Thursday, 28 June 2012

Military forces clear LRA from Congo park – But for how long?

Congo and UN military provide assistance to counteract LRA in Garamba National Park
June 2012. Further to the news from earlier in June, African Parks (AP) are pleased to report that the security situation at Garamba has stabilised with the assistance of Congo military (FARDC) and UN special forces (MONUSCO) who have temporarily moved into the park. As a result of the resulting increase in patrolling, AP believe that LRA operatives have probably been driven out of the park.
Elephant meat
AP wish to thank all those who expressed concern and support after their announcement of the LRA attack in Garamba close to park headquarters on 6 June. The situation remained tense in the immediate aftermath with AP guards encountering another 20 LRA operatives on June 7th, who fortunately fled leaving behind supplies including a quantity of elephant meat.
Troops and helicopters on patrol
As a result of AP requests for help following these incidents, FARDC agreed to provide 100 military personnel to help patrol the park for a month, and provided ammunition to replenish our supplies. MONUSCO troops were also sent to investigate the situation. Military helicopters were also provided by MONUSCO to survey the park from the air. During this surveillance, a camp was identified 20 km north-west of where game guards had encountered the LRA, however it had been recently deserted. At the site where the LRA firefight took place on 6 June, our guards found two elephant carcasses and numerous AK47 and machine gun cartridges.
AP believes that the LRA has retreated to the Azande hunting reserve north-west of Garamba, which is densely forested. However AP fully expects that the LRA will return to the park unless an ongoing military presence is secured. As a result AP is continuing to lobby within the DRC, Europe and the USA for a military team to be seconded to the park on an ongoing basis. Our efforts resulted in human rights organizations highlighting Garamba in an LRA submission to the UN Security Council.
African Parks are engaging a military specialist to spearhead their law enforcement efforts at Garamba and have appointed a task-team to formulate a long-term security plan for the park. The recent LRA encounters and onslaught of elephant poaching have AP more determined than ever to put successful strategies in place to ensure Garamba's long-term survival.

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