The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces during the handover. [Gurtong| Joseph Nashion]
By Joseph Nashion
YAMBIO, 19 September 2012 [Gurtong] - The African Union regional taskforce tasked with hunting down the LRA is headed by Colonel Dick Prit Olum deputised by Colonel Gabriel Ayok Akuok of Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).
Two thousand soldiers from the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) and 500 from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) were officially handed in a ceremony in Yambio, attended by heads of Diplomatic Corps, Defense Ministers and senior military officials from the two Countries.
The ceremony follows an earlier one in Obo, Central Africa Republic, where 360 soldiers of the Forces Armées Centrafricaines (FACA) were handed over to the AU on 12 September.
The African Union Ambassador on the LRA Francisco Madeira hailed the government of Western Equatoria and the Republic of South Sudan for their hospitality to hosts the regional task force.
He said the immediate plan with the Chief defense forces of the above mentioned contributing countries will be to deploy these troops to protect the vulnerable population ,to track and combat LRA elements and also facilitate where necessary the delivery of Humanitarian assistance.
The ambassador said this planned initiative will significantly increase the military pressure the UPDF and the SPLA have been exerting in CAR and cause more LRA defection and surrenders as well as rescue of abductees still being held hostage.
He said the AU will continue to hold consultations with government of DRC on appropriate date to receive their contingents within the AU lead initiative so that the LRA do not get safe Heaven in South East DR Congo in the Garamba forest again.
He called for the partners for more support to the Regional task force, in terms of transports, Medicines, uniforms and communication.
“The AU believes and wants everyone to know these African young men are not murderers they are not war mangers but have been trained to respect Human Right, they to respect African traditions this young men are soldiers of Peace” said Madeira
The US Ambassador to South Sudan Susan Page said it is an honor to attend this important occasion as part of the US support to the initiative.
Page hailed the cooperation between the commanders of the SPLA and UPDF, the UNMISS Battalion, in this initiative.
Ambassador Page commended the work of the AU saying the union is bearing food fruits.
“Since the past year there have not been attacks by Kony and his force in South Sudan this is an excellent sign that this union is working we stand here with you and we are here to help get rid of this dangerous menace that has wiped out so many youths and children and making people’s life un bearable” Page applauded.
The UNMISS Force Command Moses Bisong Obi who represented the SRSG said UNMISS recognizes the role of the RTF a joined AU and UN event focused on Security.
“UNMISS is not only happy to support the effort it is also expected to do so, the UN Security Council has called upon UNMISS to coordinate with government RSS and participate in regional coordination and information mechanism improve protection of civilians and support disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts in light to the attacks by the LRA in South Sudan” said Obi.
Obi revealed that UNMISS has only one battalion in the South, focused on LRA areas, in Yambio, Ezo and Tambura to help influence the threats LRA impose on the people of South Sudan but does not have a mandate to hunt for LRA.
Ugandan Defense Minister Dr Cryspus Kiyonga on behalf of the government of Uganda thanked the people of South Sudan for the excellent relationship with Uganda.
Dr Kiyonga said the four affected countries are ready to do the last and final attempts to bring Kony’s atrocities to an end.
Meanwhile South Sudan’s Deputy Defense Minister Dr Majok Dagot said it is a great chance for handing the badges of the two countries to the AU.
The Deputy Minister said Africa is no more standard takers but setting standard to decide on measures that fit the situations in our environment.
He congratulated the AU, the President of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni for acting on behalf of Africa to stabilise Somalia.
Dagot assured the AU that following the long history of collaboration with Ugandan and cognizant of sacrifice between the two armies SPLA and UPDF, that victory is certain.
“With these young men gathering in King Gbudues’ land one among others in his generation to resist colonialism am sure while we are gathered here these young men will carry his inspiration to the jungles of the Congo and Central Africa” he said.