Surge in AU RTF Counter-LRA Operations
The African Union Regional Task Force, established in November 2011 to protect civilians from the LRA and capture senior LRA leaders, launched a series of operations in Q3 2013 following a prolonged period of disengagement. In the first months of their deployment, the Congolese military (FARDC) and South Sudanese (SPLA) contingents were poorly equipped and did not conduct significant operations. The Central African military (FACA) was essentially dissolved following the March 2013 coup in CAR, and the new transitional authorities and military forces there are not officially recognized by the AU. The Ugandan military (UPDF) contingent was conducting active counter-LRA operations in CAR, but officially suspended them following the March 2013 coup.
In Q3 2013, however, the AU RTF re-launched active operations. In September, the FARDC destroyed an LRA camp in northern Bas Uele district of Congo, while the SPLA destroyed an LRA camp in Congo's Garamba National Park and investigated dozens of other sites of suspected LRA activity in the park. The operations were the first substantive offensive counter-LRA operations in Congo since September 2011, when Congolese authorities revoked the UPDF's permission to operate there. Both LRA camps destroyed by the RTF forces in Congo contained small huts and cultivated fields with vegetables and groundnuts. LRA defectors confirmed these locations were staging points to send supplies and ivory to senior LRA commanders in CAR. In CAR, the UPDF announced the official resumption of counter-LRA operations in October, though reports indicated operations had already resumed in the previous weeks and months.
External support was critical to the AU RTF forces recent surge in operations. US military advisers provided critical training, intelligence, and logistical support to the FARDC and SPLA units that conducted the operations in Congo, even embedding with them. US advisers also continue to collaborate with UPDF troops tracking the LRA in CAR, and the US provides substantial intelligence and mobility support to UPDF forces there. Meanwhile, diplomatic engagement by AU LRA envoy Amb. Francisco Madeira and Abou Moussa, the lead UN official on LRA issues, with the Congolese government and transitional authorities in CAR proved critical to attaining their support for RTF operations.