LRA fighters were killed on Sunday by the Congolese army near the Congolese town of Dungu, but neither were found to have had ammunition, Gen Kifwa said, adding that much violence in the region that has been blamed on the LRA has been carried out by local bandits.

Gen Kifwa dismissed tensions between Uganda and Congo as “small problems” and suggested Uganda may be deliberately dragging its feet in the hunt for Kony.

“Firstly, he [Kony] is no longer in Uganda. Also the Americans are supporting the Ugandans [against the LRA] and the Ugandans want to benefit from that support,” he said.

On Monday, Uganda accused Congo of refusing to allow Ugandan troops free movement in Congolese territory. Gen Kifwa confirmed that there were no operational troops from Uganda in the country after they pulled out last year.

The LRA, which has operated in the region for more than 20 years, has had widespread news coverage recently after a 30-minute video by US-based group Invisible Children went viral and drew the support of celebrities including George Clooney and Angelina Jolie.

However, the video has drawn criticism for oversimplifying the conflict and not making clear that Kony was driven out of Uganda several years ago.

While some criticism of the campaign is valid, it may help push countries in the region and the United States to do more to end the LRA problem, according to Ida Sawyer, Congo analyst for Human Rights Watch.

“On their own, regional governments have not shown the capability or resolve to protect civilians from LRA abuses or successfully capture the LRA’s top leaders,” she said.

The rebel group, founded in 1980, has waged a brutal insurgency for years and was ejected from northern Uganda in 2005. It has since roamed remote jungle straddling the borders of Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.