African Union (AU) Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat announced that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has abducted over seven hundred people and displaced hundreds more in 2017. In February, it carried out sixteen attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR). Chairman Mahamat said that in addition to the DRC and the CAR, the LRA is active in South Sudan. The LRA, he continued, is funding itself through ivory poaching in the DRC and looting minerals from the CAR.
Despite the LRA’s steady activity, Uganda is withdrawing its two thousand troops that participate in the AU’s Regional Co-operation Initiative for the Elimination of the LRA (RCI-LRA). The Trump administration is withdrawing 250 Special Forces soldiers deployed to track down LRA leader Joseph Kony, who remains at large with some reports claiming that he is in southern Darfur, Sudan.
The AU has renewed the RCI-LRA’s mandate, but pledged contributions from the European Union and others are in arrears. There seems little doubt that the LRA commands little attention outside parts of the AU. With a full plate in the region—including an immense war in South Sudan and multiple peacekeeping missions—the UN is unlikely to assist the AU with an already decades-long fight to oust the LRA.
A concern must be that with waning international attention, the LRA will revive.
The LRA has some similarities to Nigeria’s Boko Haram, especially with respect to the use of violence and terrorism. As with the LRA, Nigerian authorities have been quick to proclaim victory over Boko Haram. In December 2015, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the Nigerian military “technically” defeated Boko Haram. One year after Buhari’s claim of victory, military operations against the terrorist group continue. However, Nigerian military officials insisted that the extremists had been defeated. Like the LRA, the threat of Boko Haram is often understated and glossed over in the interest of pursuing other priorities. The persistence of both organizations suggests that terrorist movements of their ilk are hard to destroy and should not be underestimated.