The Lord’s Resistant Army (LRA) is an insurgency group that has waged a guerilla war aimed at toppling the Ugandan legitimate government since 1987. The rebel group used to operate in three countries including the Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan, and the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The LRA is based on religious beliefs and it is led by Joseph Kony who has proclaimed himself as the spiritual and political leader of the insurgency.
The main aim of the LRA is to overhaul the current government from power and establish a theocratic state which shall be founded on the Ten Commandments as elaborated in the Christian Bible and the traditions of the Acholi. The Acholi is a tribal group that is found in northern Uganda. The LRA has presented one of the longest conflicts in Africa and has caused havoc amongst the residents of this particular region which has resulted in a great humanitarian crisis. The LRA has been accused of grave human rights violation, political and economical upheavals in the region .
There have been ceasefire negotiations between the leadership of the LRA and the Ugandan government which has ended in disarray as the LRA seems not ready to commit to peace. At the moment, the LRA has its headquarters in the DR Congo after moving from Southern Sudan. This paper shall examine the impacts of the LRA on the economy and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo through its activities. Origin: The origins of the LRA can be traced back to the late 1980s after the overthrow of President Tito Okello.
In the year 1987, Joseph Kony founded the United Holy Salvation Army but the movement was to change its identity in 1989 before finally settling for the Lord’s Resistance Army in the year 1992 . Kony broke away from a rebel group known as Uganda People’s Democratic Army (UPDA) in the year 1987. He established his independent division in November of the same year to carry out his operations backed by his supporters. His initial troops were what had remained of the Holy Spirit Movement (HSM).
Following the signing of the Gulu Peace Accord between the Ugandan government and the UPDA, part of the faction which refused to surrender their arms from the UPDA joined Kony. Initially, the group was known as United Holy Salvation Army and later changed to Uganda Democratic Christian Army/Movement before settling for the Lord’s Resistance Army . Causes: The LRA established itself as a stronger movement when there was unrest in Northern Uganda after Yoweri Museveni had risen to power when the National Resistance Army/Movement (NRA/M) deposed President Tito Okello in 1986 .
The coup d’etat led to the reactivation of the already deep-rooted tensions that had historically existed between the North and the South. The leadership of the NRA/M was typically from the South whereas President Okello and his predecessor, President Obote had come from the North . Another cause of the insurgency in the North is believed to be the militarized culture of Ugandan politics of the time. This is because the Ugandan political scene had witnessed violent power struggles in succession ever since independence.
There was inadequacy in the institutions to address the political and economical challenges facing the country . Initially, there were small pockets of resistance in the northern Uganda which were then mobilized to form groups and this was driven by the anti-government sentiments from the people of the north . It must be noted that the indiscipline and restless soldiers that came from the Obote and Okello regimes were sent home and those from the north provided the LRA with the best recruiting base.
The first groups to be formed included the Uganda’s People’s Democratic Army (UPDA) and the Holy Spirit Movement (HSM) which was dominated by the Northern tribe of the Acholi people . The HSM was defeated by the government forces in the year 1986 and the government struck a deal with the UPDA in 1988 leaving power vacuum amongst the resistance groups in the north. This facilitated the formation of the LRA with its members vowing to fight the evil spirits that had afflicted Uganda by fighting what was regarded as morally impure NRA forces .
The rebellion was organized based on the western military culture, the Acholi religious traditions and the messianic Christian enthusiasm . Kony who was a relative to the founder of HSM, Alice Auma ‘Lakwena’ became its leader and modeled the LRA by combining the cult with the military organization . Objectives: The LRA has advanced claims that it is spiritually guided by God via the self proclaimed prophet cum leader of the resistance, Joseph Kony. The leader, Kony has been refining the objectives of the LRA over time but the original objectives were based on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Movement’s messianic project .
