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Hunt for notorious Ugandan warlord Kony loses momentum
Reports from defectors and South Sudanese officials suggest that Kony may be getting shelter in Darfur from the Sudanese government, which has supported the Lord's Resistance Army in the past. Sudan may be looking to use Kony’s followers as proxies in its dispute over an oil-rich border area with South Sudan.
Some gains have been made. Invisible Children, the producer of “Kony 2012,” has installed 30 radio towers in remote areas to encourage defections and communication between villages. Within the year, about 100 fighters and abductees have defected.
But attacks are on the rise, from 53 in the first quarter of this year to 75 in the second, according to the United Nations. The current numbers of soldiers — who patrol a jungle area roughly the size of Nevada — simply don’t allow them to respond quickly to sightings of the enemy.
Adequate equipment is also in short supply. U.S. aerial reconnaissance has had difficulty penetrating the triple-canopy jungle, and Ugandan authorities say they need more U.S. helicopter support.
The State Department wouldn’t divulge how many helicopters are on loan for the Kony mission, but said it plans to increase operational flight hours by 25 percent in coming months.
About 100 U.S. service members were deployed to the region last year in what the Pentagon describes as an advisory role to help with training, information sharing and operational planning.
In August, U.S. advisers airdropped 350,000 leaflets with a message encouraging defections among remaining fighters, and the advisers have worked with local authorities to expand radio coverage in the Central African Republic.
But the four African countries hunting for Kony are expected to lead efforts to bring about justice in their respective nations.
Kasper Agger, a field researcher with the Enough Project, suspects the U.S. may be turning to a strategy of containment now that the AU force has been assembled. This, he said, would be a huge mistake that would allow Kony’s militia to continue.
“The inconvenient truth is that the complete removal of the [Lord's Resistance Army] remains a distant goal,” he said.
In August, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and reportedly said, “We have to get the equipment and resources that will help rid the world of this terrible man [Kony].”
She also visited Juba, South Sudan’s capital, amid reports that Kony had found a safe haven in Darfur.
Last year, the U.S. pledged $102 million to rehabilitate northern Uganda, where Kony’s militia displaced 1.9 million people and abducted 20,000 children in a span of 20 years before reaching a deal to leave Uganda in 2006.
The Defense Department spent nearly $137 million to support operations in the region.
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