The Lord's Resistance Army's new reign of terror

One of Africa's most feared militias, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), has carried out a campaign of mass abductions on both sides of the remote border between the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to a human rights monitor.

Dozens of villages have been attacked, looted and burned, a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed, while villagers have been tortured, their skulls crushed with clubs. Survivors have been tied up and marched into the jungle in human chains to serve as sex slaves, porters or fighters for the group. One-third of the nearly 700 civilians taken were reportedly children.

"The LRA continues its horrific campaign to replenish its ranks by brutally tearing children from their villages and forcing them to fight," said Anneke Van Woudenberg of the New York-based watchdog. "The evidence points to Joseph Kony, the LRA leader, as the author of this atrocious campaign."

The messianic cult began as an ethnic uprising against the government in Kampala but was pushed out of Uganda into DRC in 2005. Since then, the LRA has foraged along the inaccessible border areas of Congo, South Sudan and CAR and even as far as southern Darfur last year.

International concern over the group prompted the US Congress to pass a bill in May aimed at curbing their activities in central Africa. The Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act calls on the Obama administration to devise a strategy with local governments for ending the violence.

Uganda led a regional military campaign against the militia last November, but Operation Lightning Thunder failed to end the killings or capture the LRA leadership. Soon afterwards the dispersed militia fighters carried out an apparent revenge massacre in Makombo, northern Congo, killing 345 people. A similar spate of killings a year earlier left 865 people dead.

The failure to tackle the LRA is blamed by regional governments on the impossibility of policing remote jungle areas. Officials in southern Sudan accuse the northern leadership in Khartoum of backing Mr Kony in order to destabilise their southern flank. Some opposition figures in Uganda have questioned the commitment of President Yoweri Museveni to ending the LRA's activities – accusing him of using the threat of the militia as cover for internal repression.

The LRA operates in small, self-contained units and has become adept at living off the land, emptying civilian areas, pillaging entire districts for basic supplies and enslaving civilians on a huge scale. Captured children are often forced to kill their own parents, while those who are too weak for forced labour or high-speed marches are clubbed to death to save bullets. Thousands of women and children have been used as sex slaves by the group's leadership.

One 12-year-old Congolese girl said she was forced to participate in killing dozens of adults used to porter stolen goods to an LRA camp, to prevent them from revealing its location. "The LRA tied the hands of the victims behind their back, a cord around their legs and placed the victims face down on the ground," she told HRW. "Then the LRA would give us children a heavy wooden stick and force us to beat them on the head till they died."

The UN's peacekeeping mission in DRC has been called on to increase its protection of civilians. Past efforts to negotiate the surrender of the LRA have foundered on international insistence that the leadership must be arrested and transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to face trial for crimes against humanity.

Gentle boy to Psychopath

* The self-styled "prophet" Joseph Kony is an elusive and terrifying figure. Born in 1961, he inherited his mantle as leader of the Acholi people from his aunt, a mystic who started a rebellion in Uganda. Although it initially enjoyed popular backing, the rebel LRA long ago lost support after a brutal and incoherent campaign to "purify" the Acholi and turn Uganda into a theocracy ruled by the Ten Commandments.

* Kony has nurtured a cult of personality, claiming he is visited by a multinational host of 13 spirits, including a Chinese phantom. Former abductees speak in awed terms of his "magical powers". He is said to have taken up to 60 wives and fathered countless children.

* A school dropout described by former classmates as a "gentle boy" and a "brilliant" dancer who liked football, he became a traditional healer before taking up arms against the Ugandan government in 1988, following in his aunt's footsteps.

* He has since become one of the most sadistic leaders in Africa. In 2005, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest for crimes against humanity.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

MBDA UK Ltd: Electronic Sub-System Design Verification engineer

Flexible working, annual bonus, pension & more.: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the oppor...

MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Architect

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? MBDA has e...

MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Design Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity?MBDA has en...

MBDA UK Ltd: PCB Technologies Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity?MBDA has en...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor