The notorious militia headed by Joseph Kony that has kidnapped hundreds of children and forced them to fight and serve as sex slaves must be stopped, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday in Uganda.
But refugee and activist groups say the Lord’s Resistance Army has only stepped up its attacks in recent months, underscoring the difficulties faced by the forces trying to capture Kony in central Africa. The U.S. sent military advisers to the region in October to assist regional armies in stopping the group.
“We have to put our heads together to find out what additional equipment and support you need to lead this effort to rid the world of this terrible man and his criminal behavior,” Clinton was quoted as saying Friday by the Associated Press while visiting a Ugandan military base.
Reported attacks have more than doubled from January to June compared to the previous six months, according to the advocacy groups Invisible Children, the San Diego-based nonprofit that created an explosively viral video about the militia earlier this year, and Resolve. In a new report, the two groups say 311 people were abducted and 38 were killed in 190 attacks.
Most of the recent reported attacks took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the countries where the Lord’s Resistance Army shifted after being largely pushed out of Uganda years ago.
The attacks were clustered near the Garamba National Park in northeastern Congo, the same area where the militia set up bases roughly six years ago before being bombed by the Ugandan military. It reestablished itself in the area late last year.
The same pattern has been observed by the United Nations, which warned of surging attacks this spring that had uprooted thousands of people. The raids have grown more frequent and more brutal, the U.N. refugee agency said in May, though news of its attacks is sometimes slow to spread because the group often targets remote villages with no phones or radio communication.
Attacks also jumped in the Central African Republic, according to Human Rights Watch, which lamented that despite the increasing military attention to stopping the militia, villages still had little protection.
Though the Lord’s Resistance Army is believed to be relatively small, it has found shelter in the vast, forested territory it covers, which has frustrated the efforts of regional troops and their U.S. advisers in tracking down Kony. Clinton said better drones might be able to peer through the vegetation, according to the Associated Press.
Critics have argued that the group is so fractured and dispersed that a military campaign to dismantle it wouldn’t work and could end up simply propping up the Ugandan armed forces, criticized for its own abuses. Invisible Children has countered that Uganda is necessarily part of countering the Lord’s Resistance Army and argued that the effort to stop Kony will focus more attention on the military's own abuses as well.
The mission also has suffered other practical problems: A planned African Union force intended to help existing Ugandan and South Sudanese forces lacks troops, equipment and funding, its leader told the Associated Press last week.
While the reported attacks and setbacks are sobering, there are also some signs that the militia has suffered losses. More people appear to have escaped than were abducted in May and June.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is shown during a meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday at the State House in Entebbe, Uganda. Credit: Ronald Kabuubi / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images.