The recent withdrawal of Ugandan troops from the Central African Republic-CAR is likely to create a security vacuum that may be exploited by armed groups in the volatile country, UN envoy François Louncény Fall has warned.
His warning comes barely two months after the withdrawal of Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) from the Central African Republic bringing an end to a combat-equipped deployment in search for Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
The UPDF had been in CAR since December 2009 as part of Operation Lightening Thunder, launched after reports that the LRA was causing instability in Obo, a forested town in CAR and later as part of the African Union Regional Task Force launched in 2012.
Although Ugandan leaders indicated that operations by the African Union – Regional Task Force dramatically weakened the LRA in numbers and overall effectiveness, Francois Fall warns that the continued threat by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to regional stability should not be underestimated.
He observed that the LRA and other armed groups operating in the region are likely to exploit the void left the the withdrawal of both UPDF and United States forces, a development which could affect regional stability.
Fall, who also heads the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) observes that the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the country, known by its French acronym MINUSCA, is not mandated to conduct anti-LRA military operations.
He adds that the Central African Republic national security forces, which could in the long run fill the gap left by the exit of the Ugandan forces, still require training and structural reforms. He was addressing the UN security council on Tuesday.
“Collectively, there is a need to remain focused on efforts aimed at the total eradication of the LRA,” he said, stressing that the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa will remain engaged, including by reviewing the UN regional strategy to address the threat and impact of the LRA, and ensuring coordination among the various stakeholders working on the issue.
The LRA conflict began in northern Uganda in 1986 displacing an estimated two million people. The number of those killed remains unclear but UN agencies estimate that 60,000 children were abducted in the conflict that gained notoriety for killing, maiming and abductions of women, children and men for sex slaves, porters and fighters.