We are sure you all remember when, in the year of 2012, Jason Russell, an American filmmaker, brought us Kony 2012 a documentary of 30 minutes criticizing the rebel leader Joseph Kony and the violences perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army, while calling for an international protest against these latter.
Although the film was technically well made and Jason Russell has the merit of being the founder of the Invisible Children’s organization, it received worldwide criticism for over-simplifying the situation and for giving misleading information to the public (apart from asking for a monetary contribution to “fight” Kony). In the midst of polemics, the Kony issue faded away.
So what really is the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and what has it become since 2012?
The story of the LRA starts with Kony himself. Joseph Kony is an Ugandan of the Acholi ethnic group, who from an early age was raised in a religious and Christian environment. When in 1986, Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army took power in Uganda (where he remained ever since), several members of the Acholi revolted against him, since the former President had been a member of their ethnic group. Furthermore, during the Ugandan Bush War (1981-1986), Museveni and his supporters had committed several crimes against the population as well.
Hence, at that time, Alice Lakwena, supposedly a relative of Kony, founded the Holy Spirit Movement a rebel group intended at ousting Museveni from power. Although the movement was crashed by the government, in 1987 Kony auto-proclaimed himself “prophet” of the Acholi people and took the command of the Holy Spirit Movement, which was later renamed the “Lord’s Resistance Army”.
Initially, the LRA enjoyed support in the North of Uganda, where an important part of the Acholi are settled in. Nevertheless, as support faded and resources got smaller, the LRA began to rob and sack the local populations. In the meantime, Kony combined traditional mysticism with religious beliefs to justify his acts.
In 1994, Sudan began to support the LRA, because Uganda was supporting Sudanese rebels. This was important for the movement to gain more strength, but it led Kony to pursue even more his quest for power, wishing to reestablish a new government in Uganda which would, paradoxically, be based on the Ten Commandments. Thus, the LRA began to terrorize the Ugandan population, based on the “prophecies” Kony said he received in his dreams. Torture, murders, mutilations, rapes and sacs became what the LRA was known for. Furthermore, they abducted many children and “brainwashed” them, in order to turn them into soldiers or slaves in the service of the LRA. Apparently, Kony would tell children that drinking Holy water would make them invincible to any attack and if they resisted the brainwash they were beaten to death by other children. According to several organizations, at least 30 000 children would have fallen prey to the LRA.
This led to the displacement of at least 2 million people inside Uganda, which pushed the government to create security camps in 1996, where the populations could hide and, especially, children.
In 2005, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the capture of Kony, which led Sudan to withdraw all its support to the LRA and pushed Kony to the negotiation table with Uganda in 2006. Nevertheless, for fear of being captured Kony almost never showed up to the different scheduled meetings, and the negotiations dragged on for years without the signature of a peace agreement. Eventually, Kony and the LRA mostly left Uganda, for the jungles in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Southern Sudan and to the Central African Republic. There, they pursued the atrocities that they had been committing already for years in Uganda.
Although there has been the Operation Lightning Thunder in 2008, a military operation led by different countries to try to stop the LRA, it was a total failure, not having been able to put a stop to the LRA and only driving it further into clandestinity. In retaliation, Kony ordered even more attacks by the LRA against local populations in all these central-African countries afore mentioned.
No one really knows where Kony is physically located right now, but in any case it is certain that the LRA is still causing a lot of damage, particularly in the Central African Republic and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Therefore, despite the criticism that could be addressed towards Kony 2012, it is undeniable that the Lord’s Resistance Army has committed brutal and barbarian acts all around the centre of Africa. In this article by The Independent, you can see some shocking photos of victims of the LRA. Also, the LRA Crisis Tracker is a good way to have an idea of the attacks perpetrated by this movement.