Lord's Resistance Army insurgency

Last updated

Lord's Resistance Army insurgency
Date1987–present
(32 years)
Location
Northern Uganda (until 2006), South Sudan, eastern DR Congo, Central African Republic
Status

Ongoing

  • Founder and leader of the LRA Joseph Kony goes into hiding
  • Senior LRA commander Dominic Ongwen surrenders to American forces in the Central African Republic and is tried at the Hague [1] [2]
  • Majority of LRA installations and encampments located in South Sudan and Uganda abandoned and dismantled
  • Small scale LRA activity continues in eastern DR Congo, and the Central African Republic [3]
Belligerents

Flag of Uganda.svg  Uganda
Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.svg  DR Congo
Flag of the Central African Republic.svg  Central African Republic [3]
Flag of South Sudan.svg  South Sudan
Flag of the United Nations.svg MONUC [4]
Supported by:

Contents

Flag of the United States.svg  United States
(2011–2017) [5] [6] [7]

Flag of Lord's Resistance Army.svg Lord's Resistance Army
Supported by:

Flag of Sudan.svg  Sudan (1994–2002) [8]
Commanders and leaders

Flag of Uganda.svg Yoweri Museveni
Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.svg Joseph Kabila
Flag of South Sudan.svg Salva Kiir

Flag of the United Nations.svg Alan Doss

Flag of Lord's Resistance Army.svg Joseph Kony
Flag of Lord's Resistance Army.svg Vincent Otti   Skull and Crossbones.svg
Flag of Lord's Resistance Army.svg Raska Lukwiya  
Flag of Lord's Resistance Army.svg Okot Odiambo  
Flag of Lord's Resistance Army.svg Dominic Ongwen   White flag icon.svg

Flag of Lord's Resistance Army.svg Alphonse Lamola
Units involved

Flag of Uganda.svg UPDF
Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.svg FARDC
Flag of the Central African Republic.svg FACA
Flag of the SPLA (2011 to present).svg SPLA


Flag of the United States.svg SOF
No specific units
Strength

2002:
Flag of Uganda.svg 65,000–75,000 [9]
2010:
Flag of Uganda.svg 46,800 [10]
2014:
Flag of Uganda.svg 1,500 [11]


Flag of the United States.svg 300 advisers [12]

1990:
200–800 [13]
1998:
6,000 [13]
2007:
500–3,000 [14]
2014:

240 [15]
Casualties and losses
Unknown ~600 killed (2009–2010) [16] [16]

100,000+ killed [17]

400,000 [18] –430,000+ [19] displaced

The Lord's Resistance Army insurgency is an ongoing guerrilla campaign waged by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) insurgent group since 1987. [20] Currently, there is low-level LRA activity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. The movement is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself the "spokesperson" of God and a spirit medium. It aims to overthrow Yoweri Museveni's Ugandan government and establish a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments and Acholi tradition. [21] [22]

Lords Resistance Army Ugandan rebel movement

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), also known as the Lord's Resistance Movement, is a rebel group and heterodox Christian group which operates in northern Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Originally known as the United Holy Salvation Army and Uganda Christian Army/Movement, its stated goals include establishment of multi-party democracy, ruling Uganda according to the Ten Commandments, and Acholi nationalism, though in practice "the LRA is not motivated by any identifiable political agenda, and its military strategy and tactics reflect this". It appears to largely function as a personality cult of its leader Joseph Kony, a self-declared prophet whose leadership has earned him the nickname "Africa's David Koresh".

Democratic Republic of the Congo Country in Central Africa

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, East Congo, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa. It is sometimes anachronistically referred to by its former name of Zaire, which was its official name between 1971 and 1997. It is, by area, the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa, the second largest in all of Africa, and the 11th-largest in the world. With a population of over 78 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most populous officially Francophone country, the fourth-most-populous country in Africa, and the 16th-most-populous country in the world. Eastern DR Congo has been the scene of ongoing military conflict in Kivu, since 2015.

Central African Republic country in Africa

The Central African Republic is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the south, the Republic of the Congo to the southwest and Cameroon to the west. The CAR covers a land area of about 620,000 square kilometres (240,000 sq mi) and had an estimated population of around 4.6 million as of 2016. As of 2019, the CAR is the scene of a civil war, ongoing since 2012.

The conflict, one of Africa's longest running, has resulted in a humanitarian crisis. The LRA is accused by the International Criminal Court of widespread human rights violations, including mutilation, torture, slavery, rape, the abduction of civilians, the use of child soldiers, and a number of massacres. [23] By 2004, the LRA had abducted more than 20,000 children, while 1.5 million civilians had been displaced and an estimated 100,000 civilians killed. [24]

A humanitarian crisis is defined as a singular event or a series of events that are threatening in terms of health, safety or well being of a community or large group of people. It may be an internal or external conflict and usually occurs throughout a large land area. Local, national and international responses are necessary in such events.

