1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

The Lord's Resistance Army

Hilke Fischer and Coletta Wanjohi / ael
December 17, 2014

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group is led by Joseph Kony. It has been committing atrocities against civilians in parts of Africa for nearly three decades. The group claims to be fighting "in the name of God."

Image: Getty Images/AFP

The origins: resistance against the president

The "Lord's Resistance Army" was founded by Joseph Kony in 1987 in northern Uganda to fight against the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Among the first LRA fighters were northern Ugandans who were forced out of the army during Museveni's seizure of power. Their main goal was to establish a theocracy based on the Ten Commandments. They adopted a mix of Christian and esoteric ideology which they blended with traditional myths. But instead of observing commandments such as "Thou shalt not kill," the LRA committed bloody attacks against civilians. Since its foundation, the LRA is said to have abducted up to 70,000 children. Many of them are used by the militia as porters and are set free once they have reached their next destination. Others are forcibly recruited as fighters. To hinder them from escaping and returning to their villages, many boys are forced to shoot their own mothers. Girls and women are turned into sex slaves or wives of the fighters.

Displacement: from Uganda to Central Africa

With the support of the US, military operations forced Kony's militia to flee to Congolese territory and later to Central African Republic (CAR) and what is now South Sudan. According to the African Union (AU), the LRA has now only about 300 fighters. Most of them are located in CAR. Nevertheless, the number of people abducted by the LRA has recently risen again: 432 people were kidnapped by the LRA in the first nine months of 2014 alone, according to a United Nations' report. That's more than twice as many as in 2012.

Infografik LRA The Lord’s Resistance Army Englisch

No trace of LRA chief Kony

Joseph Kony is one of the most wanted militia leaders in the world. In 2012 the US-based organization "Invisible Children" became widely known for its film calling for action to be taken to stop Kony from continuing to carry out atrocities. The video was viewed nearly 100 million times. Under the African Union mandate, Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo have put together a regional fighting force, the AU-RTF, to take military action against the LRA. The United States provides logistical support to the four states. In March 2014, the US deployed two special aircraft and about 150 additional troops. But the soldiers are not engaging in combat unless it is for self-defense. So far rebel leader Kony remains at large. Much of the American high-tech equipment, such as a satellite surveillance system, is of little use in the dense jungle. LRA fighters have long stopped using traceable means of communication, relying on messengers instead. The area where the LRA operates is divided by several rivers. There are hardly any roads and villages are difficult to reach. Days can go by before soldiers hear about an LRA raid - and by the time they arrive on the scene, the attackers are long gone.

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

Tank firing at night
Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage