ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - The African Union on Tuesday formally designated as a terrorist group Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, accused of murder, rape and child kidnappings in east and central Africa.
The LRA, which says it is a religious group, emerged in northern Uganda in the 1990s and is believed to have killed, kidnapped and mutilated tens of thousands of people.
The designation was the bloc’s first and follows U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to send 100 military advisers to the region to support central African allies pursuing group leader Joseph Kony and other rebel commanders last month.
“The (AU’s) Peace and Security Council has decided to declare the LRA a terrorist group in line with the relevant AU instruments and it requests the United Nations Security Council to do the same,” the council’s commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said after a meeting on the rebel group.
“The next step would be for all African countries to consider the LRA as such and to enact regulations and legislation that would forbid the activities of the LRA on their national territories and also make it punishable for any individual ...(to) assist in any way the LRA to continue its criminal activities,” he said.
Lamamra added those who flouted the ban would be subject to prosection and extradition.
Obama’s troop deployment has been welcomed by countries in the region.
“The provision of support by the U.S. government ... is consistent with the appeal we are making for individual international partners to re-enforce and support the capabilities of our own regional states in order to enhance their efficiency in fighting the LRA,” Lamamra said.
The Hague-based International Criminal Court has indicted rebel leader Kony on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but he remains elusive.
LRA commanders have been operating in the largely lawless border regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan in recent years.
Although now thought to number just a few hundred fighters, the LRA’s mobility and the difficulties of the terrain have made it difficult to tackle. Attempts to negotiate peace failed in 2008 after Kony refused to sign a deal to end the killing.