International Criminal Court Permanent international tribunal

The International Criminal Court is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague, Netherlands. The ICC has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. It is intended to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore exercise its jurisdiction only when certain conditions are met, such as when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals or when the United Nations Security Council or individual states refer situations to the Court.

Mutilation or maiming is cutting off or injury to a body part of a person so that the part of the body is permanently damaged, detached or disfigured.

Background

The January 1986 overthrow of President Tito Okello, an ethnic Acholi, by the National Resistance Army (NRA) of south-west Uganda born Yoweri Museveni marked a period of intense turmoil. The NRA in their efforts to liberate the entire country meted out a lot of atrocities on the people of Acholi. This act spurred some Acholis to resist the medieval acts. The Acholi are sometimes said to have feared the loss of their traditional dominance of the national military; they were also deeply concerned that the NRA would seek retribution for the brutal counterinsurgency, particularly the actions of the army in the Luwero triangle. [25] [26] By August of that year, a full-blown popular insurgency had developed in northern regions that were occupied by the new government forces.

Tito Okello President of Uganda

Tito Lutwa Okello was a Ugandan military officer and politician. He was the President of Uganda from 29 July 1985 until 26 January 1986.

The National Resistance Army (NRA), the military wing of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), was a rebel army that waged a guerrilla war, commonly referred to as the Ugandan Bush War or Luwero War, against the government of Milton Obote, and later that of Tito Okello.

Yoweri Museveni President of Uganda

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is a Ugandan politician who has been President of Uganda since 1986. Museveni was involved in rebellions that toppled notorious Ugandan leaders Idi Amin (1971–79) and Milton Obote (1980–85) before capturing power in the 80s. In the mid to late 1990s, Museveni was celebrated by the West as part of a new generation of African leaders. During Museveni's presidency, Uganda has experienced relative peace and significant success in battling HIV/AIDS. At the same time, Uganda remains a country suffering from high levels of corruption, unemployment and poverty. Museveni's presidency has been marred by involvement in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other Great Lakes region conflicts; the rebellion in Northern Uganda by the Lord's Resistance Army which caused a drastic humanitarian emergency; and the suppression of political opposition and constitutional amendments scrapping presidential term limits (2005) and the presidential age limit (2017), thus enabling the extension of his rule. These have been a concern to domestic and foreign commentators.

Timeline

Early history (1987–1994)

In January 1987, Joseph Kony made his first appearance as a spirit medium, one of many who emerged after the initial success of the Holy Spirit Movement of Alice Auma. Former Uganda People's Democratic Army commander Odong Latek convinced Kony to adopt conventional guerrilla warfare tactics, primarily surprise attacks on civilian targets, such as villages. The LRA also occasionally carried out large-scale attacks to underline the inability of the government to protect the populace. Until 1991 the LRA raided the populace for supplies, which were carried away by villagers who were abducted for short periods of time. The fact that some NRA units were known for their brutal actions ensured that the LRA were given at least passive support by segments of the Acholi population. [27]

Holy Spirit Movement Ugandan rebel group led by Alice Auma

The Holy Spirit Movement (HSM) was the Ugandan rebel group led by Alice Auma, a spirit-medium who claimed to receive direction from the spirit Lakwena. Alice, an ethnic Acholi, was purportedly directed to form the HSM by Lakwena in August 1986.

Alice Auma Ugandan rebel

Alice Auma was an Acholi spirit-medium who, as the head of the Holy Spirit Movement (HSM), led a millennial rebellion against the Ugandan government forces of President Yoweri Museveni from August 1986 until November 1987. The primary spirit she purportedly channelled was that of a dead army officer called "Lakwena", meaning messenger, which the Acholi believe to be a manifestation of the Christian Holy Spirit. The combined persona of Alice Auma channelling the spirit Lakwena is often referred to as "Alice Lakwena".

The Uganda People's Democratic Army (UPDA) was a rebel group operating in northern Uganda from March 1986 to June 1988.

March 1991 saw the start of "Operation North", which combined efforts to destroy the LRA while cutting away its roots of support among the population through heavy-handed tactics. [28] As part of Operation North, Acholi Betty Oyella Bigombe, the Minister charged with ending the insurgency, created "Arrow Groups" mostly armed with bows and arrows, as a form of local defence. As the LRA was armed with modern weaponry, the bow-and-arrow groups were overpowered.

