The hunt for Joseph Kony is for Africa what the hunt for Osama Bin Laden was for America, according to an African defence tycoon.
Ivor Ichikowitz, founder of defence innovation firm Paramount Group, has said that troops from Africa must capture Kony, who stands accused of countless atrocities, to show the world that the country is capable of sorting out its own problems.
He said: “The hunt for Joseph Kony will define the international standing of the African Union peacekeepers.
“In the same way that the hunt for Osama bin Laden shaped the world view of two US administrations, for better or worse, that same judgement is likely to be applied to the hunt for a man who has evaded justice for seven years.”
Kony is the reviled and feared leader of the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army, which wants to overthrow the government.
Kony claims to believe in ruling by the Ten Commandments, but it has resorted to terrible acts of violence in a bid to gain power, including sawing the lips off villagers.
To add numbers to its ranks thousands of children have been kidnapped and forced to become soldiers for Kony’s cause.
Efforts to catch him have so far been in vain, despite a globally viewed wanted poster appearing in the form of a YouTube video called Invisible Children Kony 2012.
A staggering 50 million people watched the documentary.
For the past two months 5,000 AU troops, with surveillance assistance from a 100-strong U.S special forces outfit, have been hunting Kony,
It’s crucial they succeed, stressed Ichikowitz.
He said: “Lose him and Africa risks the humiliation of needing others to mop up after us yet again.
“It is a test that the African Union cannot afford to fail.”
However, he added that “steady progress is being made towards the goal of peace in Africa being overseen by Africans, not external powers”.
Ichikowitz was moved to comment on the hunt for Kony as today is the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers – and next year is the 10th anniversary of the first military intervention by African Union peacekeeping troops.
Self-proclaimed mystic Kony began one of a series of initially popular uprisings in northern Uganda after President Yoweri Museveni seized power in 1986. But tactics of abducting recruits and killing civilians alienated supporters.
The LRA is infamous for kidnapping children for use as soldiers, porters and "wives". Although there are no universally accepted figures, the children are believed to number many thousands. Some are freed after days, others never escape. <br> <em>Trauma counselor Florence Lakor, right, listens to 16-year-old Julius, as he tells of the two years he was forced by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to live as a guerrilla fighter in Sudan and Uganda. (AP)</em>
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the 21-year war. A landmark truce was signed in August 2006 and was later renewed. But negotiations brokered by south Sudanese mediators have frequently stalled.
The cessation of hostilities has been largely respected, but the guerrilla group has said it will never sign a final peace deal unless the International Criminal Court drops indictments against its leaders for atrocities. <br> <em>Uganda's Interior Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, right, and the head of the government peace talk delegation exchanges documents with the leader of the Lords Resistance Army peace talks delegation Martin Ojul, left, after signing a ceasefire agreement at State House in Kampala, Uganda, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2007. (AP)</em>
Kony's force was once supported by the Khartoum government as a proxy militia, although Sudan says it has now cut ties with the LRA. Kony left his hideouts in south Sudan in 2005 for the Democratic Republic of Congo's remote Garamba forest. <br> <em>Map shows areas in Africa where the Lord's Resistance Army has had a known presence in the past year. (AP)</em>
Many northerners revile Kony for his group's atrocities, but also blame Museveni for setting up camps for nearly 2 million people as part of his counter-insurgency strategy, fuelling one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. <br> <em>Internally displaced people line up to receive food provided by the World Food Programe, Thursday, June 15, 2006 at the Pabbo camp outside Gulu, northern Uganda. (AP)</em>
Kony has said he is fighting to defend the Biblical Ten Commandments, although his group has also articulated a range of northern grievances, from the looting of cattle by Museveni's troops to demands for a greater share of political power. <br> <em>Joseph Kony, leader of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, second right, and his deputy Vincent Otti, right, are seen during a meeting with a delegation of Ugandan officials and lawmakers and representatives from non-governmental organizations, Monday, July 31, 2006 in the Democratic Republic of Congo near the Sudanese border. (AP)</em>