|Lord's Resistance Army|
|Participant in the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency,
First Sudanese Civil War and Second Sudanese Civil War
Flag of Lord's Resistance Army
|Originated as||Holy Spirit Movement
Uganda People's Democratic Army
|Opponents|| Uganda People's Defence Force
Sudan People's Liberation Army
Military of DR Congo
The group was formed in 1987 and is engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government in what is now one of Africa's longest-running conflicts. It is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself the "spokesperson" of God and a spirit medium, primarily of the Holy Spirit, which the Acholi believe can represent itself in many manifestations. The group adheres to a syncretistic blend of Christianity, Mysticism, traditional religion, and witchcraft, and claims to be establishing a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments and Acholi tradition. The LRA is accused of widespread human rights violations, including murder, abduction, mutilation, sexual enslavement of women and children, and forcing children to participate in hostilities. The LRA operates mainly in northern Uganda, but also in parts of Sudan and DR Congo.
The LRA has been known by a number of different names, including the Lord's Army (1987 to 1988) and the Uganda Peoples' Democratic Christian Army (UPDCA) (1988 to 1992) before settling on the current name in 1992. They are also sometimes referred to as Lord's Resistance Movement/Army (LRM/A or LRA/M). Some academics have included the LRA under the rubric Lakwena Part Two. For simplicity's sake, this article refers to all of these various manifestations as the "Lord's Resistance Army". In 1986 Alice Lakwena established a resistance movement claimed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. She portrayed herself as a prophet who received messages from the Holy Spirit of God. She believed that the Acholi could defeat the government run by Museveni by casting off witchcraft and spiritualism embedded in their culture. According to her messages from God her followers should cover their bodies with shea nut oil as protection from bullets, never take cover or retreat in battle and never kill snakes or bees. Joseph Kony would later preach a similar superstition about using oil to draw a cross on their chest to protect from bullets. During an interview with Jimmie Briggs Alice Lakwena distanced herself from Joseph Kony claiming that the spirit doesn’t want them to kill civilians or prisoners of war. In the meantime Joseph Kony was believed to have been possessed by spirits. He became a spiritual figure or a medium. Lakwena scored several key victories on the battle field and began a march towards Kampala. Joseph Kony seized this opportunity to recruit members of the Ugandan People's Democratic Party (UPDA) and Holy Spirit remnants. In 1997 when Lakwena was defeated in Jinja and fled to Kenya, Kony became the leader of the Holy Spirit Mobile Force II. The Lord's Resistance Army has the distinction of having the youngest soldier, only five years old forced to fight with small arms. At times the government army has also committed abuses, which has benefited Kony's credibility. One of the earliest mass abductions happened in 1987 when the LRA attacked the Sacred Hearts Girls Boarding School in the town of Gulu. They attacked again a year later and have attacked numerous schools since then.
According to UPDF spokesman Lt. Col. Shaban Bantariza, mediation efforts by the Carter Center and the Pope have been spurned by Kony. Recently Invisible Children Inc. has begun a campaign to overthrow Kony and release the child soldiers.
The LRA's ideology is largely mysterious due to a lack of communication on the subject, and it is disputed amongst academics. The LRA reportedly evokes Acholi nationalism on occasion, but the sincerity of this behavior is considered dubious by some observers.
Robert Gersony, in a report funded by United States Embassy in Kampala in 1997, concluded that "the LRA has no political program or ideology, at least none that the local population has heard or can understand." The International Crisis Group has stated that "the LRA is not motivated by any identifiable political agenda, and its military strategy and tactics reflect this." IRIN comments that "the LRA remains one of the least understood rebel movements in the world, and its ideology, as far as it has one, is difficult to understand." UPDF Lt. Col. Shaban Bantariza has said that "you can't tell whether they want political power. Its only aim is to terrorize and brutalize the civilian population and to loot their homes."
During an interview with IRIN, Vincent Otti was asked about the LRA's vision of an ideal government, to which he responded "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."
