The notorious Lord's Resistance Army is a sectarian Christian militant group that was historically based in northern Uganda, but who carried out atrocities across many African countries including Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. For two decades the Lord's Resistance Army had inflicted terror across northern Uganda raiding villages, abducting some 60,000 and displacing 1.8 million of the population. Today the group's leader, Joseph Kony and most of the LRA are based in the Congo and their raids are mainly in Republic of South Sudan, North-East Congo and the Central African Republic. As such, the Ugandan People's Defense Forces (UDPF) numbers have dwindled as Uganda no longer sees the LRA as a significant threat to the country.
The group was founded in 1987 and engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government in what was one of Africa's longest-running conflicts. It was led by Joseph Kony (above), a former alter boy, who proclaims himself the "spokesperson" of God and a spirit medium, primarily of the Holy Spirit. In an interview in June 2007 the then second in command Vincent Otti stated, the "Lord's Resistance Army is just the name of the movement, because we are fighting in the name of God. God is the one helping us in the bush. That's why we created this name, Lord's Resistance Army. And people always ask us, are we fighting for the [biblical] Ten Commandments of God? That is true - because the Ten Commandments of God is the constitution that God has given to the people of the world. All people. If you go to the constitution, nobody will accept people who steal, nobody could accept to go and take somebody's wife, nobody could accept to innocently kill, or whatever. The Ten Commandments carries all this." However a USA funded report of the same year concluded, "the LRA has no political program or ideology, at least none that the local population has heard or can understand."
In 2007 the Lord's Resistance army had 3,000 soldiers, along with about 1,500 women and children, however today it is believed the numbers have dwindled to just a few hundred. Many of these children, estimated to be 10,000 since the conflict began in the 1990s, were abducted from their families and forced into conflict with very high casualty rates. In the northern districts of Uganda, almost every family in the Acholi and now Langi area had been affected. Many families have lost a child through abduction or their village was attacked and destroyed, families burned out and/or killed, and harvests destroyed by an army of abducted children.
The barbaric activity of the Lord's Resistance Army led to tens of thousands of children fleeing the potential violence in villages in the north into the perceived relative safety of urban areas. At one point 40,000 of these 'night commuters' would walk miles every night to seek sanctuary returning home each morning. These children would sleep under cars, buses or on business verandas then at daybreak, hungry and dishevelled would walk back to their villages for another day at school. The alternative was the sheer terror of the risk of being abducted, forcibly enlisted into the Lord's Resistance Army and indoctrinated into the cause, with many told to murder their own parents. Without parents they then have no-one to turn to, and the Lord's Resistance Army became their only source of support. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants on 8 July and 27 September 2005 against Joseph Kony, his deputy Vincent Otti, and LRA commanders Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen. The five LRA leaders are charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, and enlisting of children as child soldiers, however they have remained elusive.
Today the situation is more stable. Whilst the Juba Peace talks that commenced in July 2006 between the Government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army aimed at ending the conflict collapsed in December 2008 with the conflict spreading into neighbouring countries, most of the 'rebels' returned home, despite ongoing concerns. The influx of child night commuters dwindled from the tens of thousands to merely hundreds, and for most of those still commuting each night, its less fleeing the fear of violence and abduction and more due to overcrowding at home where the night shelters can provide better facilities. Nevertheless the Lord's Resistance Army remains a force and, as the UDPF winds down its operations in the north, there are ongoing fears that the LRA will regroup and become more combatative in North Uganda claiming the lives of more children and starting a new flood of night commuters.
One of the chilling dilemmas when addressing the terror unleashed by the Lord's Resistance Army is how to deal with its child soldiers. How does a Lord's Resistance Army fighter return home? How does his village receive him? How does the community receive those that at one time terrorized them? The video below is part of an interview filmed at a secret location in the Congo jungle in 2006 and is believed to be the only exclusive interview that Joseph Kony has ever given.
Lord's Resistance Army: Volunteer in Uganda
Lord's Resistance Army: Uganda History
Lord's Resistance Army: Sponsor a Child in Uganda
Lord's Resistance Army: Uganda Country Profile
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