Lord's Resistance Army

Lord's Resistance Army
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
Flag of Lord's Resistance Army
Active 1987–present
Ideology Christianity
Traditional African religion
Groups Lord's Resistance Army
Leaders Joseph Kony
Vincent Otti
Raska Lukwiya 
Okot Odhiambo
Dominic Ongwen
Odong Latek 
Headquarters Northern Uganda
Area of
Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Uganda
Strength 500-9,000[1]
Originated as Holy Spirit Movement
Uganda People's Democratic Army
Allies Sudan Sudan (1994–2002)
Opponents Uganda Uganda People's Defence Force
South Sudan Sudan People's Liberation Army
Democratic Republic of the Congo Military of DR Congo
United Nations MONUC[2]
United States United States Army[3]

The Lord's Resistance Army (also Lord's Resistance Movement or Lakwena Part Two) is a militant group with a syncretic Christian and traditional African religious ideology. The group operates in northern Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central Africa.[4] The group used to operate mainly in northern Uganda and also in parts of South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the DRC.

The LRA was formed in 1987 and until about 2007 it was engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government. It is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself the "spokesperson" of God and a spirit medium, primarily of the Holy Spirit, which the group believes can represent itself in many manifestations.

The group is based on a number of different beliefs including local religious rituals, mysticism, traditional religion, Acholi nationalism and Christianity[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14] and claims to be establishing a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments and local Acholi tradition.[15][16][17] 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.[18]



The LRA has been known also as the 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 the 1800s Great Britain colonized Uganda. While the people of the South were treated fairly, the people of the North, or the Acholi, were treated as slaves.[19] Well after Britain left, the Acholi still suffered, blaming their woes on the government of Uganda. In 1988, Alice Lakwena established the Holy Spirit Movement, 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 expressed the belief that the Acholi could defeat the government run by Yoweri 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.[20]

Joseph Kony would later preach a similar superstition encouraging soldiers to use oil to draw a cross on their chest as a protection from bullets. During an interview with Jimmie Briggs, Alice Lakwena distanced herself from Kony, claiming that the spirit doesn’t want them to kill civilians or prisoners of war. Meanwhile, Kony gained a reputation as having been possessed by spirits. He became a spiritual figure or a medium. Lakwena scored several key victories on the battlefield and began a march towards Kampala.[when?] Kony seized this opportunity to recruit members of the Ugandan People's Democratic Army (UPDA) and Holy Spirit remnants. In 1988, when Lakwena was defeated in Jinja and fled to Kenya, Kony became the leader of the Holy Spirit Mobile Force II some years later.

According to UPDF spokesman Lt. Col. Shaban Bantariza, mediation efforts by the Carter Center and the Pope have been spurned by Kony.[21]

In January, 1997 the LRA attacked Lamwo, in northern Uganda. More than 400 people were killed, and approximately 100,000 people were displaced.[22]

In May, 2002 the LRA attacked Eastern Equatoria in Sudan. An estimated 450 people were killed, and witnesses state some villagers were forced to walk off a cliff.[22]

On December 25, 2008, the LRA massacred 189 people and abducted 120 children during a concert celebration sponsored by the Catholic church in Faradje, DRC, continuing the attack on December 26. Shortly afterwards, the LRA struck three additional communities: 75 people killed in a church north of Dungu, and the church burned; 48 people killed in Bangadi, and 213 people in Gurba.[23] The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated the death toll as 189 in Faradje, Doruma and Gurba.[23] However, Caritas International estimated the number of victims to be about 500.

On December 28, 2008, the Ugandan army published details of the Doruma attack, accusing LRA rebels of hacking to death 45 people in a church there.[24] An aid official speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity confirmed the December 26 massacre, saying the killings took place in a Catholic church in the Doruma area, around 40 kilometres (25 mi) 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.[24]

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".[25] Caritas International said that it was "shocked by its staff reports" of the massacres.[26]

Congo's army, along with armed forces from Uganda]] and Sudan, launched raids against LRA rebels in December 2008 intended to disarm the LRA and end its rebellion. The raids were unsuccessful.

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.[27]

In August the Lord's Resistance army attacked the Our Lady Queen of Peace church in Ezo on the Feast of the Assumption while worshippers were at prayer. They proceeded to desecrate first the Eucharist then the altar itself, after which they abducted seventeen people of ages ranging from teens to twenties. One was tied to a tree and murdered soon after the initial attack.[28] This event caused Sudanese[28] Archbishop John Baptist Odama to call on the international community for help in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis.[29]

In December, 2009, the LRA massacred "at least" 321 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a BBC investigation published in March, 2010 (see Makombo massacre).[22] The deaths were verified by the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch. Victims were hacked or battered to death, and survivors were made to carry loads for their attackers. At least eighty children of both sexes were captured, the boys as fighters, the girls to be sex slaves for the LRA members.[22] The sixty-mile (95 km) round-trip series of attacks began December 13, 2009, in Mabanga Ya Talo, and continued until December 18, traveling southeast down to the village of Tapili and back northwest again to the point of origin — a crossing over to the LRA camps on the north side of the Uele River near Mavanzonguda.[22]