Betty Oyella Bigombe, also known as Betty Atuku Bigombe, is the Senior Director for Fragility, Conflict, and Violence at the World Bank. She was appointed to that position in June 2014. From May 2011 until June 2014, she was the State Minister for Water Resources in the Uganda Cabinet. She was appointed to that position on 27 May 2011. During the same timeframe, she concurrently served as the elected Member of Parliament (MP), representing Amuru District Women's Constituency. She resigned both those positions on 1 June 2014.

The creation of the Arrow Groups angered Kony, who began to feel that he no longer had the support of the population. In response the LRA mutilated numerous Acholi whom they believed to be government supporters. While the government efforts were a failure, the LRA reaction caused many Acholi to finally turn against the insurgency. However, this was tempered by the deep-seated antagonism towards the occupying government forces.

The conflict forces many civilians to live in internally displaced person (IDP) camps Lira IDP camp makeshift shelters.jpg
The conflict forces many civilians to live in internally displaced person (IDP) camps

Following the Operation North, Bigombe initiated the first face-to-face meeting between representatives of the LRA and government. The LRA asked for a general amnesty for their combatants and stated that they would not surrender, but were willing to "return home." However, the government stance was hampered by disagreement over the credibility of the LRA negotiators and political infighting. In particular, the military had learned that Kony was negotiating with the Sudanese government for support while talking to Bigombe, and felt that Kony was simply trying to buy time. [27]

Sudan Country in Northeast Africa

Sudan, also ; Arabic: السودان‎ as-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan and sometimes referred to as North Sudan, is a country in Northeast Africa. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea to the east, Ethiopia to the southeast, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west, and Libya to the northwest. It has a population of 39 million people and occupies a total area of 1,886,068 square kilometres, making it the third-largest country in Africa. Sudan's predominant religion is Islam, and its official languages are Arabic and English. The capital is Khartoum, located at the confluence of the Blue and White Nile. Since 2011, Sudan is the scene of ongoing military conflict in its regions South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

At a second meeting on 10 January 1994, Kony asked for six months to regroup his troops. By early February the tone of the negotiations was growing increasingly acrimonious, and following a meeting on 2 February, the LRA broke off negotiations stating that they felt that the NRA was trying to entrap them. Four days later, President Yoweri Museveni announced a seven-day deadline for the LRA to surrender. [27] This ultimatum ended the Bigombe Avengers Initiative.

Spillover into neighboring countries (1994–2002)

Two weeks after Museveni delivered his ultimatum of 6 February 1994, it was reported that LRA fighters had crossed the northern border and established bases in southern Sudan with the approval of the Khartoum government. [27] Sudanese aid was a response to Ugandan support for the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) fighting in the civil war in the south of the country. Also, convinced that the Acholi were now collaborating with the Museveni government, Kony began to target civilians with his increased military strength. Mutilations became commonplace (especially cutting off ears, lips, nose), and 1994 saw the first mass abduction of children and youth.

The most famous of these was the Aboke abductions of 139 female students in October 1996. As most of the LRA combatants are abducted children, a military offensive against the LRA is widely perceived by the Acholi as a massacre of victims. Government attempts to destroy the rebels are thus viewed as another cause for grievance by the Acholi. The moral ambiguity of this situation, in which abducted young rebels are both the victims and perpetrators of brutal acts, is central to the conflicted attitudes of many Acholi towards the rebels.

The government's response was a scorched-earth policy ordering all Acholis to leave their homes in 48 hours and move to "protected villages" beginning in 1996, later called Internally Displaced People's Camps. This further deepened the antagonistic attitude that many Acholi had toward the government, especially as the population continued to be attacked by the LRA even within the "protected camps." The camps were crowded, unsanitary, miserable places to live [29] and have been described as death camps. [30] World Health Organisation data indicated that these camps caused the death of ten times as many people as the LRA. [30]

Meanwhile, in 1997 the Sudanese government of the National Islamic Front began to recede from its previous hard-line stance. Following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the U.S., the relationship between Sudan and Uganda abruptly changed. Cross-border tensions eased as support to proxy forces fell. Some of the hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced by the war began to return to their homes. The number of people displaced by the conflict declined to about half a million, and people began to talk openly of the day when the "protected camps" would be disbanded. [31]

Operation Iron Fist and continued insurgency (2002–2005)

A government soldier guarding the Labuje IDP camp, Kitgum, Uganda Guard in Labuje IDP camp, Uganda.jpg
A government soldier guarding the Labuje IDP camp, Kitgum, Uganda

In March 2002, the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) launched a massive military offensive, named "Operation Iron Fist", against the LRA bases in southern Sudan, with agreement from the National Islamic Front. This agreement, coupled with the return of Ugandan forces that were deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo upon the official end of the Second Congo War, created what the Ugandan government felt was an ideal situation in which to end a conflict that had become both an embarrassment and political liability. [32] After several months of uncertainty, LRA forces began crossing back into Uganda and carrying out attacks on a scale and of a brutality not seen since 1995 to 1996, resulting in widespread displacement and suffering in regions, such as Soroti, that had never previously been touched by the insurgency. [33]

