More than 300 Angolan refugees repatriated from DR Congo
Publisher: Xinhua News Agency
Story date: 20/11/2011
Language: English

KINSHASA, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) – More than 300 Angolan refugees returned to their home country on Friday from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

Up to 162 Angolan refugees out of a total of 3,000 who have been living in Katanga province in the southeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) returned to their country of origin.

UNHCR spokesperson in DR Congo Celine Smith said, "These refugees, who were part of the first convoy in this province, were accompanied by some members of the UNHCR/DR Congo up to the Dilolo border point where they were supposed to be received by their UNHCR/Angola counterparts and some officials of Angola's Ministry for Integration and Social Assistance," she affirmed.

Meanwhile, Smith said 180 Angolan refugees left DR Congo on Friday through Kivuvu border post in Bas-Congo province in the southeast of DR Congo.

This was the fourth convoy of refugees leaving this province since the start of this operation on Nov. 4.

The resumption of the operation to repatriate Angolan refugees was decided upon during a DR Congo-UNHCR-Angola tripartite meeting that was held in the Angolan capital Luanda on Oct. 24-25.

Smith revealed that 58,000 Angolans were repatriated from DR Congo with the help of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) between 2001 and 2008.

Currently, she said, there are 80,000 Angolan refugees still living in DR Congo and out of this figure, 43,000 have expressed the desire to return to their country of origin.

About 20,000 Angolan refugees have already requested the UNHCR to repatriate them to their country.
 

RDC/élections: des blessés dans des heurts opposition/majorité au Katanga
Publisher: AFP, Agence France Presse
Story date: 20/11/2011
Language: Français

LUBUMBASHI (RDCongo), 17 nov 2011 (AFP) – Plusieurs personnes ont été
blessées lors de heurts entre partisans de l'opposition et de la majorité,
jeudi au Katanga, une province du sud-est de la République démocratique du
Congo, à quelques jours des élections du 28 novembre, ont rapporté à l'AFP des
témoins.

Les heurts ont opposé en fin de journée des partisans de l'Union pour la
démocratie et le progrès social (UDPS, dont le leader et opposant historique
Etienne Tshisekedi est candidat à la présidentielle du 28 novembre, à ceux de
l'Union nationale des fédéralistes du Congo (Unafec, majorité), à Kamina, à
600 km au nord-est de Lubumbashi, le chef-lieu du Katanga.

Les militants de l'Unafec ont attaqué ceux de l'UDPS après que ces derniers
ont brûlé un portrait du chef de l'Etat Joseph Kabila, qui brigue un second
mandat, selon des témoins.

Les heurts ont fait plusieurs blessés dont certains ont été hospitalisés à
Kamina.

Des maisons appartenant à des personnes présumées originaires de la
province du Kasaï Orientale, à l'ouest du Katanga, ont également été
saccagées, ont indiqué les mêmes sources. La Kasaï oriental est la région
d'origine de M. Tshisekedi.

Déjà à deux reprises à Lubumbashi début novembre, des heurts ont opposés
des militants de l'UDPS à ceux de l'Unafec et du Parti du peuple pour la
reconstruction et la démocratie (PPRD, au pouvoir), faisant à chaque fois
plusieurs blessés.

Des violences ont éclaté dans plusieurs villes du pays depuis le début de
la campagne électorale le 28 octobre, et le climat politique reste tendu à
l'approche de la présidentielle et des législatives, des scrutins à un tour
prévus le 28 novembre.
 

Several hurt in DRCongo pre-vote violence
Publisher: AFP, Agence France Presse
Story date: 20/11/2011
Language: English

LUBUMBASHI, DR Congo, Nov 18, 2011 (AFP) – Several people were injured when
supporters of the government and the opposition clashed Thursday in Katanga, a
province in the southeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, witnesses told
AFP days before elections are due.

The clashes in Kamina, 600 kilometres (380 miles) northeast of Lubumbashi,
capital of Katanga, were between backers of President Joseph Kabila and those
of his main rival in the November 28 presidential election, Etienne Tshisekedi.

Ruling Unafec party militants attacked opposition UDPS supporters who had
burnt a portrait of Kabila, who is seeking a second mandate in the vast,
mineral-rich African nation, the witnesses said.

A number of people were hospitalised in Kamina.

Last Friday Tshisekedi's supporters clashed with ruling party faithful in
Katanga where he was on a campaign tour, leaving six wounded.