In a speech delivered by James Alfred Obita, former Secretary For External Affairs And Mobilisation, and Leader of Delegation of the Lord's Resistance Army, he adamantly denied that the LRA was "just an Acholi thing" and stated that claims made by the media and Museveni administration asserting that the LRA is a "group of Christian fundamentalists with bizarre beliefs whose aim is to topple the Museveni regime and replace it with governance based on the Bible's ten commandments" were false.
In the same speech, Obita also stated that the LRA's objectives are:
The government of Uganda claims the LRA has only 500 or 1,000 soldiers in total, but other sources estimate that there could be as many as 3,000 soldiers, along with about 1,500 women and children. The bulk of the soldiers fighting for the LRA are children. According to Livingstone Sewanyana, executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Yoweri Museveni was the first to use child soldiers in this conflict. Since the LRA first started fighting in 1986 they may have forced well over 10,000 boys and girls into combat often killing family neighbors and school teachers in the process. Many of these children were put on the front lines so the casualty rate for these children have been high. They have often used children to fight because they are easy to replace by raiding schools or villages. The soldiers are organised into independent brigades of 10 or 20 soldiers. Sudan has provided military assistance to the LRA, in response to Uganda lending military support to the SLA. Sudan has stopped aiding the LRA since 2002.
|Lord's Resistance Army
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 combatants. The warrants were filed under seal; public redacted versions were released on 13 October 2005. These were the first warrants issued by the ICC since it was established in 2002. Details of the warrants were sent to the three countries where the LRA is active: Uganda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The LRA leadership has long stated that they would never surrender unless they were granted immunity from prosecution; so the ICC order to arrest them raised concerns that the insurgency would not have a negotiated end.
On 30 November 2005 LRA deputy commander, Vincent Otti, contacted the BBC announcing a renewed desire among the LRA leadership to hold peace talks with the Ugandan government. The government expressed skepticism regarding the overture but stated their openness to peaceful resolution of the conflict.
On 2 June 2006, Interpol issued five wanted person red notices to 184 countries on behalf of the ICC, which has no police of its own. Kony had been previously reported to have met Vice President of Southern Sudan Riek Machar. The next day, Human Rights Watch reported that the regional Government of Southern Sudan had ignored previous ICC warrants for the arrest of four of LRA's top leaders, and instead supplied the LRA with cash and food as an incentive to stop them from attacking southern Sudanese citizens.
In 2006 a United Nations team of U.S.-trained Guatemalan Special Ops soldiers were sent to assassinate Kony, but instead all of them were killed by Kony's men.
On December 28, 2008, the Ugandan army accused LRA rebels of hacking to death 45 people in a church in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. An aid official speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity confirmed Friday's massacre, saying the killings took place in a Catholic church in the Doruma area, around 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Sudanese border. "There are body parts everywhere. Inside the church, the entrance and in the church compound," the aid official said. "We got information the rebels cut 45 people into pieces," added army spokesman Captain Chris Magezi.
Caritas International estimated the number of victims to be about 500. Caritas said that the LRA attacked a concert organised on December 25 for Christmas in Faradje and again the following morning, killing about 150 people altogether. Caritas said that LRA also killed 75 people in a church north of Dungu and burnt the church, killed 48 people in Bangadi, and 213 people in Gurba. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated the death toll as 189 in Faradje, Doruma and Gurba.
Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon stated that he "condemns in the strongest possible terms the appalling atrocities reportedly committed by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in recent days". Caritas International said that it was "shocked by its staff reports" of the massacres.
Efforts by the Ugandan army in early 2009 ('Operation Lightning Thunder') to inflict a final military defeat on the LRA were not fully successful. Rather, the US-supported operation resulted in brutal revenge attacks by the LRA, with over 1,000 people killed in Congo and Sudan. The military action in the DRC did not result in the capture or killing of Kony, who remained elusive.