In May 2010 it was reported that an investigation was being undertaken by a senior UN official over the massacre of over 100 people in February 2010.[30] The massacre is said to have been carried out by Ugandan rebels in Kpanga, near DR Congo's border with the Central African Republic and Sudan.[30]


The LRA's ideology is disputed amongst academics.[21][31] Although the LRA has been regarded primarily as a Christian militia,[5][6][7][8][9][10][11] the LRA reportedly evokes Acholi nationalism on occasion,[32] but many observers doubt the sincerity of this behaviour and the loyalty of Kony to either ideology.[33][34][35][36][37]

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."[38] 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."[39]

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."[21] 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."[21]

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.[40]

In the same speech, Obita also stated that the LRA's objectives are:

  1. To fight for the immediate restoration of competitive multi-party democracy in Uganda.
  2. To see an end to gross violation of human rights and dignity of Ugandans.
  3. To ensure the restoration of peace and security in Uganda.
  4. To ensure unity, sovereignty and economic prosperity beneficial to all Ugandans
  5. To bring to an end to the repressive policy of deliberate marginalization of groups of people who may not agree with the National Resistance Army's ideology.

However, many would believe that the ideologies of the LRA are nothing but rubbish. According to the California based organization, Invisible Children, the LRA is no more than a terrorist group disguising themselves as Christian based. The LRA uses tactics of physical and emotional intimidation to seduce children into joining their forces.[41]

Troop strength

The government of Uganda claims that 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.[1] 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.[42] Since the LRA first started fighting in 1987 they may have forced well over 10,000 boys and girls into combat, often killing family, neighbors and school teachers in the process.[43]

Many of these children were put on the front lines so the casualty rate for these children has been high. They have often used children to fight because they are easy to replace by raiding schools or villages.[44] The soldiers are organized into independent squads of 10 or 20 soldiers.[1] Sudan has provided military assistance to the LRA, in response to Uganda lending military support to the Sudan People's Liberation Army.[45]

ICC arrest warrants

Number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and IDPs as a percentage of total population in northern Ugandan districts (based on data from 2004).
Lord's Resistance Army
Ugandan districts affected by Lords Resistance Army.png

Juba talks

Related articles

Lord's Resistance Army
Holy Spirit Movement
Alice Auma
Joseph Kony
ICC investigation

This box: view · talk · edit

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 were 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.[46]

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 (the LRA was active in what is now South Sudan), and the 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.[47]

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.[48]

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.[49][50] 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.[51]

At least two of the five wanted LRA leaders have since been killed: Lukwiya on 12 August 2006[52] and Otti in late 2007.[53] Odhiambo was rumoured to have been killed in April 2008.[54]

In 2006, the United Nations mounted a covert operation to capture or kill Joseph Kony. A squad of U.S.-trained Guatemalan Special Ops soldiers set out into Congo's Garamba National Park, a longtime LRA refuge and the scene of the 2008–2009 Garamba offensive. Trained in jungle warfare and accustomed to surviving in the bush for long stretches, the Guatemalans were equipped with M-16s and the latest special-operations technology. Five LRA soldiers were killed and none of the Special Ops soldiers survived. According to one account, the commander of the Special Ops soldiers was beheaded. The battle, which lasted for several hours, included hand to hand combat. Reports put the U.N. dead at eight to forty. The LRA left the corpses in the jungle but took the weapons—including heavy machine guns and grenade launchers.[55]

In July 2011, South Sudan seceded from Sudan, cutting the LRA off geopolitically from its former allies in Khartoum.

United States congressional action

In May 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act,[56] legislation aimed at stopping Joseph Kony and the LRA. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate on March 11, 2010 with 65 senators as cosponsors, then passed unanimously in the House of Representatives on May 13, 2010 with 202 representatives as cosponsors.

On November 24, 2010, Obama delivered a strategy document to Congress, asking for more money to disarm Kony and the LRA.[57]

Since the United States diplomatic cables leak began on 28 November 2010, when the website WikiLeaks started to publish classified documents of detailed correspondence between the U.S. State Department and its diplomatic missions around the world we have learned that, "Sudan's neighbor, Uganda, blames Khartoum for paying and harboring Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal rebel group that has waged the longest-running insurgency in Africa. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer in September 2007 that 'Sudan, Sudan, Sudan, Sudan' was behind the rebellion's longevity. '[Museveni] said that even if the Khartoum Government could not supply the LRA at previous levels, he believed it was in constant touch with the LRA and smuggling supplies.'"[58]

On October 14, 2011, President Obama announced that he had ordered the deployment of 100 U.S. military advisors (with a mandate to train, assist and provide intelligence) to help combat the Lord's Resistance Army.[59] It has been reported that the bulk of the troops are from the Army Special Forces.[59][60] Obama said that the deployment did not need explicit approval from Congress, as the 2010 Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act already authorized "increased, comprehensive U.S. efforts to help mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA to civilians and regional stability". The military advisors will be armed, and will provide assistance and advice, but "will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense". The advisers will operate in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, subject to approval by those states. The military advisors will not operate independently of the host states. Human Rights Watch welcomed the deployment, which they had previously advocated for.[61] General Carter Ham, the head of US Africa Command, said last week that his best estimate was that Joseph Kony was probably in the Central African Republic, not located in Uganda.

