Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is one of the notorious armed groups in the world. It is a Christian and a militaristic terrorism outfit with its operations in the Acholi land of northern Uganda. It is under the command of Joseph Kony who portrays himself as the Holy Spirit and a spokesman of God sent to rescue the Acholi people.
The group is opposed to the Uganda government and the government has responded with a large-scale violence against it and the people of Northern Uganda; the government has also marginalized parts of northern Uganda occupied by the Acholi people. Since its formation, it has been in constant rebellion against the government of Uganda (Aljazeera, 2011).
LRA adopted its name in 1992; previously it was referred to as United Holy Salvation Army and later changed the name to Uganda Christians Army before resorting to the name “Lord’s Resistance Army” (LRA). LRA has remained latent in its existence and actions for several years hence disguising its motives.
It is argued that the activities of LRA are guided and supported by its political arm, the Lord’s Resistance Movement which has complex networks in the diaspora. LRA has been in existence for more than twenty years and it is the main rebel group that is responsible for Africa’s longest conflict. Though it is a terror group, it is relatively unknown in the outside world.
Lord’s Resistance Army
The organization purports to represent the Acholi people and the people of Northern Uganda. Most of its army personnel come from Gulu, Kitkum and Pader which are districts in northern Uganda (Rice, 2007).
LRA has attacked the very own civilians that it claims to protect instead of placing its focus on military targets. It has achieved this motive by undertaking raids on the villagers so as to obtain supply of children who can be recruited into its services. LRA developed as a remnant group of the Holy Spirit Movement which was founded by Alice Lakwena. LRA has been the armed opponent of president Museveni since 1987.
LRA was found on several and varying beliefs ranging from religious rituals, indigenous religion, spirit of Christianity among others and are motivated by the strong sense of Acholi nationalism. LRA has had the desire and is motivated by the objective of wanting to secede from Uganda and establish its own theocratic state that will be driven by the Ten Commandments and the traditional practice of the Acholi people. The organization’s ideologies are discussed below.
Spiritual Dimension: the commander of LRA Joseph Kony has asserted that he has a spiritual possession that motivates him. The main reason why it is waging war against the government is because it considers war as a way of fulfilling a spiritual mission and the group is considered to be a group of messengers of God. Kony is from the Acholi tribe of Uganda and hence he believes that he was send by God to come and save his people. Kony derives his inspiration from Alice Lakwena who had lived before him (Schomerus, 2007).
Traditional or Cultural Beliefs: just like any other traditional community, cultural problems are often interpreted through the media and spiritual media in particular. In this context, calamities that afflict the society are treated as a punishment for particular wrongs that the people have committed. Kony opted to use violence because his people failed to support him. He quoted some few verses from the bible to justify his use of violence.
Political Agenda: the aim of LRA is also linked to the marginalization of the Acholi people by the government of president Museveni. The political agenda of the LRA is also evident as they have been requesting for a political negotiation with the government. LRA was formed in 1980s and it only operated as a sectarian and military group with its activities in northern Uganda and southern Sudan.
This militia group has committed several atrocities like killing of innocent civilians, abduction, rapes, and maiming several people inconsiderably. It is the ritual of the group that once they kill a person they cut off his/her lips and the ears. LRA also performs acts of looting, stealing and burning of houses (Schomerus, 2010).
The LRA has on several occasions attempted to overthrow the government of Uganda. Its activities have also led to the instability in the neighboring countries like Southern Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic. Since it recruited former military officers from the Ugandan army, LRA is considered a sophisticated group and not a simple military outfit as it is portrayed and perceived; it is currently on the American list of the world terrorist organizations (International Crisis Group, 2004).
LRA however does not have a specific ideology that motivates them. There have been several differing opinions regarding to LRA’s ideology. Whereas some scholars have agreed that it is a militia group motivated by religious beliefs, LRA’s evoking of strong sense of Acholi nationalism and strong loyalty to Kony confuses this conception.
Various reports have indicated that LRA does not have any political agenda or ideology as reflected by its activities and their military strategy. The difficulty in understanding its ideologies makes it one of the mysterious and difficult rebel movement to understand. The actions of LRA do not symbolize or demonstrate any chances of wanting political power. Their activities only involve killing, terrorizing and brutalizing the local population and other innocent civilians (Cakaj, 2010).