The HSM had the primary objective of overthrowing the Yoweri Museveni government and establish a radical theocracy based on Christianity principles as defined by the Ten Commandants. This was to lead to the establishment of an independent state in the Northern Uganda to be known as ‘The Nile Republic’ . In the years 1982 to 1992, the LRA reviewed its objectives to address the realities that were observed in the north which was characterized by widespread economic deficiency together with addressing the past historical atrocities that had been committed by the undisciplined NRA detachments .
The LRA has then rescinded from its exclusive religious calling and now focuses on defending the northern population particularly the Acholis from the rule of President Museveni. The LRA uses guerilla tactics and mainly targets the civilian population as they avoid direct confrontation with the Ugandan forces. Targeting of the civilian population by the LRA was opted for after the civilians were backed by the government to defend themselves against the LRA in the early 1990s . The local population had been allowed to use bows and arrows and organized in civil-defense units to resist against the LRA.
In general, the LRA has been accused of lacking a clear cut political objective. This has been endorsed by the extreme violence and erratic behavior which suggests lack of credibility to the movement. The LRA has been regarded as being advanced by a barbaric and uncouth cult. Some people however have dismissed this and argued that the LRA has actually articulated its demands. This is backed by the circulation of manifestoes and pamphlets in the media and also the existence of the LRA Radio station though for a brief moment .
Structural Organization: The LRA is headed by its leader Joseph Kony who combines as the military, spiritual, and political leader. Kony has however devolved much of the decision making commands to his juniors in the hierarchy . This makes the LRA as a loosely structured organization but which gives the fighters clinical definitions by the use of spiritual indoctrination which mandates the fight for the northern part of Uganda. The LRA leadership shares responsibilities regarding the implementation of its operations in the north.
They believe that their orders come from the spiritual world and revealed through Joseph Kony who is the ‘Holy Messenger’ . These orders are then given to the ‘Holy Chief’ who happens to be the army commander of the group. The message received is then translated into orders and passed to the military command for implementation. The message follows the chain of command until it reaches the lower divisions, the brigades, and the subordinates . The LRA has 5 contingents which include Strocree, Sinia, Gilva, Shila and the Control Alter .
Their operations are endowed in the decentralized and highly mobile units. Their fighters are known to infiltrate an area which they are assigned in units of between 100 and 150 individuals and later disintegrate into smaller groups of about ten or twenty members. Such guerilla tactics ensures the control of a vast territory using few fighters. The LRA is known to rely on child soldiers who are abducted and forced to join the fighters . Some of those abducted are used as sex slaves and porters apart from being recruited to join the fighters.
It has been alleged that those abducted are required to commit atrocities against humanity so as to prove their allegiance to the group . After committing such crimes, it is believed that those involved will develop fear in the young recruits and consequently discouraging them from defecting. There is the external political wing of the LRA known as Lord’s Resistance Movement which is currently based in Kenya even though it is argued that the two are not related and that the LRM has no mandate to issue statements on behalf of the LRA which is based in D.
R. Congo . Leadership: The Leadership of the Lord’s Resistance Army is closely linked to Joseph Kony. Kony was born in the year 1961 in Odek which is found in the southeast of Gulu District in northern Uganda. He was born in a peasantry family and dropped out of school after six years. He started practicing traditional medicine as a healer like his father and brother when he dropped out of school. His involvement in the activities of the LRA started when in 1987; he joined UPDA’s Major Benjamin Apia’s ‘black battalion’ as a ‘spiritual mobilizer’.
Kony has advanced claims that he is Godsend to liberate the Acholis. Kony claims of the spiritual visions and the fact that he is usually guided by various spirits in leading and guiding the LRA. In the public domain however, the self proclaimed prophet rarely speaks of the spiritual angle of the struggles in liberating the Acholi people. The spiritual powers of Kony are however revered by the LRA members and bring about respect, obedience and fear . The Horrors of LRA: The LRA used to operate in the northern part of Uganda with its base in Southern Sudan .