In popular culture

  • The 2011 feature film Machine Gun Preacher is the story of Sam Childers, a biker preacher who leads a struggle in collaboration with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) against the atrocities of the LRA.
  • On October 14, 2011, Rush Limbaugh, a political commentator, originally questioned the U.S. move against the LRA on the grounds that "Lord's Resistance Army are Christians. They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan. And Obama has sent troops, United States troops to remove them from the battlefield, which means kill them." "So that’s a new war, a hundred troops to wipe out Christians in Sudan, Uganda." Later, Limbaugh stated that he would research the group as he was made aware of accusations of their atrocities.[62] Contrary to this assertion, however, he later allowed the show's written transcript to be posted on his website under the title "Obama Invades Uganda, Targets Christians".[62][63][64]

See also


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  7. ^ a b Ten Commandments of God: Mass Suicide in Uganda
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  15. ^ Ruddy Doom and Koen Vlassenroot (1999). Kony's message: A new Koine? The Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda. 98. Oxford Journals / Royal African Society. pp. 5–36. 
  16. ^ Martin, Gus (2006). Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues. SAGE. pp. 196–197. ISBN 978-1412927222. 
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  19. ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ugandan
  20. ^ Briggs, Jimmie, Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War, 2005, p. 113.
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  22. ^ a b c d e "DR Congo rebel massacre of hundreds is uncovered" by Martin Plaut
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  24. ^ a b BBC News (29 December 2008). Ugandan LRA 'in church massacre'.
  25. ^ Ugandan rebels kill 400 in DR Congo: charity[dead link], Yahoo, 30-12-2008
  26. ^ "Congo-Kinshasa: Caritas Reports Christmas Day Massacre by Ugandan rebels". allAfrica.com. 2008-12-30. http://allafrica.com/stories/200812310101.html. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
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Further reading

  • Briggs, Jimmie (2005). Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-00798-1. 
  • Green, Matthew (2008). The Wizard of the Nile: The Hunt for Africa's Most Wanted. Portobello Books. ISBN 978-1846270307. 
  • Singer, Peter W. (2006). Children at War. University of California Press. 
  • Allen, Tim; Vlassenroot, Koen (2010). The Lord's Resistance Army: Myth and Reality. Zed Books Ltd.. 

External links

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  • Lord's Resistance Army — Flagge der paramilitärischen LRA Die Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA („Widerstandsarmee des Herrn“) wurde 1987 gegründet und ist eine paramilitärische Gruppe unter der Führung von Joseph Kony, die im Norden Ugandas gegen die Regierung Musevenis und… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lord’s Resistance Army — Flagge der paramilitärischen LRA Die Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA („Widerstandsarmee des Herrn“) wurde 1987 gegründet und ist eine paramilitärische Gruppe unter der Führung von Joseph Kony, die im Norden Ugandas gegen die Regierung Musevenis und… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lord's Resistance Army — Armée de résistance du Seigneur Zone de l Ouganda touchée par la guerrilla de la LRA L Armée de résistance du Seigneur (LRA pour Lord s Resistance Army) est un mouvement en rébellion contre le gouvernement de l Ouganda, créé en 1988, deux ans… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Lord's Resistance Army — noun a quasi religious rebel group in Uganda that terrorized and raped women and kidnapped children who were forced to serve in the army • Topics: ↑terrorism, ↑act of terrorism, ↑terrorist act • Regions: ↑Uganda, ↑Republic of Uganda • In …   Useful english dictionary

  • Lord's Resistance Army insurgency — Date 1987–present Location Northern Uganda, South Sudan, Eastern DR Congo, Central African Republic Status The LRA have been militarily defeated …   Wikipedia

  • Lord's Resistance Army insurgency (2002–2005) — Soldier in Labuje IDP camp, Kitgum 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… …   Wikipedia

  • Lord's 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… …   Wikipedia

  • Lord's Resistance Army insurgency (1987–1994) — 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… …   Wikipedia

  • Lord Resistance Army — Flagge der paramilitärischen LRA Die Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA („Widerstandsarmee des Herrn“) wurde 1987 gegründet und ist eine paramilitärische Gruppe unter der Führung von Joseph Kony, die im Norden Ugandas gegen die Regierung Musevenis und… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lord Resistance Army — Armée de résistance du Seigneur Zone de l Ouganda touchée par la guerrilla de la LRA L Armée de résistance du Seigneur (LRA pour Lord s Resistance Army) est un mouvement en rébellion contre le gouvernement de l Ouganda, créé en 1988, deux ans… …   Wikipédia en Français

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