The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is a rebel group formed in 1987, which operates mainly in the northern Ugandan region of Acholiland from bases established in southern Sudan.
The LRA is led by Joseph Kony, a self-proclaimed spirit medium who claims to have received the order to form the LRA from the Holy Spirit in order to liberate the people of Uganda “from corruption, sins and immoral thinking“. Whereas Kony’s exact political goals remain unclear, he is said to aim at erecting a Ugandan theocracy based on the Ten Commandments.
While the LRA is not in a position to destabilize the Ugandan government, it has for 18 years terrorized the civilian population in northern Uganda. The LRA has its origin in an uprising of the Acholi people against the south-Ugandan Yoweri Museveni, which started after the latter overthrew the then President Okello in 1986. However, Joseph Kony did not gain the lasting support of the Acholi and was soon forced to retreat into Sudanese territory. Feeling betrayed by his own people, he has since then directed most of the LRA’s attacks against the civilian population of the Acholi.
The main characteristic of the LRA is that it is made up of up to 85% of children between 11 and 15 years of age. To fill their ranks, LRA troops systematically abduct children, using them as soldiers, porters and sexual slaves. According to estimates, some 20’000 children have been abducted. The abducted children are often forced to kill their own parents to destroy any prospect of returning home. To deter the abductees from trying to escape, the LRA force the children to kill those who tried to escape.
The LRA is responsible for widespread abuses against the civilian population. They have killed tens of thousands of civilians, and many more are said to have died as a result of hunger and disease caused by the conflict.
The LRA’s soldiers are notorious for maiming alleged collaborators with the government by cutting off their hands, lips and ears. As a result of their looting and destroying whole villages, up to three quarters of the Acholi people have been forcibly displaced.
Some observers claim that the Sudanese government was supporting the LRA, because Uganda allegedly supported the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the rebel movement which fights the Sudanese government. However, in a 1999 bilateral agreement, the two governments vowed to stop supporting the rebel groups.
Also based on a bilateral agreement with Sudan, the Ugandan government may pursue LRA rebels on Sudanese territory, but only up to a “red line“, which is marked by an overland-road about 100 km into the country.
On 10 October 2005,however, the Ugandan government reported that Sudan had given them free reign, during one month, to pursue the LRA anywhere across the border.