The main aim of the LRA is to destabilize the government influence in northern Uganda. The LRA used to get aid from the government of Sudan until an agreement was signed between the Ugandan and Sudanese government which called for both governments to stop backing rebels that were based in their respective countries . With the stabilization of the situation in Southern Sudan following the signing of a peace accord between the Sudanese peoples Liberation Army/Movement and the government in Khartoum, the LRA base in Southern Sudan became inhabitable. The LRA then moved to the eastern part of D.
R. Congo where it has established its headquarters owing to the volatile political scenario in the country . The LRA has continued to terrorize people in northern Uganda while carrying out raids on the civilian population. The LRA engages in the killing of innocent people torturing, maiming innocent people and raping women . It is also engaged in the abduction of civilians and the enslavement of children. Though the LRA does not threaten the stability of the government in Uganda, it does harass the government forces, and is engaged in the murdering and kidnapping of civilians .
The local government officials and employees are also targeted by the LRA guerillas. The LRA has also targeted the international humanitarian aid groups and the local non-governmental organizations engaged in humanitarian missions in the northern part of Uganda. The LRA abducts children and young adults and forcefully train them as guerillas. The young females who are abducted are usually turned to sex and labor slaves . There are reports that some of the children especially girls have been used in trading for arms with arms dealers.
The LRA in particular has engaged in the abduction of children who are then terrorized and forced into slavery, concubines and in the military. Apart from being beaten, raped and walking long distances, some of the children are forced to participate in the killing of others who attempts to escape from the clandestine bases . According to the Amnesty International, child abduction has ensured that the LRA has a continuous flow of soldiers without which the LRA would be having very few combatants.
It is estimated that more than 6000 children were abducted in the year 1998 though most of the abductees escaped or got released . However, according to majority of the human rights non-governmental organizations in northern Uganda, about 3000 children are held as captives by the LRA . The LRA has led to civil strife in the northern part of Uganda with the rights of the people in this region being violated by both the LRA and the government forces. The LRA rebels bear the greatest accusations of human rights violation in the region.
The LRA has engaged in civilian atrocities in the region aimed at discouraging foreign investments and precipitate a crisis in the region . Impacts of LRA in the DRC: The LRA has been in existence for more than two decades and it has continued to wreck havoc on the civilian communities not only in Uganda but also in the neighboring countries including Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Without any clear political agenda, the LRA has engaged in violence directed towards civilian population.
This in turn has created a scary atmosphere amongst investors and political havoc in the areas of operation of this rebel group. Since the LRA moved to the Eastern DRC, the woes of the conflict prone DRC have been increased and the area still remains susceptible to the brutal violence and activities of the militia group . The economic potential of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been great since independence but it has remained not fully exploited due to the conflicts that have continued to characterize the political scenario of the country .
After gaining independence, the DRC, then known as Zaire, had a healthy economy that came only second to South Africa’s in the African region . The mining sector in particular was the major contributor to the thriving economy which was aided by the agricultural sector. The conflict situation in the DRC has however made it difficult for the country to develop economically as different factions have engaged in fighting over the control of mineral resources found in the country . This has greatly hampered the stability of the country and thus discouraged investments in the infrastructure of the region for economical development.
However with the recent signing of the peace accord between the Kabila government and the rebels has promised the return of normalcy though at very slow pace. The eastern DRC has however been a great challenge to the peace process in the region especially with the rebel groups like that led by Laurent Nkunda continues to wage attacks on the government and the United Nation peace keeping forces . The entrance of the LRA in Eastern DR Congo has exacerbated the matter and the area has become more volatile for any political and economical development .
The LRA has added to the woes of the DR Congo by engaging in its trademark atrocities in the region. The LRA has therefore caused a wave of panic in Niangara region of the Eastern DRC. Though there numbers are few, the LRA units are believed to have been scattered across the northeastern part of the DRC especially in the Orientale Province . Their terror activities have led to the displacement of over 300,000 individuals from their homes and fields to the uncertain urban areas. The LRA has spread into the forested areas and is engaged in guerrilla activities which have caused panic in the residence of the Orientale Province.
The rebel group uses the extreme brutality as a survival strategy and according to the United Nations Integrated Information Networks (UN-IRIN), the LRA has murdered well over 2,000 people in the province stating December 2007 . The districts that have bared the most atrocities include Haut and Bas-Uele. There was a botched raid that was carried in the region in the year 2008 to fight back the LRA which left the rebel group dispersed in small groups which live in the forested areas and are independent from one another.
The LRA fighters in the DR Congo are therefore dependant on the local population for survival . This is achieved by carrying out raids on the local population and stealing their produce. The local population on the other hand is not willing to share the little that they have with a rebellious group which is not fighting for their course and therefore opt to move out and leave for safer grounds. This has negatively impacted on the economical status of the region as individuals continue to accumulate in the internally displaced camps. This means that the economical potential of the region is left under-exploited .
The infrastructures in the eastern DR Congo have remained in a stalemate for quite a long time. Ever since the conflict ensued in the DR Congo, the general infrastructure was left un-attended to and the situation in the eastern part of the country is even worse . This is because of the perennial conflicts in the region which has discouraged investors. The internal rebellious groups in the country have made it impossible for development partners and the government to invest in the region and open up the possibilities for economical exploitation of the region.
It must be noted that the eastern part of the DR Congo is endowed with a wealth of mineral resources which has been accused of fueling the conflicts in the region. The entrance of the LRA in the region has fuelled the conflict and added a new dimension to conflict resolution efforts in the area . The LRA is engaged in brutal massacres in the DR Congo and also uses calculative brutal attacks on the local population. The LRA has been reported to cut lips of the local residence while carrying out its raids on the civilians.
The logic behind these brutal tactics has been speculated to instill fear in the residence so that they do not provide useful information to the authorities that may lead to the capture of the perpetrators. According to the United Nation humanitarian chief, John Holmes, by February this year alone, well over 400 individuals have perished at the hands of the LRA . Development in the region has remained low and reportedly there is no security in the area, the roads are barely accessible and communication infrastructure is almost non-existent . This does not make the region economically competitive despite its great potential.
On the political front, the DR Congo has remained politically unstable for a long time since independence. There have been coup after coup and the country has remained relatively unstable in the political sense. However, the signing of a peace accord between the Kabila government and the rebel groups has been on course to bring about some sanity in the politics of the country . This has however been hampered by some rebellious groups especially in the Eastern Congo led by Laurent Nkunda who have continued fighting the government and the UN peacekeeping force .
The entrance of the LRA in the eastern region of the DR Congo has however added to the challenges that are faced by the Kinshasa government in its role to return the country to normalcy. The LRA guerrillas are determined to establish a haven in the DR Congo where the government seems overwhelmed to establish a tight grip on its vast territory . The LRA has therefore continued to benefit from the political turmoil that has characterized the DR Congo government and it must be its wish for the conflicts in the DR Congo to persist so as to continue existing in the country.
With lack of tight control in the eastern region, the government faces another challenge of getting rid of the LRA. The LRA has taken this opportunity to cause more troubles for the government by creating havoc that has led to more people being displaced and thus adding to the woes of the government . Conclusion: The LRA has caused a lot of problems not only to the Ugandan people and government but also in the neighboring region as well. The rebel group has been operating in neighboring countries such as Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad, and the DR Congo.
After massive operations in the north of Uganda by the government forces and diminishing support from the Sudanese government, the LRA opted to move to the DR Congo where they have established a base. This has greatly contributed to the economic and political troubles that have been characteristic in the DR Congo. The United Nation and the world at large has to come together in combating this rebel group for it has and continues to cause economical, political and humanitarian damages to the regional governments and civilian population.
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