NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, the shadowy group of militants that has terrorized Central Africa for years, killed far fewer civilians in 2012 than in the two previous years, a U.S.-based group that tracks the LRA said Thursday.
President Barack Obama sent 100 U.S. advisers to help in the hunt for Kony and the LRA in late 2011, but the new report by the LRA Crisis Tracker did not say if the American presence helped reduce the number of attacks.
Whether the U.S. troops helped or not, the numbers indicate that the LRA is on the decline.
The LRA Crisis Tracker said that the 51 civilians killed last year is the lowest number since 2007. During its era of high terror, the LRA killed hundreds each year: In 2010 the LRA killed 706 civilians; in 2011 it was 154, LRA Crisis Tracker said. The LRA abducted 517 people in 2012.
The LRA carried out attacks within 10 kilometers (6 miles) of Obo — where U.S. advisers are stationed — twice in 2012, the report said, but a large number of brazen attacks were carried out in an area of the Central African Republic beyond the reach of Ugandan troops and U.S. advisers, the report said.
Kony has been on the run for decades, after terrorizing northern Uganda in the late 1980s. The region of Central Africa is so fast, so thick with jungle, and so under developed that he has been able to evade capture.
The report, echoing what the Ugandan military has said previously, said reports indicate that the LRA has established a presence in the southwest corner of Sudan, a country that once overtly aided Kony, though it denies doing so currently. It said that LRA defectors say that Sudan's military has allowed the LRA to maintain a camp near their Dafak garrison and provides the LRA with limited food and medical assistance.
Ugandan troops have taken the lead in the Kony hunt, and operate in Central African Republic. Thursday's report said all of the LRA attacks took place in CAR and Congo, where Ugandan troops do not have permission to operate.
The report noted that an LRA defector has reported that Kony has ordered his men to kill elephants in Congo's Garamba National Park and bring him their ivory tusks, which can be smuggled to Asia and sold for high prices.
In December 2012, the U.N. Security Council urged the U.N. and the African Union to investigate "the LRA's logistical networks and possible sources of illicit financing, including alleged involvement in elephant poaching and related illicit smuggling."