A series of local initiatives spearheaded by traditional and religious leaders as well as diplomatic initiatives during these years failed, especially since Kony's negotiating position remained uncertain, but the conflict gained unprecedented international coverage. During a November 2003 field visit to Uganda, United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland stated, "I cannot find any other part of the world that is having an emergency on the scale of Uganda, that is getting such little international attention." [34] In December 2003, Ugandan President Museveni referred the LRA to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to determine if the LRA is guilty of international war crimes.

From the middle of 2004 on, rebel activity dropped markedly under intense military pressure. The government was also the target of increasingly pointed criticism from the international community for its failure to end the conflict. International aid agencies questioned the Ugandan government's reliance on military force and its commitment to a peaceful resolution. The army also admitted that it had recruited child soldiers who escaped the LRA into the military. [35]

In mid-September 2005, a band of LRA fighters, led by Vincent Otti, crossed into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the first time. President Museveni declared that, if Congolese authorities did not disarm the LRA combatants, the UPDF would be sent across the border in pursuit. [36] This sparked a diplomatic row between the governments of the DRC and Uganda, with both militaries making a show of force along their border, while the Congolese ambassador to the United Nations sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General demanding that an economic embargo be placed on Uganda in retaliation.

Peace talks and truce (2006–2008)

A series of meetings were held in Juba starting in July 2006 between the government of Uganda and the LRA. The talks were mediated by Riek Machar, the Vice President of Southern Sudan, [37] and by the Community of Sant'Egidio. [38] The talks, which resulted in a ceasefire by September 2006, were described as the best chance for a negotiated settlement since the peace initiative of Betty Bigombe in 1994.

These talks were agreed to after Joseph Kony released a video in May in which he denied committing atrocities and seemed to call for an end to hostilities, in response to an announcement by Museveni that he would guarantee the safety of Kony if peace was agreed to by July. [39] In late June 2006, the Government of Southern Sudan formally invited Uganda to attend peace talks, [40] and on 14 July 2006 talks began in Juba. [41] On 4 August 2006, Vincent Otti declared a unilateral ceasefire and asked the Ugandan government to reciprocate. [42] ICC indictee Raska Lukwiya was killed in battle on 12 August 2006. [43]

The government and the LRA signed a truce on 26 August 2006. Under the terms of the agreement, LRA forces will leave Uganda and gather in two assembly areas protected by the government of Sudan. The Ugandan government agreed not to attack those areas. LRA rebels had begun gathering in the assembly areas by mid-September. [44] Talks continued to be hindered by demands and counter-demands. Meanwhile, the government began a process of creating "satellite camps" to decongest the main IDP camps. [45]

In broader context, the government of Southern Sudan viewed the talks as a means of ridding itself of a foreign army that was complicating its delicate relationship with the Khartoum government. The request by the Ugandan Government for ICC to suspend war crimes indictments against leaders of the LRA was condemned by international human rights groups but largely supported by leaders and civilians within northern Uganda. [46]

By mid-2007, thousands of IDPs had moved into the decongestion camps. However, the populace remained cautious about the prospect of a peace deal, with many refusing to return to their ancestral homes before a definitive end to the insurgency. [47]

Following a suspension in the peace talks, the Juba Initiative Project enabled the resumption of the talks in May 2007, thanks to the efforts of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for LRA-affected areas, Joaquim Chissano. The talks were again mediated by the Government of Southern Sudan, but with the support of the United Nations and logistic facilitation from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). [48]

On 20 August 2007, Uganda declared that it was seeking legal advice on setting a war crimes court. [49] In November 2007, an LRA delegation led by Martin Ojul journeyed to Kampala to restate its commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Ojul later led the delegation on a tour of northern Uganda to meet victims of the insurgency and ask their forgiveness. However, reports surfaced that LRA deputy commander Otti had been executed on or around 8 October 2007 over an internal power struggle with Kony. [50]

Renewed fighting (2008–present)

In June 2008, diplomats reported that the Lord's Resistance army had bought new weapons and was recruiting new soldiers, adding 1,000 recruits to the 600 soldiers it already had. At about the same time, Uganda, South Sudan, and Congo-Kinshasa agreed to a plan to crush the movement together; [51] the South Sudanese claimed that the rebels killed 14 of their soldiers on 7 June 2008. [52]

The LRA was alleged to have killed at least 400 people in attacks on a number of villages in the DR Congo on and after Christmas Day, 2008. [53] Throughout 2009, the LRA was blamed for several attacks in Southern Sudan, DR Congo and Central African Republic. [54] In March 2010 news emerged about a December 2009 massacre in DR Congo perpetrated by the LRA.