Violence has broken out in several towns in DR Congo since the start of the
campaign on October 28 for the November 28 one-round presidential and
legislative elections.

The European Union, United States, France and the United Nations, which has
a large peacekeeping contingent in the DR Congo, have urged restraint and
called on all sides to refrain from inflammatory statements ahead of the polls.
 

Ethiopian troops 'cross border into Somalia'
Publisher: BBC News
Author: By Will Ross, East Africa correspondent
Story date: 20/11/2011
Language: English

Ethiopian troops have crossed the border into Somalia in significant numbers, eyewitnesses say.

They say they saw at least 20 vehicles carrying Ethiopian troops.

A few hundred soldiers were seen in Gurel town in Galgudud region and there were other sightings around Beledweyne.

Ethiopian authorities have denied the incursion. Their soldiers have not been in Somalia in large numbers since 2009 when they withdrew after a controversial three-year presence.

These reports come as Kenyan troops continue their efforts to defeat fighters of the Islamist group al-Shabab in the south of Somalia.

History of interventions

If confirmed, this appears to be the largest Ethiopian deployment since the 2009 withdrawal which followed an invasion that was very unpopular with ordinary Somalis.

If Ethiopian soldiers were to deploy deep inside Somalia, this would increase the pressure on al-Shabab.

Further south, the Kenyan army is working with Somali militias in what appears to be an effort to push al-Shabab away from the border and possibly out of the lucrative port of Kismayo.

One MP from central Somalia said he could not confirm exactly where the Ethiopian troops had reached or in what number. But he said their presence was vital in order to help defeat al-Shabab.

History shows that military intervention in Somalia is hugely unpopular and can act as a catalyst to unite Somali groups that had been enemies.

Although al-Shabab's strict version of Islamic law is unpopular with most people, that does not mean Somalis will welcome Kenyan and Ethiopian soldiers. This could hamper their effort to defeat the militants.

Aid agencies have warned that an escalation in fighting could further jeopardise the efforts to get food to victims of the drought and famine.

On Friday the UN said the humanitarian effort had improved the situation but we are told almost a quarter of a million Somalis still face imminent starvation.
 

Tension Runs High In Kenya's 'Little Mogadishu'
Publisher: NPR, National Public Radio, USA
Author: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton
Story date: 20/11/2011
Language: English

LINDA WERTHEIMER: With the recent cross-border military operation into southern Somalia, the spotlight is falling on a neighborhood in Kenya's capital called Little Mogadishu. It's home to thousands of Kenyan-born Somalis as well as Somali refugees. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF STREET NOISES)

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: This is Eastleigh. It's a busy little corner of Nairobi. It's called Little Mogadishu and you can understand why. All the signs of the shops is written in Somali. You have restaurants with Somali names and you have veiled women, you have men who have just come out of the mosque, wearing long robes.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

QUIST-ARCTON: So, we've come to find out from them whether with the Kenyan military incursion into Somalia, whether they feel that fingers are being pointed at them.

ADEN DUALE: If you have a criminal, look for individual criminals because sometimes we hear it's very easy to assume all Somalis are al-Shabab.

QUIST-ARCTON: Aden Duale is a Somali-Kenyan member of Kenya's Parliament. He's concerned by what many consider a blanket threat by the government here after the abduction of foreign tourists and aid workers. Kenya blames al-Qaida-linked Somali al-Shabab insurgents, who are fighting their own administration in Somalia, and now Kenyan troops in the south. The anti-Western al-Shabab group warns that Kenyans will taste fire for their government's military operations, prompting an aggressive official Kenyan response.

The security forces have vowed to smoke out those who back Somalia's militants and Kenya's Somali community feels it is the target of the crackdown.

DUALE: We want the government to distinguish between the criminals and the ordinary citizens. That distinction should be very clear.

QUIST-ARCTON: The Kenyan MP's concerns are echoed in Little Mogadishu, which is a mix of Somali-Kenyans like him, and many Somali immigrants living here. After the Kenyan army crossed into southern Somalia last month, Nairobi was hit by a wave of grenade attacks and insecurity. Somali refugee, Munyadeen Roble, says he senses growing Kenyan hostility.

MUNYADEEN ROBLE: We Somali refugees here in Kenya, we came here to get peace. It is good for us to have a peaceful Kenya. Kenya is our second country. Before these attacks, we were not feeling as foreigners. But now we feel as foreigners. Increasingly, I see Somali phobia.

