Uganda will head a new four-nation military force to capture Joseph Kony, the fugitive warlord whose global profile has soared in recent days due to a celebrity-backed Internet campaign to bring him to justice.
Announcing the creation of the regional military force on Friday, Ugandan Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga said it had been conceived before the web campaign to hunt down Kony and the remnants of his Lord’s Resistance Army took off.
“We are creating a brigade of about 5,000 troops, with the commander provided by Uganda,” Mr. Kiyonga told reporters. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan would take part in the force, he said.
One hundred U.S. military advisers deployed to Uganda were already helping hunt for Kony, but the task force needed more international support, Mr. Kiyonga said.
“We still need more help because these soldiers are moving big distances, most of the time on foot. If we could have airlift capacity it would make things faster,” he said.
A video about Kony posted on YouTube by a California film-maker has been viewed by tens of millions of people, promoted on Twitter with tags that include #Kony2012 and endorsed by the likes of Justin Bieber, George Clooney and Oprah Winfrey.
The 30-minute video has brought unprecedented international attention to Kony, accused of terrorizing northern Uganda for two decades, but it rubbed raw scars when it was screened this week in Lira, a small town haunted by LRA atrocities.
Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, accused of abducting children to use as fighters and sex slaves and said to have a fondness for hacking off limbs.
Violence has subsided since 2005 and Kony is believed now to command only hundreds of followers, scattered in remote jungle hideouts.
The defence minister said the LRA had been reduced to a force of between 200 and 250 fighters split up into groups of about 10 and 20.
Mr. Kiyonga called for international assistance for the task force in the form of technology, equipment and wages for troops.
“Those who can help us should help us so that we move faster, with technology and equipment,” he said. It was not clear when the force would start its operations.