The Lord’s Resistance Army is the primary rebel group in northern Uganda and New (South) Sudan. Led by native Ugandan
Joseph Kony, the group formed in 1987 after a presidential coup in Uganda created serious unrest in the northern Acholi region.
Another former rebel leader named Odong Latek taught Kony to use guerilla warfare tactics as a means of instilling fear into
innocent citizens, specifically by attacking unarmed villages. The objective was to demonstrate the ineptitude of the Ugandan
government forces in defending their own people. This convoluted method of fighting worked as a political tactic as well,
terrorizing the villagers into believing the only way to remain safe was to pledge their allegiance to the LRA. At the time the LRA
was actually met with support from the people because other rebel groups in the area had even more brutal reputations.
The LRA was at its strongest from 1994 to 1998 when it moved its base of operations to Sudan. After a series of disarmament
attempts by the Ugandan government and a number of fruitless peace talks, the LRA found refuge just past the northern border.
During this time the LRA became increasingly violent and began its insidious tradition of torture and mutilations including cutting
off noses, lips, limbs, ears, and breasts of defenseless civilians. This period also marked the beginning of child abductions when
the rebels attacked and kidnapped children in broad daylight from their school classrooms.
For the captured boys, the assigned vocation could be carrying supplies, keeping watch at night, guarding the other child
soldiers to make sure they do not escape, and maintaining the weapons. Because they are expendable, the children are often the
first line sent to kill citizens of the villages they raid. If they disobey orders or fail to perform any of these tasks to the ridiculous
and flippant standards of their “bosses,” they lose their lips, ears, or noses to a machete. It is not uncommon for the defiant to
suffer the fate of their weaker kidnapped counterparts.
The girls, however, are often taken as wives or sex slaves at the age of 12, sometimes younger, and gang raped repeatedly.
Others are trafficked to arms dealers in Sudan as payment or as gifts. A few are also used as soldiers or as target practice.
Abductions led to an army comprised of over 3,000 child combatants who not only terrified families in the area, but whose
kidnappings posed a particularly difficult moral dilemma to government authorities. While these brainwashed child combatants,
were regularly killing government soldiers as they had been trained to do, the government’s attacks against the LRA were now
equivalent to the slaughtering of innocent children. This cowardly action on the part of the LRA virtually tied the hands of any
group who wanted to militarily oppose Kony and his men.
The LRA subsequently moved back into Uganda in 2002 and began a massacre that resulted in the deaths and mutilations of tens
of thousands and the displacement of almost two million citizens. More failed diplomatic actions took place and the conflict finally
caught the attention of the United Nations. According to Jan Egeland, former United Nations Undersecretary-General for
Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kony’s “war in Northern Uganda [was] the world’s most neglected
humanitarian crisis.” Egeland later added, “I’ve been working with human rights, peace, and humanitarian problems for 25 years. I
was shocked to my bones, seeing what happened in Uganda. For me, this is one of the biggest scandals of our time and
The International Criminal Court also took note and issued an arrest warrant for Joesph Kony including 33 counts of “crimes
against humanity and war crimes committed in Uganda.” Among the specific accusations were “sexual enslavement,” “rape,”
“inhuman acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering,” and “forced enlisting of children.” Four other LRA leaders were
also brought up on similar charges.
To date, Kony and the LRA leaders have effectively eluded any authority with the ability to bring them to justice. Jan Egeland was
able to coordinate a meeting with Kony in November of 2006; one of only a hand full of such meetings during his 22-year reign of
terror. The 10-mintue meeting was set in the LRA territory under the conditions that child combatants would be released. Kony was
three hours late and never released any of the children.
Today Kony is still at large and the LRA continues to instill fear in the lives of citizens of Uganda and South Sudan. Over 3,000
children are currently missing and believed to be in the hands of the LRA soldiers.