QUIST-ARCTON: So, how is this anti-Somali sentiment manifesting itself among the residents of Kenya's Little Mogadishu?

ROBLE: Like when you are walking on the streets of Nairobi, or when you are in a public bus, people will look at you bad and then say, hey, Shabab. Hey, is that al-Shabab? This man, is he al-Shabab? Is he going to do something? So you feel bad when people is talking to you as al-Shabab. Like a group which you do not support, a group which made you flee from your country, yeah?

QUIST-ARCTON: Ahmed Aden is Kenyan of Somali origin. He says he's being marginalized by his own government and police force, and believes they're not doing enough to protect the Somali community.

AHMED ADEN: Indeed, yes, I feel that whether I have the right identification, whether I have the citizenship, they do discriminate me; I feel I don't belong here.

(SOUNDBITE OF WOMEN CHATTING)

QUIST-ARCTON: But not the entire Somali community in Kenya is feeling put upon. After Friday prayers, residents of Little Mogadishu gather to eat and to drink camel's milk. A group of veiled women is selling the frothy, white liquid on what passes for a sidewalk along the hectic, noisy and dusty main street in Eastleigh. Most were too shy to talk. But 16-year-old Somali schoolgirl Layla Ahmed, wearing a fluffy, white hat and a serious smile, readily shared her views about al-Shabab and the Kenyan military adventure.

LAYLA AHMED: We are happy that they are getting al-Shabab out of Somalia. People are running from there and we are grateful to Kenyans if they are helping us to get al-Shabab out of our country.

QUIST-ARCTON: The Kenyan army has not indicated how long it will remain in southern Somalia. But the Somali and Kenyan governments stress they're working in tandem to restore peace to chronically unstable Somalia and drive out al-Shabab insurgents from both countries. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Eastleigh, Nairobi.
 

Famine downgraded to emergency in some areas of Somalia, but aid groups warn crisis not over
Publisher: AP, The Associated Press
Story date: 20/11/2011
Language: English

NAIROBI, Kenya — The number of famine zones in Somalia was cut in half Friday, as U.S. and U.N. food agencies said aid had reduced death rates. That good news was tempered by warnings that a quarter million Somalis face imminent starvation, and that military battles are preventing food deliveries.

The U.S. and U.N. food agencies downgraded the famine rating in three areas of Somalia to emergency status but said three other areas — including the refugee communities of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu — remain in the famine zone. Overall, the agencies said the food situation in Somalia remains the worst in the world and the worst in Horn of Africa country since the region's 1991-92 famine.

"Death rates, especially for young children, remain extremely high, in part due to continued outbreaks of measles, cholera, and malaria. Tens of thousands of people have died since April and deaths are likely to continue over the coming months," said the announcement from the U.N.'s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit and the U.S.'s Famine Early Warning System.

Save the Children credited the international aid effort with helping to lessen the famine, but said the crisis is far from over and warned of high mortality rates among children in Mogadishu. The aid group Oxfam warned that conflict in Somalia continues to slow relief efforts and said international leaders need to refocus efforts on the hunger crisis.

Hundreds of Kenyan troops moved into Somalia last month to fight al-Qaida-linked militants, whom African Union troops are fighting in Mogadishu, and Oxfam said it had to suspend aid to 27,000 people in Somalia's Lower and Middle Juba regions as a result. Oxfam did not single out Kenya but said the international community was jeopardizing a positive step forward with a potential two steps back.

"When drought and famine made headline news, the international community responded generously with support. Now the conflict threatens to jeopardize the very relief efforts they're funding. The international community must not give with one hand and then take with the other by ignoring the needs of Somali people who are struggling in the face of a famine," said Senait Gebregziabher, Oxfam's Somalia director.

East Africa — including Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti — has experienced a crippling drought over the last year, but that drought turned into famine only in Somalia, where aid groups have reduced access because of limitations placed on them by al-Shabab.

Tens of thousands of people have died, though Mark Bowden, the U.N.'s top humanitarian official for Somalia, told The Associated Press on Friday he doesn't believe there will ever be a complete and accurate death toll. Bowden said the international community has mostly fulfilled its moral duty to help Somalis in need.

"I think so far they have. The appeal was for $1 billion and we received $800 million dollars," Bowden said. "The big question is whether that can be sustained, which it has to be, for next year."

