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Mission to pursue African warlord Kony is declared over

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 19/04/2017 Associated Press
Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony is shown in a 2006 photo. Uganda has declared the search for Kony over, though he remains at large. © Stuart Price/AP Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony is shown in a 2006 photo. Uganda has declared the search for Kony over, though he remains at large.

KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda’s military announced Wednesday that it is ending its pursuit of internationally known warlord Joseph Kony, saying its mission “has now been successfully achieved” — even though the rebel leader remains at large. The decision means that the manhunt for one of the world’s most notorious fugitives is effectively over.

Uganda has started pulling its forces from the Central African Republic, which for years had been the base for troops chasing the rebels, said a military spokesman, Brig. Richard Karemire.

The news comes shortly after the United States decided last month to pull out of the manhunt for Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, saying the active membership of his Lord’s Resistance Army is now less than 100. The U.S. departure left only Uganda in the manhunt.

At the peak of its powers, the rebel group was known worldwide for its cruelty against civilians in Uganda, Congo, the Central African Republic and what is now South Sudan. In 2012, the U.S.-based advocacy group Invisible Children made a highly successful video highlighting the LRA’s alleged crimes, including the abduction of children for use as sex slaves or fighters.

Kony, a former Catholic altar boy whose rebel movement aspired to rule Uganda according to the biblical Ten Commandments, is wanted by the ICC on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. One of his former commanders, Dominic Ongwen, is on trial at The Hague-based court.

Although the military mission’s ultimate goal was to capture or kill Kony, there has been no word on his exact whereabouts for years even as many of his top commanders defected or were killed.

About 1,500 Ugandan troops had been deployed in the Central African Republic under an African Union military mission to defeat the LRA. All of the Ugandan troops will return home by the end of May, with the first arriving home Wednesday, Karemire said.

Uganda’s mission to neutralize the LRA “has now been successfully achieved,” he said.

Amid concerns about the military pullouts, the African Union last month suggested that United Nations peacekeeping missions in the region be used to continue anti-LRA efforts.

Kony “will likely ramp up attacks if Uganda fully backs off,” said Sasha Lezhnev of the Enough Project, which monitors LRA activities. “Uganda should join [the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic] with international support to continue pursuing the LRA and save thousands of lives.”

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