For the past quarter of a century, 50-year-old Ugandan madman Joseph Kony who claims to have channeled the spirit of one of Idi Amin’s generals has led the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), designated a terrorist organization under the Patriot Act. The LRA’s monstrous depredations have terrorized millions of people in Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It acts in pursuit of Kony’s maniacal aim to seize power and supposedly rule by the Ten Commandments, though his and his groups’ actions and beliefs are inimical to the Judeo-Christian moral code. He has particular difficulty with “Thou shall not kill.”
In 2010, Congress passed a bill with bipartisan support calling on the president to take action against the LRA. On October 14, Pres. Obama informed Congress he had begun deploying one hundred military advisers to the central African region to work with local security forces in the four affected countries with the stated goal of “removing from the battlefield” Kony and other senior leadership of the LRA. This measure is long over due and should be applauded.
Kony is no “Christian missionary,” as some media insist on describing him. His rituals include elements of Christianity, Islam, and black magic. He boasts that he cuts off the lips. ears, noses and breasts of those who refuse to acknowledge him as a divine leader. He also amputates the feet of those who ride bicycles, and punishes those who eat white feathered chickens.
He preys on civilian villages, which his army loots for provisions, and where they hack to death and shoot the adults, and abduct the children. One of his main strategies has been to cleanse the land of adults, whom he deems untrustworthy, and start a new society with children. Reportedly, more than 85 percent of LRA captives are children, most between the ages of 11 and 16. Young males are indoctrinated and trained for combat, and girls are used as sex slaves and beasts of burden for Kony and his commanders.
Estimates of the numbers of children abducted range between over 30,000, according to the UN, and 66,000 in Uganda alone, according to the Survey for War Affected Children. Millions of people have fled the LRA into refugee camps, which are also sometimes raided. Over two million Ugandans have had to flee their homes, in addition to the 400,000 currently displaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. UNICEF reported that over the years thousands of children became “night dwellers,” walking five miles or more each night to seek shelter in urban centers.
The deeply traumatized thousands of children who have escaped enslavement tell of witnessing, or even being forced to participate in, the clubbing to death of their mothers and fathers. Mothers who have been raped witness the bayoneting of their infants. The captives are forced to torture and kill other children caught trying to escape. Always on the move with the LRA leaders in the jungles and swamps of central Africa, they suffer repeated rape, beatings, and deprivation of every kind.
The LRA has reportedly caused as many as 200,000 deaths, most from disease and malnutrition but increasingly resulting from violent attacks on villagers. Human rights reports state that the LRA killed over 2,000 in the past year in such attacks. In the Haute Uele district of the DRC, 865 people were killed by the LRA from December 24, 2008 when 50 Catholic villagers were killed at a Christmas Mass to January 17, 2009.
The dynamic 46-year-old Catholic bishop Edward Hiiboro of Tambura-Yambio in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state, along the lush Central African and Congolese borders, told me that his 31,000 square mile diocese would be a veritable “garden of Eden” but for the raids of the LRA. #more#In 2009, he said, a large LRA gang stormed into Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in the town of Ezo, abducting 17 teens and young people. Shortly afterwards, one of them, a young man, was found dead after being tied to a tree and mutilated.and 13 others remained missing a month later. A few days later, in the nearby town of Nzara, six people walking in a forest were ambushed and killed by being nailed to pieces of wood fastened to the ground, that is, crucified. Bishop Hiiboro organized a three day prayer vigil involving Christians of all denominations, in which 20,000 people walked two miles barefoot and in sackcloth and ashes in silent protest against the lack of protection provided them.
Ugandan and other of the region’s armies have sporadically and unsuccessfully tried to get Kony. Poorly trained and equipped, these armies have also faced the complication that LRA combatants are mostly children, who are also victims. In 2005, the International Criminal Court at The Hague issued arrest warrants for Kony and his top commanders for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including enslavement, sexual slavery, rape, murder, intentionally directing an attack against the civilian population, enlisting children and pillaging. However, the court has no enforcement power.
Though armed and at times protected by northern Sudan’s General Bashir, Kony would be no match for America’s highly trained security forces. A past US advisory effort initiated under the Bush administration failed; hopefully this one will be better prepared. Kony and his diabolical operation have been allowed to maraud for too long.