Who are the LRA?

Some information on Joseph Kony and the LRA.

The announcement today that the US would be sending roughly 100 US troops to Uganda to aid in the conflict against the LRA (the Lord’s Resistance Army), the question arise as to whom the LRA are.

In basic terms, the LRA is a militant (guerrilla/terrorist/etc.) group in Uganda led by Joseph Kony.  Kony claims to be led by the Holy Spirit in a quest to bring the rule of the Ten Commandments to Uganda (amongst other things).   The group has been in operation since 1987 and emerged from a similarly oriented group, the so-called Holy Spirit Movement led by Kony’s aunt (or cousin, depending on reports), Alice Lakewenya, that was formed in 1986.  The groups in question are also linked to ethnic divisions within Uganda (specifically, the LRA claims to protect the Acholi people).

A BBC profile of Kony describes him thusly:

A former Catholic altar boy from northern Uganda, Joseph Kony has waged war against the government of President Yoweri Museveni for almost two decades.


Born in the early 1960s in Odek, a village east of Gulu, Mr Kony is remembered as an amiable boy.

“He played football and was a brilliant dancer,” one of his former classmates said, recalling the rebel leader’s days at Odek primary.

He is thought to be the cousin of Alice Lakwena, a former prostitute who formed the Holy Spirit Movement in 1986.

This group represented the Acholi people who felt excluded from power after the overthrow of the northern leader, Milton Obote, by Mr Museveni.


Mr Kony himself is thought to have at least 60 wives, as he and his senior commanders take the pick of the girls they capture.

In regards to how Kony and the LRA operate, one of the many crimes of which they are accused are the forced recruitment and deployment of child soldiers.  Again, the BBC (from a 2004 profile):

Twenty-thousand children have been abducted – often forced to kill their own parents so they have no way back.

They are used as expendable troops – frequently not even given guns to fight with.

And, a write-up from Global Security:

In particular, the LRA abducted numerous children and, at clandestine bases, terrorized them into virtual slavery as guards, concubines, and soldiers. In addition to being beaten, raped, and forced to march until exhausted, abducted children were forced to participate in the killing of other children who had attempted to escape. Amnesty International reported that without child abductions, the LRA would have few combatants. More than 6,000 children were abducted during 1998, although many of those abducted later escaped or were released. Most human rights NGOs placed the number of abducted children held captive by the LRA at around 3,000, although estimates varied substantially.

This is an especially heinous organization, although precisely why at this moment the US is involving itself in regards to them is unclear.

More from WaPo:  Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army: a primer.

FILED UNDER: Africa, US Politics, World Politics, , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Jay Tea says:

    Steven, there are a LOT of crazy militant groups in the world. The majority of which are Muslim-inspired.

    Obama managed to find one that claims to be nominally Christian.

    That’s a hell of a remarkable thing.


  2. Ben Wolf says:

    @Jay Tea:

    Islamic terrorist organizations we deploy against:

    Al-Qa’ida (Global)
    Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) (International, Palestinian)
    Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (Palestinian)
    HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement) (Palestinian)
    Islamic Jihad Group (Palestinian)
    Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) (Palestinian)
    Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) (Palestinian)
    PFLP-General Command (PFLP-GC) (Palestinian)
    Ansar al-Islam (Iraqi Kurdistan)
    Kata’ib Hezbollah (Iraq)
    Kongra-Gel (formerly Kurdistan Workers’ Party) (KGK, formerly PKK, KADEK, Kongra-Gel) (Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria)
    Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (QJBR) (al-Qaida in Iraq) (formerly Jama’at al-Tawhid wa’al-Jihad, JTJ, al-Zarqawi Network) (Iraq)
    Asbat an-Ansar (Lebanon)
    Hezbollah (Party of God) (Lebanon)

    Christian terrorist organizations we deploy against:


    Yes, that’s quite remarkable.

  3. BigFire says:

    Steve, perhaps Obama watched Machine Gun Preacher and felt inspired to do something about it.

  4. @Jay Tea: I fear you are looking at this through your partisan lens along with your anti-Muslim one.

    Can you explain to me how any of your comments are relevant save for the hope of trying to score partisan points/get in a dig at Obama/try to bolster your general anti-Muslim positions?

  5. ponce says:

    Obama managed to find one that claims to be nominally Christian.

    Oh dear, the god botherers don’t like their primitive superstitions being attacked, do they?

    Doncha know their flavor of nuttiness is the real religion of peace?

    I think Obama has launched this latest crusade to put pressure on the Republican members of the debt super committee who are willing to accept huge cuts to the defense budget if it means they can make some more brown people suffer.

  6. An Interested Party says:

    Can you explain to me how any of your comments are relevant save for the hope of trying to score partisan points/get in a dig at Obama/try to bolster your general anti-Muslim positions?

    Come now, Steven…when does Jay ever not try to trash the President, score cheap partisan points, and, of course, trash Islam…

  7. anjin-san says:

    Jay Tea seems to feel some resonance with the LRA.

    That’s a hell of a remarkable thing.

  8. Jay Tea says:

    First up, a little housekeeping:

    @Ben Wolf: I dunno where you cut and paste that list, but we are NOT “deployed” against several of those groups. Hell, we’re being pressured to do business with Hamas and Hezbollah, as they are both de facto governments.

    Now, for the serious part:

    @Steven L. Taylor: (blush) yeah, pretty much. Let me walk that back to IF we are going to deploy against any group, they’re at the top of the list of worthies. I’d heard bits and pieces about them, and didn’t make the connection so late at night (well, for me), but I shoulda held back at first.

    I still find myself wondering if we need a FOURTH conflict to get in on, and question the general wisdom — but not this particular selection.


  9. Ben Wolf says:

    @Jay Tea: We run either military or intelligence ops agaimst each and every one.

  10. steve says:

    Steve- You forgot to mention the nuttiness about the sheep. I have been following the LRA since SNLII commented about them at Exum’s place. Really nutty group.


  11. Horatius says:


    You know that if Obama manages to get his jobs bill through, you know you can leave your day job trolling websites and get a real job right? One that may even support your meth addiction.

  12. mattb says:

    As I mentioned on another thread, how might the decision to go after this group resemble, for example, past interventions in South and Central American — with the Sandinista Rebels for example? It seems to me that if we count this as a war front, how might that require us to rethink past military programs?

  13. @mattb: It is extremely different than the Nicaragua situation, where the US trained an insurgent group and launched them from foreign territory (Honduras) into Nicaragua).

    There is a parallel with Colombia (as well as probably a dozen other examples). It would be a lesser involvement than is currently the case in Colombia.

  14. mattb says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Got it.

    I couldn’t help but wonder last night if this is a sign that Africa may become the next “South America” in terms of active US military advisement/”soft” intervention.

  15. mannning says:

    Seems that the consensus here is that it is a small conflict, will remain small, and it will be successful with 100 or so SF men as advisors. Why don’t I believe this nonsense? A few advisors that soon advise with their weapons and call for reenforcements would be my guess, ending up with a significant deployment of our forces. I wonder whether the size of the force was predicated on politics or realistic military assessment and recomendation. My bet is on the politics. Unless this force more or less stays out of exposure to the opposition they will be decimated one at a time, or else in one big boom, as has happened in Uganda before.
    Uganda supposedly has about 45,000 troops already, and have been fighting the LRA for years. There are some 33 million people in Uganda, which is enough to muster a significant additional force.

  16. matt says:

    @Jay Tea: Dude this is just one of the groups in the rather large list I end up having to paste every time you claim there’s no Christian terrorists….

  17. Axel Edgren says:

    So when will Europe get to send troops against the people threatening and harassing abortion doctors in the US?

  18. Catfish says:

    I thought that’s what the drones are for.

  19. Miguel Madeira says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    At least the PFLP are directed by Christians (or atheist-Communists-born-Christians).