|Humanitarian and Advocacy Information
|| DARFUR ARCHIVES|
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|November 1, 2010|
The Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, in existence for more than two decades, is the rebel group responsible for Africa’s longest running armed conflict. Led by Joseph Kony, the inner workings of the LRA remain relatively unknown to the outside world, including the Ugandan army officers and policy makers in Africa and the West who are leading efforts to remove the rebels from the battlefield. -
It seems overtly difficult to engage a group of fighters, whether militarily or peacefully, without knowing what they stand for. Such lack of understanding, arguably throughout the entire existence of the LRA, has played a significant role in the failure to resolve the conflict. Erroneous descriptions of the LRA as a Christian fundamentalist group composed of drugged children led by a madman have led to a profound underestimation of the strength and military ability of the LRA.
Based on extensive research in all areas where the LRA operates, as well as in northern Uganda where the LRA originated, this paper aims to shed light on the nature of the “new” LRA in the hope that some of the information presented here can help to finally bring an end to the conflict that is taking place outside of Uganda but which continues to affect northern Uganda also.
Based on Enough interviews with former LRA fighters, there are about 400 LRA fighters operating in three countries. This number does not include women, children, and abductees who are used solely to carry food and other looted materials. Close to 250 fighters are Ugandans, the other 150 being from Sudan, Congo, and CAR. -
Fear is the sole motivation for the continuing LRA fight. The majority of the LRA fighters and commanders would leave the LRA if they were convinced that the armies and populations in Congo, Sudan, and CAR would not harm them. Many low ranking soldiers are afraid of being killed by their own commanders if caught trying to escape, as has happened in the past. Junior and mid-level commanders fear prosecution and mistreatment in Uganda if they decide to defect.
- Constantly on the run trying to escape attacks from the Ugandan army, LRA fighters suffer from many diseases including HIV/AIDS, malaria, syphilis,
and malnutrition. In addition, most LRA members, including commanders, endure strict military discipline, which includes corporal punishment when orders are not carried out properly. Lacking a meaningful ideology to give the organization purpose, the LRA has become a personal vehicle for Kony’s survival.
Former fighters claim that Kony, who refers to himself at times as King David, Solomon, or even Hitler, has said he will never be captured alive or surrender.
-Left with little else, Kony is desperately trying to reconnect with his former backers in Khartoum. If he succeeds, the LRA will regain the sense of purpose and will pose a renewed regional threat in Central Africa. A successful approach to end this conflict once and for all should be designed to address fundamentally these two issues: the promise of support from Khartoum or any other outside sources, and the fear most LRA fighters experience when deciding to surrender. If Kony is barred from gaining any assistance and the fighters are further encouraged to leave the ranks, the LRA, at least in its current form, will soon cease to exist.