In May 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act into law. In October 2011, Obama announced the deployment of 100 U.S. troops to aid other anti-LRA forces in subduing LRA leader Joseph Kony, citing the aforementioned act in a letter to the heads of both houses of Congress. [5]

On 23 March 2012, the African Union announced its intentions to send an international brigade of 5,000 military troops "from Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Congo, countries where Kony's reign of terror has been felt over the years ... to join the hunt for rebel leader Joseph Kony" and to "neutralize" him. According to the statement, "the mission would commence on 24 March 2012 and the search would last until Kony was caught", [55] after which the task force would be disbanded. The effort is Ugandan-led and backed by the U.S. with the 100 advisers already there, who are offering advice, intelligence and training, along with equipment. [56] The brigade established its headquarters in Yambio in South Sudan, close to the border with the DRC, and is commanded by a Ugandan officer; a Congolese officer has oversight of intelligence operations. [57]

On 12 May 2012, Ugandan soldiers with the African Union brigade captured a senior LRA leader in the Central African Republic (CAR), Caesar Achellam, a veteran rebel commander with the rank of Major General. Because he was a leading military strategist for the LRA, Achellam's arrest signified a considerable setback for Joseph Kony's fight to evade capture. [58] [59]

On 6 June, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, released an initial report covering the activities of the LRA from 2009 to 2012. The report itself stated that "at least 45 children have been killed and maimed" during this time period and at least "591 children, including 268 girls have been abducted". Though it was noted by Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN special representative on children and conflict, that the "actual numbers of abductions is much higher, these are just the ones we are aware of". It was also stated in the report that the LRA is currently made up of between 300–500 fighters, with around half of them being children. [60] [61]

The LRA was reported to be in the East CAR town of Djema in 2012 [62] but forces pursuing the LRA withdrew in April 2013 [63] after the government of the CAR was overthrown by the Séléka Coalition rebels. [64] In November 2013, Kony was reported to be in poor health in the East CAR town of Nzoka [63] [64] and Michel Djotodia, president of the CAR, claimed he was negotiating with Kony to surrender. [65] US officials doubted that Kony genuinely wanted to surrender. [63]

In early November 2013, suspected LRA militants attacked five villages in the Western Equatoria region of South Sudan. Three people were killed and one wounded, aside from looting the rebels also set fire to several houses. [66]

On 4 December 2013, 13 LRA militants including senior commander Samuel Kangu were killed in the aftermath of a UPDF ambush in CAR. The rebels were reportedly tracked with the aid of U.S. provided intelligence. [67]

On 11 December 2013, 19 LRA guerrillas surrendered to African Union troops in Zembio, CAR. [68]

According to UN estimates, at least 65 LRA attacks took place in CAR and DRC during the first quarter of 2014 during which 93 people were reportedly abducted and two killed. [69]

On 7 May 2014, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki Moon stated that senior LRA commanders were stationed in South Sudan's border areas with Sudan and the Central African Republic. [69]

On 20 May 2014, delegates from Uganda, DRC, South Sudan and CAR held a three-day conference in South Sudan regarding the LRA insurgency. [70]

On 13 August 2014, LRA insurgents launched attacks on villages in the vicinity of Billi, DRC, killing 4 people and injuring 2. FARDC troops clashed with the militants, before the later retreated. [71]

On 23 August 2014, 13 LRA hostages escaped from captivity, six days later 12 more hostages followed suit. The escapees were abducted between 2004 and August 2014, managed to reach Digba and Ango, DRC, respectively, following a FARDC offensive. [72]

Between 28–31 December 2014, LRA perpetrated three attacks in the area of Dungu, DRC. Two people were wounded in the aftermath of an attack on Faradje, the village of Mangasaba was looted, a merchant from Kiliwa was also robbed by the guerrillas. [73]

On 9 January 2015, LRA's second in command Dominic Ongwen surrendered to U.S. troops stationed in CAR. [74]

On 15 January 2015, LRA rebels conducted a number of kidnappings in the villages of Bulumasi and Pangali, Bondo territory, DRC. A total of 10 people were taken hostage during the incident. [75]

On 21 January 2015, LRA militants killed three FARDC soldiers in the aftermath of an ambush conducted at the town of Nangume in the vicinity of Wando, DRC. Dozens of civilians were wounded, three were abducted and two hundred families were also displaced from the area following raids LRA militants. [76]

On 5 February 2015, a band of 20 suspected LRA guerrillas abducted 8 people and engaged in looting in the villages of Dizaga and Digba, DRC. [77]

