The LRA: unresolved questions

LRA child soldiers

Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) was founded back in 1987 as an armed opposition against the Ugandan government. At that time they based themselves in South Sudan, but operated mainly in Uganda.

They became mostly known through their numerous abuses and atrocities against civilians, including the abduction, rape, maiming, and killing of defenseless people. They regularly kidnap children to enslave them as child prostitutes and soldiers in there so-called "army".

Since they were pushed out of North Uganda in 2005, the LRA has been terrorizing civilians in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), South Sudan and Uganda, hopping over the borders.

In February this year, the Ugandan army - apparently aided by the US - tried to root out the LRA from DRC. The LRA retreated, killing 900 civilians in the process (Full)

Even just a few days ago, the LRA kidnapped around 135 villagers, including children, during two attacks in DRC's North East. (Full)

I invite you to look at this excellent video, one of the very few interviews ever made with Kony, the LRA's leader.
It stroke me how the LRA seems to be mostly a loosely knit group of bandits, clearly with a wide network of informants, held together by the Thuraya telephone network. There is no clear goal nor ideology behind the LRA. When Kony was asked "why are you fighting?", he answered "for democracy", but it did not go any deeper than that.

Add to these impressions that their overall troop strength is estimated anywhere between 500 and 3,000 soldiers (half of them estimated to be women and children), I am left with only two, but fundamental questions:
  1. How come nobody has been able to smoke out this gang of bandits (wanted by the ICC - International Criminal Court by the way)? In this day and age where technology exists and is routinely used to track the movement of people using satellite phones? Why is there an apparent unwillingness of the international community to make an end to these atrocities, which, to top it all up, continue to contribute to the instability in Eastern Congo, one of the longest lasting conflicts in Africa?

  2. Who supports these rebels? They would not be able to operate without the financial and logistics backing of an entity. What entity? Who would contribute to an instable South Sudan, Uganda and DRC? Khartoum?
Picture courtesy Jacob Gelt Dekker

2 comments:

Peter (Worldman): 07 June, 2009 02:49  

Two very good questions. In particular number 1. There are so many "bad" guys around, we have all the technology to raise, to follow and to eliminate them.

Ed 07 June, 2009 06:10  

Your question "How come nobody has been able to smoke out this gang of bandits?" is the right one. The answer is only two words long - "Failed states". One observer has called many African countries "states in name only". They do not control their territory and in some cases have lost control of their own civil service. They are recognized by the UN and other nations, but they are nations mostly because of that recognition, not because they actually can carry out the functions of a nation.

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