Killers without Borders: The LRA in the Congo
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Gérard Prunier is a widely acclaimed journalist as well as the Director of the French Centre for Ethiopian Studies in Addis Ababa. He has published over 120 articles and five books, including The Rwanda Crisis and Darfur. His most recent book, Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe focuses on Congo, the Rwandan genocide, and events that led to the death of some four million people. In this original post, Prunier discusses the history of the Joseph Kony led Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the ongoing conflict that led to almost 200 deaths this Christmas.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had its own way of celebrating Christmas: on December 25th it hacked an estimated 189 people to pieces in the Congolese town of Faradje, 80 km from the Sudanese border.
This homicidal explosion was a direct result of the combined attack by Congolese, Southern Sudanese, and Ugandan troops on the LRA stronghold in Garamba National Park in the DRC where the political-religious sect had been holed up for the past two years.
The LRA is made up of a semi-deranged leadership manipulating abducted illiterate children who have been brainwashed into committing atrocities. Indeed, its leader Joseph Kony has time and time again reneged on promises of turning up in Juba for peace talks with the Ugandan government, but the LRA’s murderous actions put it beyond the pale of civilized society. Beyond this moral judgment it remains for the social analyst to explain – not excuse – what is going on.
• Atrocious as it is, the LRA is the expression of the 23 year old alienation of the populations of Northern Uganda who have been punished beyond reason for the atrocities that they themselves visited upon the Southerners during the period of the Obote II and Okello governments (1980-1986). In spite of being preyed upon by the LRA vultures, the Northern Ugandan Acholi tribe still half supports it because it fights the Museveni regime.
• During its long history of fighting the Kampala government, the LRA has been aided and abetted by the Sudanese regime in Khartoum; not because it is Islamic (Kony’s confused “religion” is a hazy blend of Christianity, traditional cults, and messianic inventions), but because its is both a thorn in the side of Uganda and a problem for the potentially secessionist semi-autonomous government of Southern Sudan. Khartoum’s regime loves to mess things up towards the Great Lakes which it sees as an area of Islam’s future expansion.
• If we broaden our view even more, we can say that unfortunately the International Criminal Court which has indicted Kony and his officers for crimes against humanity (of which they are fully guilty) has cut off any avenue of negotiation with the cult leader who now prefers to die fighting than to end his days in prison in Europe.
• And last but not least, the LRA has acted as an evil magnet for all the social flotsam and jetsam resulting from years of war and insurgency in the whole region, from the Congo to Northern Uganda and from Southern Sudan to the Central African Republic. The LRA traffics in prohibited game animals, exploits various mines, and it gets money and weapons from Khartoum. Worse, it gives “employment” to disenfranchised young men (and even the girls it uses as servants and sex objects) who are left to fall through the supposed “safety net” of their inefficient governments and of a bewildered and slow-moving “international community.”
The tragic dimension of the LRA saga is a direct expression of the situation in Central Africa where neither guns nor diplomatic action seem to get anywhere. Given Kony’s messianic bend the best solution might be an exorcist.