Hunt for Joseph Kony is suspended


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The Independent Online

Joseph Kony, a notorious fugitive warlord, has been thrown a lifeline after a military force hunting him down in Central African Republic (CAR) had to suspend operations due to the recent coup in the country.

The news came as the US announced a $5m reward for information leading to the capture of the head of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA).

The government in CAR was overthrown and the president went into hiding last week after Seleka rebels overran the capital and their leader Michel Djotodia installed himself as president until 2016. The coup has complicated the search for Mr Kony who is believed to be hiding out in the remote forests of CAR.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, writing in the Huffington Post, said the LRA had “tormented and terrorized children” across the region.

Mr Kony's tactic of shifting across the borders of some of the continent's most unstable countries has paid off as the government in CAR – which was cooperating in the hunt for him – was overthrown last week.

The 3,000-strong African force sent to kill or capture Mr Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, announced yesterday that it was suspending operations after failing to get the assurances it wanted from the new authorities in CAR.

Mr Kony's Lords Resistance Army (LRA) has rampaged through the borderlands of the Sudans, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and CAR since being pushed out of his native Uganda. It has divided up into roving bands of fighters who loot what they need from villagers and forcibly recruit girls and boys as they go.

In recent years the LRA has been pursued by Ugandan troops assisted by a small number of US special forces.

The hunt for Mr Kony has received more resources and greater international attention since a short film titled Kony2012, made by a US pressure group, went viral last year being watched by millions of people all over the world.

The departure of African troops from CAR would be a “catastrophe” for civilians there, warned Kasper Agger, a researcher with human rights lobbyists Enough Project.

”A full withdrawal of the Ugandans will also mean that the Americans have to leave as well,“ Agger said. ”All the top commanders of the LRA are in the Central African Republic. That is where the centre of gravity of the operations should be. This will only give the LRA a new safe haven.“