Who are the LRA?
Some information on Joseph Kony and the LRA.
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.