On 16 February 2015, LRA guerrillas killed three people and injured four others, on the road IV, located in the Dungu territory, DRC. [78]

On 12 April 2015, a total of 8 FARDC soldiers went missing in action, following a LRA ambush outside the Mangbangu village, DRC. An unidentified corpse was found in the area, a day after the incident. [79]

On 30 March 2017, the United States Military announced it was ending its anti-LRA campaign, Operation Observant Compass. [80]

On an unspecified date in April 2017, a United States special forces soldier shot and killed an LRA fighter who drew a weapon on the American. The American had been escorting an African Union peacekeeper when the incident occurred. [81]

On 19 April 2017, Uganda announced that it would begin withdrawing forces from the Central African Republic where it has been trying to hunt down Joseph Kony in the country for 9 years. [82]

Two members of the United States Special Operations effort in Operation Observant Compass made a documentary about a child soldier who escaped from the LRA and went on to help end it. The documentary's name is "My Star in the Sky" and had been screened at universities and think tanks for the benefit of nonprofits helping to end the use of children as soldiers. [83] [84] [85]

Impact

War violence experienced by abductees [86]
Witnessed a killing78%
Tied or locked up68%
Received a severe beating63%
Forced to steal or destroy property58%
Forced to abuse dead bodies23%
Forced to attack a stranger22%
Forced to kill a stranger20%
Forced to kill an opposing soldier in battle15%
Forced to attack a family member or friend14%
Forced to kill a family member or friend8%

The insurgency was historically confined to the region known as Acholiland, consisting of the districts of Kitgum, Gulu, and Pader, though since 2002 violence has overflowed into other Ugandan districts. The LRA also operated across the porous border region with Southern Sudan and most recently into the northeastern Ituri Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The plight of the affected people has received little media coverage in the developed world. Not until April 2004 did the UN Security Council issue a formal condemnation. A 2005 poll of humanitarian professionals, media personalities, academics and activists identified the conflict in the north of Uganda as the second worst "forgotten" humanitarian emergency in the world, after the conflicts of the neighbouring DRC. [87]

The U.S. government estimates that up to 12,000 people have been killed in the violence, with many more dying from disease and malnutrition as a direct result of the conflict. Nearly two million civilians have been forced to flee their homes, living in internally displaced person (IDP) camps and within the safety of larger settlements, sleeping on street corners and in other public spaces. The problems of the camps have been expatiated by the government ordering villagers into the camps on pain of being classified as rebels and on occasion shelling those villages who refused to relocate. [88]

While many abductees are taken to carry items looted from raided villages, some are also used as soldiers and sex slaves. The group performs abductions primarily from the Acholi people, who have borne the brunt of the 18-year LRA campaign. The United Nations estimated in the mid-2000s that around 25,000 children have been kidnapped by the LRA since 1987. However, several pieces of research have concluded that the figure was significantly higher. In June 2007, UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center researchers worked with reception centers in northern Uganda to compile a database of 25,000 former abductees that went through reception centers. [89]

By triangulating data from different sources on the number of former abductees, the research conservatively estimate that the LRA has abducted 24,000 to 38,000 children and 28,000 to 37,000 adults as of April 2006. The research further found that while women represented about a third of all the abductees, they tended to stay longer with the LRA compared to men. Women are forced to serve as sexual and domestic servants. According to a survey of 750 youth in Kitgum and Pader, at least 66,000 youth between the ages of 13 and 30 have been abducted. One-third of all boys and one-sixth of all girls had been taken for at least one day. [86] [90]

Of these, 66% of males were taken for longer than two weeks, while the equivalent number for females was 46%. If a female was gone for more than two weeks, there was a one in four chance that she had not returned. Males were again found to be taken for longer periods of time on average, with two in five males that were abducted for more than two weeks not having returned. The number of abductions was greatest in 2002 and 2003, perhaps in retaliation for Operation Iron Fist. However, the average age of abductees has risen from about 13 in 1994 to nearly 18 in 2004, coinciding with the rise in number, and fall in length, of abductions. [86] [90]

While the LRA now appears to consist of less than two thousand combatants that are under intense pressure from the Ugandan military, the government has been unable to end the insurgency to date. Ongoing peace negotiations are complicated by an investigation and trial preparation by the International Criminal Court. Meanwhile, military operation is going on. The conflict continues to slow down Uganda's development efforts, costing the poor country's economy a cumulative total of at least $1.33 billion, which is equivalent to 3% of GDP, or $100 million annually. [91]

"Night commuters"

A room of child "night commuters" Uganda night commuters - full room.jpg
A room of child "night commuters"

At the height of the conflict, each night, children between the ages of 8 and 14, referred to as "night commuters" or "night dwellers" would walk up to 20 kilometres (12 mi) from IDP camps to larger towns, especially Gulu, in search of safety. To avoid abduction by the LRA, every night as many as 40,000 children fled their homes in the countryside to sleep in the relative safety of towns. Known as "night commuters", they seek refuge overnight at churches, hospitals, bus stations and temporary shelters before returning home again each morning. Because of this phenomenon, united under the banner of peace, religious leaders from different denominations staged a one-week solidarity demonstration by sleeping in the streets with the children. This singular act created massive awareness of the conflict to the world.

