A senior commander of the brutal Lord’s Resistant Army (LRA) was captured over the weekend by the Ugandan government.
Ugandan authorities announced on Saturday that the country’s army had captured Caesar Acellam Otto, one of LRA’s top military leaders in the Central African Republic (CAR). Mr. Acellam is reportedly responsible for some of the most egregious abuses against children.
Reports say Mr. Acellam was seized along with his wife and child, as well as a 12-year-old girl from CAR, whose status in his family remains unclear. The family is currently in Ugandan custody in neighbouring South Sudan, while the 12-year old girl is in CAR.
The United Nations envoy for children and armed conflict today urged the Ugandan Government bring to justice a seniorcommander of the brutal Lord’s Resistant Army (LRA).
“I am encouraged by the capture of one of the worst perpetrators of child rights violations, and hope that the Ugandan authorities would not apply amnesty but instead, bring him to justice.” – Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy
Ms. Coomaraswamy says the arrest and subsequent prosecution of Acellam would send a strong message to the LRA leadership that they will be held accountable for their actions.
Uganda’s existing Amnesty Act provides blanket amnesty for LRA members, including for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and gross violations of human rights.
Ms. Coomaraswamy stresses that children who are separated from the LRA should be excluded from criminal prosecution because of their status as minors who were forced into the group against their will.
She also encouraged the Ugandan army to hand over the children separated from the LRA to civilian child protection institutions, in line with local procedures and international standards.
On April this year the UN reported that Lord’s Resistance Army’s (LRA) attack is on the rise in central Africa, leading to the displacement of thousands of people.
Attacks have taken place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 13 attacks in the DRC were recorded which resulted in two killings and 13 abductions, and the displacement of 1,230 people mostly from the Dungu territory in the country’s north-east.
In CAR, LRA attacks have resumed after a lull since April 2011 with 11 attacks recorded this year.
In addition, the LRA has also conducted attacks in South Sudan, which last year led to 7,382 people fleeing their homes.
LRA-related violence is seriously hampering humanitarian work in the province. According to UN data some 2,000 people have been killed and 2,500 abducted, including 892 children, in attacks against civilians in villages and towns across the Orientale province since December 2007.
Those abducted are used as porters, forced to work in the fields or use as sex slaves or new recruits. Attacks are often accompanied by extreme cruelty, including murder, mutilation, or amputation of the lips and ears – apparently aimed at terrorizing people with a view to displacing entire populations. Trauma lasting months or years is common among those who have fled.
The LRA was formed in the 1980s in Uganda and for over 15 years its attacks were mainly directed against Ugandan civilians and security forces, which in 2002 dislodged the rebels.
The LRA, a brutal rebel group responsible for Africa’s longest-running armed conflict, has been murdering and mutilating innocent civilians across four countries. Kony uses fear and psychological manipulation to control his forces, which are primarily made up of kidnapped children who are forced to fight his illogical war.
This humanitarian crisis has been occurring for over two decades, but credible data about the scope and even the location of the LRA’s violence has been difficult to attain because of the remoteness of the territories in which they operate. The LRA attacks and loots villages that are disconnected from outside communications and are unable to even send warning to neighboring villages just a few kilometers away. The difficulty in collecting, verifying and compiling credible information on the LRA has led to many of the mis-statements made recently about the President’s big announcement.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its self-appointed messiah, Joseph Kony, have been terrorizing Central Africa for 25 years, with up to 80 percent of attacks going unreported – until now.