The U.S. and U.N. groups said famine would persist at least through December in the Mogadishu and Afgoye refugee camps and in the Middle Shabelle region.

The U.N. children's agency said thousands of children's lives have been saved since the famine was first announced in July thanks to international donations. But the UNICEF representative to Somalia, Sikander Khan, said children are still in imminent danger.

Save the Children said children are still dying at a "frightening rate" across Somalia.

"The aid we're distributing is making a difference, but this crisis is nowhere near over, and any let up in the response on the back of this news could cost the lives of thousands of children," the group said. "We must not allow this fragile progress to be undone."

The U.N. and U.S. agencies that monitor famine conditions said humanitarian assistance to southern Somalia was extremely limited until September and October due to an inadequate international response and restricted humanitarian access. Since September, the groups said that "substantial" flows of food aid into local markets have helped bring food prices down.

The two agencies said the population in need of emergency assistance in Somalia is currently around 4 million people. The U.N. said earlier this year that 13 million people across the Horn of Africa were in need.
 

Bombing Continues in Sudan, Creating a Crisis
Publisher: the New York Times, USA
Author: By DONATELLA ROVERA
Story date: 20/11/2011
Language: English

With journalists and outside observers mostly prevented from entering the Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile areas of Sudan, it's very difficult to track the developing human rights crisis there. But Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Response Director, recently visited the area, and has provided a rare look from behind enemy lines.

Once again, hundreds of thousands of civilians in Sudan are at risk of being caught in what could be another protracted war. Their own government is terrorizing them through aerial bombing while blocking food, medicine and other humanitarian aid from reaching them. And the situation may get worse unless the United Nations steps in.

Unlike in Somalia, where the famine and aid blockages have gotten the world's attention, the people in this part of Sudan are suffering in virtual obscurity. With aid organizations and independent observers prevented from reaching the population in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, the Khartoum government is largely succeeding in its strategy to keep the world from knowing what is happening.

I witnessed the misery and suffering being inflicted upon the people of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile on a recent trip there.

By blocking aid to civilians, the Sudanese government is taking the same approach it did during the North-South and Darfur conflicts, compounding the suffering of civilians, who are fleeing bombardment by the Sudanese Armed Forces and the fighting between the Sudanese army and the armed opposition, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement – North, or SPLM-N.

President Omar al-Bashir's government has blocked essential aid supplies to the region since fighting broke out in June in Southern Kordofan and in September in Blue Nile, regions north of the border with newly established Southern Sudan, but home to the SPLM-N.

The people of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile are terrified, still traumatized by the memory of a 22-year war that ended in 2005 with a peace agreement that led in July to the birth of South Sudan as an independent country.

More than 200,000 have fled their homes and villages in the Nuba Mountains with only the clothes on their backs. They have walked for days to escape the fighting.

They lack everything – shelter, food, medicine, clean water and sanitation. The only hospital in the area is desperately short of drugs and supplies. Many of the sick and wounded never even make it to a hospital because there are few vehicles available to take them, road conditions are terrible and gasoline is in short supply.

Last August, I reached the Nuba Mountains of Southern Kordofan, where I found families who fled the fighting surviving on wild berries and leaves or a handful of the local staple, sorghum, when they can get it. Most people were going hungry then and with almost no supplies getting into the region since, their situation has only gotten worse.

Several people told me their relatives had risked their lives to try to sneak back to their homes — now in areas controlled by the Sudanese armed forces — to try to recover the little food they had left behind from last year's harvest.

Those who have remained in their homes fare little better. Desperately short of food and fearful of the Sudanese army bombardments, they hide in mountain caves and fox holes when they hear Antonov planes circling above.

I saw or heard bombs dropping almost every day when I was there.

These indiscriminate attacks have no military purpose. The bombs are unguided and cannot be aimed at specific military targets. The goal once again is to terrorize civilians – scores of whom have been killed in their homes, while tending their land or carrying out other chores.

Awatef Kober, the mother of teenage girls Iqbaal and Maryam, told me that her daughters were killed in an airstrike last June 26 shortly after they had returned from hiding in a cave. She said: "My daughters had gone to fetch water when I heard explosions, and then a neighbor brought the body of Maryam to the house and told me to go to the graveyard because they had taken Iqbaal there."

Thirteen civilians, including five children and three women, were killed in that same airstrike in Kurchi village and more than 20 others were injured.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that some 28,000 residents of Blue Nile, mostly women and children, have crossed the border to seek refuge in neighboring Ethiopia, with 20,000 others sheltering in areas close to the border.

