Arusha, October 19, 2011 (FH) - The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has not yet been officially informed that a US Marines contingent is being deployed in central Africa to help regional forces track down Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony, Radio Okapi reported on Wednesday.

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"Are we going to have Marines at home, in Garamba Park, hunting down Mr. Kony?" DRC President Joseph Kabila said during a press conference in Kinshasa. "I don't know. At least officially, the DRC has not yet been informed."

Kabila also asserted that the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) was no longer hiding in the DRC. "It's been eighteen months now since he left for the [neighboring] Central African Republic (CAR)," Kabila said, adding that Congolese troops had been deployed along the border with CAR to prevent Kony and LRA militiamen returning to the DRC.

In a letter to the US House of Representatives and Senate, President Barack Obama announced on October 14 that he had "authorized a small number of combat-equipped US forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield".

Obama explained that on October 12 an initial team had deployed to Uganda while additional forces and logistics personnel were slated to arrive in Kampala next month. The total number of servicemen for this mission would be approximately 100.

President Obama also underlined that "subject to the approval of each respective host nation, elements of these US forces will deploy into Uganda, South Sudan, the CAR and the DRC". However, members of the mission should only provide information, advice and assistance: "They will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense," President Obama's letter says.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued five arrest warrants in 2005 against Kony and his close LRA associates. None of them has yet been arrested and two are reported to be dead. The others are two of Kony's top commanders, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen.

According to a report published in May by Human Rights Watch, the "LRA has killed almost 2,400 civilians since September 2008, abducted 3,400 others including many children and was responsible for the displacement of 400,000 people".


© Hirondelle News Agency