The activities of LRA include abductions and killing of people who are suspected to be the allies of government forces. Its activities have included breathtaking brutality, propaganda and political maneuvering. The LRA has waged war by meting brutal attacks and abductions. LRA has been an active military group destabilizing the northern side of Uganda for close to two decades
Most of the activities of LRA have been manifestly unchristian and militaristic though it purports to be acting in the defense of the Acholi people. LRA claims to be guided by the spirits and the group believes that the Acholi people will only be redeemed and emancipated through violence.
To the LRA, the Acholi people are pure in heart. LRA intentionally brutalizes and attacks civilians and this makes it a terrorism group. It is estimated that the conflict and violence by the LRA has claimed approximately 101,000 people and displaced close to two million people with close to 20, 000 children being abducted to work as in LRA army as soldiers, sex slaves or porters (Leonard, 2010).
Kony is at the apex of the LRA command structure in all aspects; militarily, politically and spiritually. He is considered central to the movement and its purpose. Kony is followed by Brigadier Vincent Otti who occupies the position of second in command. Below him is Okello Matata who is third in command while the last in the command hierarchy is Brigadier Tolbert Nyeko who is the army commander.
LRA is organized into four brigades, these are: the leadership, the Sinia, stockree and Giiva. The overall size of the LRA army is estimated to be 3,000 soldiers.
LRA has been accused of orchestrating some of the worst human rights violations in the world, for instance, sexual harassment, enslavement of women and children and also the conscription of children into the LRA army. The public and the government perceive LRA as a terrorist organization.
The group has sparked military attack from the government army. This was particularly enhanced by a bill signed by the US government which necessitated an understanding of how LRA operates. This enabled the Ugandan army to fight the LRA with the support of the USA army.
The government of Uganda has tried to smoke out LRA but has failed on several occasions due to the support of LRA by the government of Sudan which has guaranteed it operational bases. LRA has not established any base in Uganda and this makes it hard to launch any attacks on it hence guaranteeing it advantage of invulnerability.
LRA is a military group that has destabilized northern Uganda, south Sudan, DRC and the Central African Republic. There are limited facts that are known regarding to LRA and several theories have emerged touching on its ideology, motive and reasons for establishment, consistency and maintenance.
Kony has been described as a mad man who is out to engage in irrational activities of terror without any purpose or objective. Consequently, the LRA activities are considered to be a quest of attention by the Acholi people and the other habitants of the northern part of Uganda for their grievances that they have against the government (Vinci, 2007).
The conflict between the government and LRA is considered to be an end product of the rivalry between the government of Sudan and the government of Uganda consequently LRA is considered to be on mission hired by the government of Sudan to revenge for the government of Uganda’s support for Sudanese Liberation Peoples Army.
The conflict can not be fixed through military operations; the government of Uganda must apply liberal and subtle tactics by embracing LRA and addressing their grievances. The permanent solution to the crisis lies in reconciliation, negotiations and addressing the Sudan factor in LRA insurgency (Vinci, 2007).
LRA poses a lot of challenges to the people of Uganda and their government. While purporting to press for the grievances of the Acholi people, LRA is unleashing terror on innocent civilians in the guise of spiritualism and Acholi nationalism.
Aljazeera. (2011). Profile: The Lord’s Resistance Army. English Aljazeera. Retrieved on 16/10/2011 from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/10/2011101418364196576.html
Cakaj, L. (2010). The Lord’s Resistance Army of Today. Enough project Publications. Retrieved on 16/10/2011 from: http://www.enoughproject.org/publications/lords-resistance-army-today
International Crisis Group. (2004). Northern Uganda: Understanding and Solving the Conflict, ICG Africa Report. International Crisis group. Retrieved on 16/10/2011 from: http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/africa/horn-of-africa/uganda/Northern%20Uganda%20Understanding%20and%20Solving%20the%20Conflict.pdf
Leonard, E. (2010). The Lord’s Resistance Army: an African Terrorist Group? Perspectives on terrorism, 4 (6), 19-30.
Rice, X. (2007). Background: the Lord’s Resistance Army. The Guardian. Retrieved on 16/10/2011 from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/katine/2007/oct/20/about.uganda
Schomerus, M. (2010). The Lord’s Resistance Army. New York, NY: Prentice Hall.
Schomerus, M. (2007). The lord resistance army in Sudan: a history and overview. Small Arms Survey. Retrieved on 16/10/2011from: www.smallarmssurveysudan.org/pdfs/HSBA-SWP-8-LRA.pdf
Vinci, A. (2007). Existential Motivations in the Lord’s Resistance Army’s Continuing Conflict, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 30(4), 338-352.