US military operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa are “coming to an end,” a top American general said on Friday, even though its brutal leader Joseph Kony has not been captured.
“This operation, although not achieving the ability to get to Kony himself, has essentially taken that group off the battlefield,” said General Thomas Waldhauser, head of the US military’s Africa Command.
The LRA has killed more than 100 000 people and kidnapped 60 000 children in a three-decade-long rebellion spanning northern Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The militant Christian group seeks to implement the Ten Commandments and has been accused of multiple human rights abuses, including mutilation, rape, child abduction and use of child soldiers.
The LRA is known for brutally mutilating civilians
Waldhauser said “several hundred, maybe thousands” of Kony’s soldiers have been killed in joint US military operations with regional armies.
“For the last several years, they’ve really been reduced to irrelevance,” he said, adding the group had about 100 remaining fighters.
Claiming to be a prophet with spiritual powers, Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. He was the subject of a viral video campaign in 2012 that was seen by over 100-million people worldwide, bringing the LRA to worldwide attention.
Dominic Ongwen, a former child soldier turned LRA general, is currently on trial at The Hague after being captured by US forces in 2015.
In 2010, the US deployed around 100 Special Forces to work with regional armies to defeat the LRA and try to capture Kony.
According to the US National Counterterrorism Centre, Kony is believed to be in poor health and is rumored to have diabetes or AIDS.
Waldhauser said the United States would continue to work with countries in the region against a resurgence of the LRA.