SEPTEMBER 3, 2009: Resisting the LRA

Resisting the Lord's Army

As the Lord's Resistance Army steps up its brutality against civilians in response to failed peace talks and military efforts to end the violence, African governments seek to join forces against the group and the UN promises new peacekeeping mandates, Edoardo Totolo writes for ISN Security Watch.

After being chased out of Uganda in 2006, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) - a rebel group fighting for the establishment of a Bible-based theocracy in Uganda - has become a major threat for people living in the vast area between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), southern Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR).

The LRA is causing massive destruction across the region. In the DRC, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates that 125,000 people have been displaced over the past three weeks alone, and since September last year, a shocking 540,000 people have been displaced.

The violence is on the rise also in Sudan's Western Equatoria State, where humanitarian agencies were forced to stop their operations, and in the CAR - the second poorest country in the world - where the LRA is killing and looting communities already suffering a severe humanitarian crisis.

The exact size of the LRA is not known, and estimates put their numbers anywhere between 500 to 3,000 soldiers - most of them abducted children - scattered in small groups in the three countries. Its leader, Joseph Kony - wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2005 - is believed to be hiding in the CAR.

Analysts say that the LRA would not be able to operate on such a large scale without external support, and Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was accused of being Kony's closest ally during the 1990s, providing him with arms and other equipment to fuel conflict in the region. At the same time, al-Bashir has accused Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni of supporting the Sudan's People Liberation Army (SPLF), a rebel group fighting for the independence of southern Sudan from the central government.

Both sides have always denied all allegations. However, south Sudanese leaders recently accused Khartoum of continuing to provide intelligence and logistical assistance to the LRA...

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