Awareness

Initiatives to raise international awareness for these children included the "GuluWalk" and the work of the Resolve Uganda. Night commuters are also the subject of documentaries such as Stolen Children, War/Dance , and Invisible Children .

The Invisible Children documentary sponsored the Global Night Commute, an event similar to GuluWalk. On 29 April 2006, over 80,000 youths from around the world converged on urban centers in 130 major cities around the world in solidarity with displaced Ugandan children. The Invisible Children organization also raised awareness for those in the Internally Displaced Camps (IDPs) through its "Displace Me" event held in 15 cities across the US on 28 April 2007. Over 68,000 people participated in the event which required participants to sleep outside in "homes" made out of cardboard, similar to those in the IDPs.

Another program, The Name Campaign, asks people to wear nameplate necklaces imprinted with the first name of one of the thousands of abducted children as a means of raising public awareness.

Danny Glover and Don Cheadle have both been vocal advocates on behalf of the children of Northern Uganda.

On 5 March 2012, the Invisible Children organization posted the Kony 2012 video on YouTube which was widely seen. [92] [93] [94] As of 17 June 2012, the film had over 91 million views on video-sharing website YouTube. [95] However, this video came too late, as by this time the LRA was only a shadow of its former self, so it failed to have the relevance it could have had at an earlier time. In the end, it had little effect and there were no policy changes as a result.

See also

Related Research Articles

Joseph Kony Leader of the Lords Resistance Army

Joseph Rao Kony is the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a guerrilla group that formerly operated in Uganda. While initially purporting to fight against government oppression, the LRA allegedly turned against Kony's own supporters, supposedly to "purify" the Acholi people and turn Uganda into a theocracy. Kony proclaims himself the spokesperson of God and a spirit medium and claims he is visited by a multinational host of 13 spirits, including a Chinese phantom. Ideologically, the group is a syncretic mix of mysticism, Acholi nationalism, and Christian fundamentalism, and claims to be establishing a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments and local Acholi tradition.

The period from 1986 to 1994 of the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency is the early history of the ongoing insurgency of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group in Uganda, which has been described as one of the most under-reported humanitarian crises in the world. The Lord's Resistance Army was formed in early 1987 out of the conflict following the successful rebellion of the National Resistance Army (NRA), though remained a relative small group through the counterinsurgency of the NRA. As the peace talks initiated by Minister Betty Bigombe failed Sudanese support to the LRA intensified the conflict.

Lords Resistance Army insurgency (1994–2002)

The start of the period 1994 to 2002 of the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency in northern Uganda saw the conflict intensifying due to Sudanese support to the rebels. There was a peak of bloodshed in the mid-1990s and then a gradual subsiding of the conflict. Violence was renewed beginning with the offensive by the Uganda People's Defence Force in 2002.

The period from 2000 to 2006 of the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency in northern Uganda begins with the assault of the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) upon LRA strongholds in South Sudan. This in turn led to a series of retaliatory attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army of an intensity not seen to since the mid-1990s. International awareness of the conflict gradually grew and in September 2005, the International Criminal Court issues warrants for the arrest of senior LRA commanders, including Joseph Kony.

Vincent Otti was deputy-leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel guerrilla army operating mainly in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. He was one of the five persons for whom the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued its first arrest warrants on 8 July 2005. Rumours of his death began to circulate in October 2007 but were not confirmed until January 2008.

Okot Odhiambo was a senior leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group which operates from Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Odhiambo was one of five people for whom the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued its first ever arrest warrants in 2005, for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2009, he announced his intention to defect from the LRA and return to Uganda if the government would agree not to surrender him to the ICC.

Dominic Ongwen was born in 1975 in the village of Coorom, Kilak County, Amuru district, Northern Uganda. He is the ex-commander of the Sinia Brigade of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a guerrilla group that formerly operated in northern Uganda. As the head of one of the four LRA brigades, Ongwen was a member of the "Control Altar" of the LRA that directs military strategy. He is currently detained by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and has been awaiting trial. Proceedings commenced 6 December 2016.

