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Central Africa’s new regionalism: Yes they can!

Laurent Nkunda’s arrest isn’t the only recent major development in central Africa. Beginning in mid-December, the governments of Uganda, Congo, and Southern Sudan began a significant joint military operation to root out the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), an insurgent group out of northern Uganda whose leaders have outstanding arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal ...

Laurent Nkunda’s arrest isn’t the only recent major development in central Africa. Beginning in mid-December, the governments of Uganda, Congo, and Southern Sudan began a significant joint military operation to root out the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), an insurgent group out of northern Uganda whose leaders have outstanding arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court.

The LRA has a tumultuous 20-year history of not just destabilizing northern Uganda (which currently has about 1.5 million citizens in camps for internally displaced persons because of the group’s activity), but also destabilizing southern Sudan, eastern Congo, and the Central African Republic. In the past few days alone, new reports of LRA attacks have trickled out of Southern Sudan, where some members of the group fled after their Congolese hideout was bombed by the tri-government military venture.

What is striking about this military operation — which, so far, has failed to kill the group’s notorious leader, Joseph Kony — was the regional approach that the three countries took, especially in an area that’s not exactly known for its international cooperation (particularly in the aftermath of the Congo War). True, Uganda’s army and air force supplied the bulk of the manpower, but even the modest involvement of the Congolese and Southern Sudanese armies at the periphery of the operation is a step in the right direction. While the outcome of the current military operation is still not clear, greater regional coordination almost certainly holds promise for future efforts — both military and diplomatic — between the three conflict-rife states.

Over the next weeks and months, anyone who is interested in a political resolution to the crisis in Darfur would do well to pay attention to the actions of the Sudanese government in Khartoum and the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan with regard to the LRA and other rebel groups in the region. Much has been made of the connections between the LRA and Khartoum, which covertly funded the the group’s terrorist activity in southern Sudan during the country’s most recent civil war. Indeed, whether this new regionalism will bear tangible fruit, only time will tell.

Meanwhile, the region’s stability and the lives of possibly thousands of people hang in the blance.

Laurent Nkunda’s arrest isn’t the only recent major development in central Africa. Beginning in mid-December, the governments of Uganda, Congo, and Southern Sudan began a significant joint military operation to root out the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), an insurgent group out of northern Uganda whose leaders have outstanding arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court.

The LRA has a tumultuous 20-year history of not just destabilizing northern Uganda (which currently has about 1.5 million citizens in camps for internally displaced persons because of the group’s activity), but also destabilizing southern Sudan, eastern Congo, and the Central African Republic. In the past few days alone, new reports of LRA attacks have trickled out of Southern Sudan, where some members of the group fled after their Congolese hideout was bombed by the tri-government military venture.

What is striking about this military operation — which, so far, has failed to kill the group’s notorious leader, Joseph Kony — was the regional approach that the three countries took, especially in an area that’s not exactly known for its international cooperation (particularly in the aftermath of the Congo War). True, Uganda’s army and air force supplied the bulk of the manpower, but even the modest involvement of the Congolese and Southern Sudanese armies at the periphery of the operation is a step in the right direction. While the outcome of the current military operation is still not clear, greater regional coordination almost certainly holds promise for future efforts — both military and diplomatic — between the three conflict-rife states.

Over the next weeks and months, anyone who is interested in a political resolution to the crisis in Darfur would do well to pay attention to the actions of the Sudanese government in Khartoum and the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan with regard to the LRA and other rebel groups in the region. Much has been made of the connections between the LRA and Khartoum, which covertly funded the the group’s terrorist activity in southern Sudan during the country’s most recent civil war. Indeed, whether this new regionalism will bear tangible fruit, only time will tell.

Meanwhile, the region’s stability and the lives of possibly thousands of people hang in the blance.

Elizabeth Palchik Allen is a freelance writer based in Kampala, Uganda.