Hunger is a major concern, with food from the last harvest fast running out and this year's harvest expected to be meager because so many farmers fled during the planting season to escape the fighting.

The United Nations must prevent this crisis from getting any worse by pressuring the Sudanese government to immediately open Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile to humanitarian organizations to distribute food and aid.

The United Nations must act now to avert a long-term humanitarian crisis.

Donatella Rovera is Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Response Director.
 

Landmines hampering refugee relief effort says UN
Publisher: AFP, Agence France Presse
Story date: 20/11/2011
Language: English

Landmines are thwarting efforts to relocate refugees flooding into South Sudan to escape fighting in neighbouring Sudan, the UN refugee agency said on Friday.

Up to 200 Sudanese refugees have been arriving daily at Yida in Unity State after fleeing Sudan's troubled Southern Kordofan state.

The UNHCR is attempting to move them away from the border to safer areas of South Sudan but said landmines recently discovered on roads in Unity State were hampering the relief effort.

"We are not sure who is laying them," UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told journalists, while acknowledging the presence of active rebel groups in the area.

"The assumption is that they are new, however in many cases heavy rain and then drying can turn up landmines, so it's not a hundred percent clear.

"However, it's very disturbing that there are landmines along the roads" needed to transport refugees, Fleming said.

About 23,000 people are sheltering at the Yida camp, hit last week in a deadly air raid. Sudan denied carrying out the attack which killed at least 11 people.

UNHCR said it had prepared a site for refugees further south but many who were worried about family still in Southern Kordofan preferred to stay closer to their homes.

North and South Sudan, which fought a two decade civil war up to 2005, have been unable to agree a border and the sharing of revenues and debts since their split earlier this year, increasing tensions between the two states.
 

Refugees at South Sudan's Yida Camp Sick, Hungry
Publisher: VOA, Voice of America
Author: Hannah McNeish | Yida, South Sudan
Story date: 20/11/2011
Language: English

A week after bombs fell near the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan, shortages of supplies are taking their toll on the more than 20,000 people sheltering there. There is growing hunger and illness after many aid agencies pulled out because of fears of more attacks blamed on neighbor Sudan.

At Yida's only clinic, local staff are working, around the clock, to try to treat the growing number of refugees needing medical attention. The staff's international colleagues have not returned since the November 10 bombing.

The clinic is low on everything but painkillers and that is not what is needed to treat most of the 400 daily patients. Nurse Caddy Ali, who works for Sudanese charity Youth For Freedom, says they have run out of antibiotics and will have no more treatment for malaria, the camp's biggest problem. She hopes medicines can be flown in or that the U.S aid agency, Care International, which runs the pharmacy, will return soon.

"We are using the drugs that are already here. They have left since the bombing and they did not supply any drugs. If they did not get, we will face an emergency or maybe a crisis, as if people are sick and they cannot get drugs there will be a problem. Even the ones we are having here, it's like the drugs we came with for our personal use," said Caddy Ali.

The clinic staff also say severe food shortages has caused a spike in anaemia and malnutrition – especially in children.

In Yida's busy marketplace, with very little for sale, former teacher turned street vendor Bilal Issa Johar says that the lack of food is the refugees' main concern.

"It is there, but it is very little. Because we are given little food here. All the people here they are complain[ing] about the food because it is not enough," said Joha.

Johar says that some refugees have already walked back home to a war zone in Sudan's Southern Kordofan state to take their chances finding food there.

The United Nations suspended aid flights last week, after the Yida camp was bombed. With only a couple of small aid agencies on the ground and up to 300 people arriving from South Kordofan daily, Yida's refugees are hoping that the food keeps coming and the bombs stop falling on both sides of the border.

Sudan rejected international accusations that it was responsible for incident. But there are reports that Sudan is expanding its capacity to conduct air strikes along its border with South Sudan. The two countries have been at odds, since the South formerly gained independence in July.
 

Sudanese refugees at risk in unsafe border areas-UN
Publisher: Reuters News Agency
Story date: 20/11/2011
Language: English

GENEVA, Nov 18 (Reuters) – Landmines and heavy rains are hampering plans to move Sudanese refugees deeper into South Sudan and away from the volatile border area where they are at risk, the United Nations said on Friday.

