What is The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)?

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November 28, 2013 by acy4000

The Lord’s Resistance Army


The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), also known as the Lord’s Resistance Movement, is a militant movement, which is described by some as a new religious movement or a cult which operated in northern Uganda and South Sudan. Since 2005 there have been claims that the group has entered the Democratic Republic of Congo, but in 2007 it was reported that they were in Central African Republic. The LRA has been accused of widespread human rights violations, including murder, abduction, mutilation, child-sex slavery, and forcing children to participate in hostilities.

The LRA was initially formed to resist the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF), called the National Resistance Army (NRA) before it took control of the country. The NRA/UPDF has been accused of widespread murder, rape, and pillage. The Ugandan army also recruited child soldiers. In June 2006, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN’s special representative for children, found more than 5000 children recruited in the Ugandan government army. This led to the formation of the rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army. Ideologically, LRA believe in African mysticism and Christian fundamentalism. It claims to be establishing a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments and local Acholi tradition.

The group is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself the spokesman of God and a spirit medium.


The area now known as Uganda has been divided by the British rule along tribal and language lines. Bantu speaking agriculturists such as the Baganda people in Uganda’s south and east created different and competing social and economic structures from the Nilotic language speaking Acholi in the north, whose economic system was centred around hunting, farming and livestock herding. The ethnic and cultural divisions within Uganda continued to exist during the years of the British Uganda Protectorate, which was created in 1894. While the agricultural Baganda people worked closely with the British, the Acholi and other northern ethnic groups supplied much of the national manual labor, and came to comprise a majority of the military. The southern region became the center for commercial trade development.The livestock-raising Acholi from the north of Uganda were resented for dominating the army and policing. Following the country’s independence in 1962, Uganda’s ethnic groups continued to compete with each other within the bounds of Uganda’s new political system.


In 2007, the government of Uganda claimed that the LRA had only 500 or 1,000 soldiers in total, but other sources estimated that there could have been as many as 3,000 soldiers, along with about 1,500 women and children. By 2011, unofficial estimates were in the range of 300 to 400 combatants, with more than half believed to be abductees. The soldiers are organized into independent squads of 10 or 20 soldiers. By early 2012, the LRA had been reduced to a force of between 200 and 250 fighters, according to Ugandan defence minister Crispus Kiyonga. Abou Moussa, the UN envoy in the region, said in March 2012 that the LRA was believed to have dwindled to between 200 and 700 followers but remained a threat: “The most important thing is that no matter how little the LRA may be, it still constitutes a danger [as] they continue to attack and create havoc.”

Since the LRA first started fighting in 1990s 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 has been high. The LRA have often used children to fight because they are easy to replace by raiding schools or villages. According to Livingstone Sewanyana, executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, the government was the first to use child soldiers in this conflict.

Although this is not proven, there has been rumors that Sudan may have provided military assistance to the LRA, in response to Uganda lending military support to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). According to Matthew Green, author of The Wizard of the Nile: The Hunt for Africa’s Most Wanted, the LRA was highly organised and equipped with crew-operated weapons, VHF radiosand satellite phones. In 2001, it was also reported that LRA targets Sudanese refugees.

Causes of the LRA conflict

There has been a problem of securing a consensus on any one theoretical and factual account of the cause of the LRA which still remains largely unresolved, with the theatre of violence shifted from Northern Uganda to DRC, CAR and Western Equatoria State of the Republic of South Sudan. The sheer duration and dynamics of the conflict has generated intervening and perpetuating factors, which have tended to blur the primary causes, incessantly linked to grievances that brought rise to even other civil strives in Uganda at large. These can be itemized as to include: ethnic dominance (or polarization) manifesting stereotypes, hate and enemy images; economic disparity (marginalization) and/or underdevelopment exacerbating poverty; inconsistent pseudo-democratic and autocratic regimes; and other complicating factors. But the primary source of evil in Uganda has been (and remains) ‘unique greed for absolute political and economic power by some individuals’.

Ethnicity, Stereotypes, Hate and Enemy Images-

Part of the structural causes of the LRA conflict has been explained as rooted in the “diversity of ethnic groups which were at different levels of socio-economic development and political organization”.The colonial entity called Uganda was forged out of diverse nationalities and ethnic groups. To manage this diversity to suit imperial interest, mechanisms were put in place by the colonialist to make the different ethnic groups and nationalities see each other as manifestly distinct, and at times, as enemies. Referred to as ‘divide and rule’, most commentaries portrayed the conflict in northern Uganda as manifesting this policy ably applied with impunity by the colonial and post colonial regimes. This perceived policy fed by stereotypical prejudices and political misrepresentation of facts, to a large extend influenced the elites to resort to the politicization of ethnicity as a channel through which they can acquire and maintain political power in the country. The resultant stereotypical labels of “backwardness”, “primitivity”, “ignorance”, enemy images and stigmatization often ‘branding’ the ‘northerners’ arises from unprincipled political tribalism with which groups compete for public resources. Even officials of government have tended to legitimize oppression in ethnic terms. President Museveni himself metaphorically spoke of the Acholi as grasshoppers in a bottle “in which they will eat each other before they find their way out”. This unfortunate remark generated a lot of emotions among the Acholi people adding to the feeling that the war in northern Uganda has been designed as an instrument of vindictive governance. Enemy images have instilled insensitivity to the extent that people perceived as enemies, can be construed and ignored as inconsequential. A former Cabinet Minister who was a key figure in the Presidential Peace Team while addressing elders in Lango on the atrocities committed by the NRA in the northern districts of Gulu, Kitgum, Lira, Apac and Teso, warned them that “they did not matter as long as the south was stable”. This sense of betrayal on the northerners has festered into a groundswell of mistrust by the population against virtually any overtures from the government to the rebels.

This cynical strategy, some argue, was deeply rooted and employed in Luwero triangle by the NRM/A rebels during their five-year-bush war in order to garner popular support, while in essence their real underlying drive was “unique greed for absolute political power” in total abhorrence of democratic means.


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