Washington (CNN) — President Barack Obama said Monday that U.S. advisers will keep trying to help Uganda and its neighbors capture Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
“Today, I can announce that our advisers will continue their efforts to bring this madman to justice and to save lives,” Obama said in a speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “It’s part of our regional strategy to end the scourge that is the LRA and help realize a future where no African child is stolen from their family, and no girl is raped, and no boy is turned into a child soldier.”
Kony, who was named a “specially designated global terrorist” by President George W. Bush in 2008, gained worldwide notoriety this year after a 30-minute video called “Invisible Children” went viral on the Internet.
When Obama ordered the effort last year, he had said the National Security Council would review any progress after 150 days.
In October, Obama administration officials told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the deployment to Africa of approximately 100 advisers — most of them U.S. Special Forces — would be “short-term.”
The U.S. troops have been serving in a mostly advisory role to forces from Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic in dismantling the Lord’s Resistance Army and hunting Kony.
For two decades, the group has terrorized central Africa through the abduction of children to serve as soldiers in a campaign of rape, pillage and murder.
While the mission does not call for the U.S. troops to engage in combat, they are carrying weapons to be used in self-defense.
The Lord’s Resistance Army, formed in the late 1980s, is a sectarian military and religious group that operates in northern Uganda and South Sudan. It has committed numerous abuses and atrocities such as abducting, raping, maiming and killing civilians, including women and children, according to globalsecurity.org. Its members are known for hacking off the lips and ears of their victims, looting villages and burning huts, and stealing clothes and medicine from the communities they terrorize.
The group has sought to overthrow the Ugandan government and has contributed to instability across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.
Kony is often “underrated” as a leader, according to a 2011 Jane’s report on the group. Kony has claimed to be possessed by spirits who dictate the group’s strategy. Jane’s notes that the tactic has served him well, enabling him to speak to followers who have mixed beliefs. By his portrayal as a medium with supernatural abilities, his authority becomes harder to question within the ranks.
The Lord’s Resistance Army is sophisticated and less like the ragtag group of fighters it is sometimes portrayed as, Jane’s says. It has benefited from the military experience of former Ugandan military officers and years of combat in Sudan.
International aid convoys and nongovernmental organizations operating in the region have been threatened by the group, according to numerous reports.
Last year, the State Department said that, “since 2008 alone, the LRA has killed more than 2,400 people and abducted more than 3,400. The United Nations estimates that over 380,000 people are displaced across the region because of LRA activity.”
Kony says he is a prophet sent from God to replace the Ugandan government with a democracy based on the Ten Commandments.