Up to 200 refugees fleeing fighting in Southern Kordofan state still arrive each day in Unity State, despite air strikes by the Khartoum government's forces around Yida refugee camp in Unity, the U.N. refugee agency said. The camp is now home to 23,000 people.

"UNHCR is working to move these refugees away from the border area and to safer areas of South Sudan because of really serious concerns about security," Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a briefing.

Newly-laid landmines in the area, where rebel groups are active, are hampering aid operations, she said.

"They are laid along the very roads we would need to transport refugees along to locate them further within Unity State, which we believe would be much safer," Fleming said.

Border violence has raised tension between the old civil war foes, with each nation regularly accusing the other of supporting insurgencies in its neighbour's territory since South Sudan's secession in July. Unresolved issues include how much South Sudan should pay to use Sudan's oil pipelines and facilities.

The United Nations said last week that Sudanese military aircraft had bombed Yida refugee camp in South Sudan, and called for an investigation into the attack. Khartoum has denied the allegations.

Refugees are also crossing from Sudan's flashpoint Blue Nile state, home to many supporters of the south's dominant Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), into South Sudan, according to the UNHCR.

"We are seeing quite a large daily influx of some 1,200 refugees arriving every day and between 5,000 and 7,000 refugees are believed to be in the border area," Fleming said.

The agency was working to move them to safer locations.

In all, an estimated 350,000 Sudanese have crossed into South Sudan since the independence, she added.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)
 

General: U.S. troops’ Uganda mission likely to last until rebel leader is caught
Publisher: the Washington Post, USA
Author: By Craig Whitlock and Greg Jaffe,
Story date: 20/11/2011
Language: English

About 100 U.S. troops President Obama ordered to Uganda last month to help crush the cultlike Lord's Resistance Army will probably remain deployed until the group's leader is captured or dead, according to the top U.S. commander for Africa.

Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, the head of the U.S. military's Africa Command, said most of the American forces have landed in Uganda and are beginning to coordinate the efforts of four central African countries as they comb a huge expanse of jungle for Joseph Kony, the messianic founder of the Lord's Resistance Army. Kony and his rebels are accused of killing, maiming, kidnapping and raping thousands of civilians in Uganda, the Central African Republic, Congo and South Sudan.

Obama administration officials have been vague about how long U.S. forces will remain in central Africa. In congressional testimony recently, a senior defense official said that the mission would last a matter of "months" but allowed that it would be reviewed over time.

Ham said the plan is to keep troops in the region until Kony is killed or brought to justice.

"That's the mission," Ham said in an interview during a visit to Washington last week.

The Lord's Resistance Army has been fighting against the Ugandan government and attacking civilians for nearly a quarter century, but Ham predicted that the group "will probably wither" if Kony is apprehended.

"This is not like another organization where if you take the top guy out somebody else can step in," Ham said. "It really is about him personally."

Kony is a self-proclaimed prophet whose group emerged from northern Uganda in the late 1980s. The Lord's Resistance Army is known for its brutality and for conscripting children as soldiers and sex slaves.

The International Criminal Court indicted Kony and four other commanders in 2005 on war-crimes charges. Kony and his core group of about 250 fighters have dodged their pursuers by retreating to jungle hideouts across central Africa.

A smaller group of U.S. military advisers assisted a previous Ugandan-led offensive against the Lord's Resistance Army in late 2008 and early 2009. That operation backfired as Kony's group escaped and massacred hundreds of civilians.

Congress and human rights groups have pressed the White House to try again, prompting Obama last month to send about 100 Special Operations Forces troops to the region. Obama has said the troops will primarily advise and train African forces looking for Kony. He said they will not participate in direct combat missions but are authorized to open fire in self-defense.

It is the largest deployment of U.S. forces to an African conflict zone since Marines landed in Liberia in 2003.

Ham said that most of the U.S. forces are based in Uganda but that a "small number" are working at a joint operations center in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kony has been able to exploit a lack of coordination among Ugandan, Congolese, South Sudanese and Central African Republic soldiers simply by slipping across the border whenever his pursuers get close. Ham said U.S. trainers will address that issue by formalizing communications links among the regional forces.

"If we can help apply pressure — constant pressure — I think we have a reasonable chance of success," Ham said. "It's moving in the right direction. Is it going to be successful next week or the week after? Unlikely, unless there's the proverbial lucky opportunity."

Ham and other U.S. officials have said they believe Kony and his senior deputies are in the Central African Republic.
 

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