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A Crash Course in Joseph Kony & The Lord’s Resistance Army

A little foggy on your knowledge of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army? Want to do your own fact-checking on the Kony 2012 video? We put together a brief overview of the history of Kony and the LRA as well as a summary of Invisible Children and Enough’s policy asks in Kony 2012.

 Important Historical Actors

Colonial Britain – Britain ruled over Uganda as a protectorate from 1894 to 1962, and many of the roots of the modern conflict lie in colonialism. Under British rule, a “divide-and-rule” strategy was employed to pit southern Ugandans against northern Ugandans to prevent unity and maintain control over the country.
Idi Amin – Despite independence in 1962, deep inequalities and divisions remained between the north and the south. Amin came to power in 1971 in a coup, and his eight-year rule only exacerbated the conditions in the country. Under his excessively violent dictatorship, hundreds of thousands of Ugandans were murdered. Amin especially targeted the Acholi people of the north, who traditionally composed the majority of the army and thus represented a threat to his rule. Not only did Amin target and persecute his own people, but he also severely limited the growth of the economy, exacerbating inequality and poverty in the region.
Yoweri Museveni – After Amin was overthrown in 1979, a period of instability was followed by Museveni’s ascendence to power in 1985 with the National Resistance Army (NRA). Museveni continued to exacerbate divisions in the country, and 22 groups eventually took up arms against the government.
Holy Spirit Movement (HSM) – Founded by Alice Auma Lakwena, this group was created in response to NRA control over the northern region. Lakwena sought the purification of the Acholi society, and was seen as a spiritual messenger that attracted many followers.

LRA Formation and Radicalization

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) formed in 1987 when Joesph Kony mobilized a small group of followers and attacked the northern Uganda town of Gulu. The group was partially comprised members of an earlier group called the Holy Spirit Movement created by Alice Lakwena in response to Yoweri Museveni’s presidency. Kony capitalized on the power vacuum opened when Lakwena was exiled in 1987 and quickly radicalized the movement. The group’s ideology is disputed, but consistently espouses radical Christian beliefs and Ugandan nationalism.

Decades of Violence and International Support

After key military victories against the Ugandan government in the late 1980s, the LRA gained the support of Sudan who was looking to retaliate against Museveni for supporting rebels in South Sudan. From 1987 to 2011, the LRA carried out attacks in Uganda, Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo killing at least 30,000 people. Additionally, the LRA has forced approximately 10,000 girls and boys to fight in combat and displaced tens of thousands. After largely diffusing to surrounding countries in the mid 2000s, Congolese and Sudanese forces launched joint military operations with the Ugandan army to counter the LRA in 2008 and 2009. Since then, the majority of LRA bases in Uganda have been destroyed and troop totals range from 500-3000.

Evolution in Tactics and the Nature of LRA Violence

When the LRA formed in 1987, their violent operations were largely carried out in opposition to the Ugandan central government. Museveni, who is from the agriculturally prosperous southern Uganda, took power from Tito Okello who was born in the north and more accurately represented the interests of the Acholi ethic group. Since the mid-2000s, the LRA has relied on sporadic small-scale military raids to sustain its core following.

United States Engagement and Calls for International Justice

  • 2005 – International Criminal Court issues its first arrest warrants since its creating in 2002 for Joesph Kony and four other LRA commanders. They were charged with numerous crimes against humanity and war crimes.
  • 2009 – US assists in the planning and funding of Operation Lightening Thunder carried out by the Ugandan military in DRC, resulted in retaliatory attacks killing ~1,000 civilians in Sudan and DRC
  • 2010 – Barack Obama signs the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Uganda Recovery Act which passed unanimously in the House of Representative and Senate. The bill authorized the killing of Joseph Kony and formalized the US commitment to fighting the LRA
  • 2011 – Barack Obama announces the deployment of 100 military advisers to Uganda and surrounding countries to train troops and provide intelligence

Invisible Children, Resolve, and Enough’s Policy Recommendations

  1. Sustain the deployment of 100 U.S. military advisers until the LRA no longer poses a serious threat to civilians.
  2. Utilize the $35 million provided by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 for combating the LRA to to provide enhanced mobility, intelligence, and other support for ongoing operations.
  3. Utilize $10 million of the Consolidated Appropriations Act expanded radio programming, aerial leafleting, the establishment of safe zones for surrender especially in Central African Republic.
  4. Increase diplomatic efforts to ensure regional governments commitment to protecting the communities in Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and CAR being targeted by LRA attacks.

This is only a brief overview and a starting point for further discussion. Disagree with something? Have further questions that you want answered? Leave a comment and we’ll get back to you!

 

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