Human Rights Watch’s work to curb atrocities perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group, took a major step forward in May, when the Obama administration agreed to actively help end the violence.
New US legislation compels the Obama administration to develop a comprehensive strategy to protect civilians from LRA attacks. It must take steps with governments in the region to curb atrocities and to ensure the rule of law in central Africa.
The law calls on the United States to increase humanitarian assistance to all countries affected by LRA violence. In northern Uganda, a region ravaged by past LRA activity, the United States must support economic recovery. The law also obligates the United States to assist Uganda in bringing members of the LRA to justice.
The LRA has been involved in one of the world’s longest-running and most brutal insurgencies. The rebel group sustains its ranks by abducting children and forcing them to become soldiers. Women and girls are abducted and turned into sexual slaves; abducted men are used as porters and laborers. The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for the group’s top leaders for serious crimes committed in Uganda.
In March, Human Rights Watch released Trail of Death: LRA Atrocities in Northeastern Congo, which documented a four-day rampage in December 2009. We found that the LRA had attacked civilians, killing at least 321 people with machetes, axes, and heavy wooden sticks. The group abducted another 250 civilians, at least 80 of whom were children.