In this far-flung nook of central Africa, the United States has assumed a small but vital role in one of Africa’s most vexing military challenges: to capture Kony and dismantle his Lord’s Resistance Army. For nearly three decades, Kony’s forces have eluded the region’s militaries, abducting tens of thousands of children, turning them into killers and sex slaves, and operating brazenly across a swath of territory the size of Texas.
But in the four months since the United States set up the outposts for the 100 soldiers dispatched to assist regional militaries, frustration has mounted, particularly in this sprawling, densely forested country, where Kony is thought to be hiding.
Local and regional military officials had hoped that the United States would swiftly deploy its satellites, surveillance drones and other sophisticated technology to track Kony’s whereabouts. But that hasn’t happened, the officials said.
Instead, the LRA has continued to commit abuses. Although thought to be severely fractured, the militia has staged 11 attacks near Obo and 13 in neighboring Congo after a nearly year-long lull in violence.
“The LRA has reappeared,” said Martin Modove, the head of the Catholic diocese in Obo. “The presence of the Americans has not changed anything. We just see the Americans driving or walking in town. We don’t see what they are doing to catch Kony.”
The several dozen U.S. soldiers deployed to Obo are providing support not only to troops from the Central African Republic, but also to a contingent from neighboring Uganda, whose continued pursuit of the Ugandan warlord has spilled into the Central African Republic and other neighboring countries since the militia leader was driven out of Uganda several years ago.
In addition to those posted in Obo, the U.S. soldiers dispatched to the Central African Republic include some in the town of Djema, to the north. Others in the region include small groups sent to Uganda, Congo and South Sudan.
Hilary Renner, a State Department spokeswoman, said that the American forces were serving only as advisers and that obstacles to finding Kony remain significant despite the capabilities of the U.S. military. Since being pushed out of Uganda several years ago, the LRA has terrorized villages in the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo. The militia is now moving in small groups in dense jungle terrain in one of Africa’s least developed regions, with no basic road and telecommunications infrastructure.