Central African Republic (MNN) — Nations of the African Union, combined with U.S. forces, may be closer to capturing the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony. AFP reports that U.S. special forces met with local leaders in Obo, Central African Republic yesterday–the region in which many of the LRA are believed to be roaming around forests.
The troops were said to be on a "precursor mission" to better learn the terrain and meet with Ugandan and Central African forces in preparation to capture Kony.
The LRA is a sectarian religious and military group responsible for the deaths and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people across Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan.
The U.S. joined the hunt for the LRA's Kony in October, and Africa Inland Mission missionary to CAR, Wendy Atkins, believes this will be the end to the regime.
"From what I'm hearing, they basically know where [Kony] is located at this time," says Atkins. "If they can get in there and get him–along with the top leadership, I believe this whole thing will fizzle."
The thing is: it's not the first time the U.S. has tried to capture Kony. The U.S. stepped in to help in 2008 in a failed attempt to capture the leader.
This go around, though, Atkins says some LRA members have already given up.
"Some of these LRA have surrendered over the past six months," notes Atkins. "They say that's been the most activity we've seen in the area of CAR where I've been living."
Invisible Children–an organization dedicated to exposing the LRA for what they are and advocating on behalf of the many who've been affected by the LRA's warfare–reports that an estimated 90% or more of the LRA's current troops were abducted as children.
Through Invisible Children and others, radio stations have gone up across central Africa broadcasting local information, also hosting former LRA members who have surrendered and received counseling. They urge LRA members over the radio to give up their ways.
Atkins says forces are weakening. "They estimate now that there are less than 500 of them still active, divided up in 20 different fleets." Still, "they're covering a geographic area twice the size of the state of Pennsylvania."
It's a difficult task that requires much prayer–not only for justice, but for healing.
"Since December of 2009, 966 people have been killed by the LRA, and 1,810 have been abducted," points out Atkins. "When you look at those numbers, they may not seem huge, but behind each one of those deaths or those abductions you've got a village that's been upset; you have a church that's basically been dispersed."
AIM partner churches in Obo have been directly affected. The LRA abducted over 60 young people from Obo in 2008. In 2009, over 4,000 Congolese refugees fled to the same area in CAR fleeing attacks from the LRA.
The church was able to provide for these refugees for several weeks until the UN got involved. The church continues to provide a reconciliation ministry for those who have been affected by the LRA's physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual attacks.
As the hunt for Kony continues, pray for wisdom as the combined armies attempt to put an end to a 23-year reign of brutality and brainwashing. But pray also that the church would be a haven of rest, reconciliation, and solace for many. Pray that the Gospel would break through the evil of decades of suffering, and that even LRA members would turn to Jesus Christ.
There are several resources to learn more about the LRA and track the hunt for Kony. Atkins suggests lracrisistracker.com as the best resources to improve your knowledge on the subject.