2006–08 Juba talks

The Juba talks were a series of negotiations between the government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group over the terms of a ceasefire and possible peace agreement. The talks, held in Juba, the capital of autonomous Southern Sudan, began in July 2006 and were mediated by Riek Machar, the Vice President of Southern Sudan. The talks, which had resulted in a ceasefire by September 2006, were described as the best chance ever for a negotiated settlement to the 20-year-old war. However, LRA leader Joseph Kony refused to sign the peace agreement in April 2008. Two months later, the LRA carried out an attack on a Southern Sudanese town, prompting the Government of Southern Sudan to officially withdraw from their mediation role.

Atiak massacre

The Atiak massacre occurred on April 20, 1995, when a group of estimated 300 Lord's Resistance Army soldiers led by Vincent Otti entered the northern Ugandan town of Atiak, Amuru District. After routing the UPDF and rounding up hundreds of civilians, the LRA announced, "you Acholi have refused to support us. We shall now teach you a lesson." The LRA then handpicked young boys and young girls from the rest, in order to conscript into their ranks and to use as sex slaves, and marched them into the bush. Most of the remaining 200–300 captives were executed by gunfire.

The 2008–2009 Garamba offensive started on 14 December 2008, when joint Ugandan, DR Congolese and Southern Sudanese forces launched a botched military attack against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the Garamba region of DR Congo.

Invisible Children, Inc. nonprofit organization

Invisible Children, Inc. is an organization founded in 2004 to increase awareness of the activities of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Central Africa, and its leader, Joseph Kony. Specifically, the group seeks to put an end to the practices of the LRA, which include abductions and abuse of children, and forcing them to serve as soldiers. To this end, Invisible Children urges the United States government to take military action in the central region of Africa. Invisible Children also operates as a charitable organization, soliciting donations and selling merchandise to raise money for its cause. The organization promotes its cause by dispensing films on the internet and presenting in high schools and colleges around the United States.

International Criminal Court investigation in Uganda

The International Criminal Court investigation in Uganda or the situation in Uganda is an ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency which has been taking place in northern Uganda and neighbouring regions since 1987. The Lord's Resistance Army is a Christian-based group led by Joseph Kony that is accused of numerous human rights violations including massacres, the abduction of civilians, the use of child soldiers, sexual enslavement, torture, and pillaging. After the government of Uganda referred the matter to the ICC in December 2003, warrants of arrest were issued in 2005 for Joseph Kony, Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen, and Vincent Otti, who became the first people to be indicted by the Court. The proceedings against Lukwiya ended in July 2007 following his death on 12 August 2006.

<i>Kony 2012</i> 2012 short documentary film produced by Invisible Children, Inc.

Kony 2012 is a short documentary film produced by Invisible Children, Inc.. It was released on March 5, 2012. The film's purpose was to promote the charity's "Stop Kony" movement to make Ugandan cult and militia leader, indicted war criminal and the International Criminal Court fugitive Joseph Kony globally known in order to have him arrested by the end of 2012, when the campaign expired. The film spread virally and the campaign was initially supported by various celebrities. As of January 19, 2019, the film has received over 102 million views and 1.3 million "likes" on the video-sharing website YouTube, and over 18.6 million views and over 21.5 thousand "likes" on Vimeo, with other views on a central "Kony 2012" website operated by Invisible Children. At the time the video was the most liked on the whole of YouTube, and is the first video ever to reach 1 million likes. The intense exposure of the video caused the "Kony 2012" website to crash shortly after it began gaining widespread popularity. A poll suggested that more than half of young adult Americans heard about Kony 2012 in the days following the video's release. It was included among the top international events of 2012 by PBS and called the most viral video ever by TIME.

StGiNU is an advocacy group formed in the beginning of 2005 by Ugandans living in the United Kingdom. At that time, the situation in the concentration camps in Northern Uganda was claiming lives more than cross fire casualties. In the same year 2005, the Ugandan World Health Organization reported that there were 5000 excess deaths per week due to camp conditions alone. Jan Egeland UN's Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs stated that the Northern Uganda situation was worse than Iraq. Another UN representative Olara Otunnu said the situation in Northern Uganda was a secret genocide.

Alphonse Lamola is a soldier in the Lord’s Resistance Army of Joseph Kony operating in South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

The African Union-led Regional Task Force is a multi-national military force in central Africa, authorised by the African Union's Peace and Security Council and approved by the United Nations Security Council, as part of a Regional Co-operation Initiative for the elimination of the Lord's Resistance Army.

Acholi people ethnic group

The Acholi people are a Luo nation who migrated from Bhar el Ghazal South Sudan Magwi County and Northern Uganda, including the districts of Agago, Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum, Nwoya, Lamwo, and Pader. Approximately 1.17 million Acholi were counted in the Uganda census of 2002, and 45,000 more were living in South Sudan in 2000.

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