For more than 20 years, the Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader Joseph Kony have wreaked havoc on civilian communities across central Africa. What began in 1989 as a rebellion based in northern Uganda has morphed into a regional insurgency that now terrorizes civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, southern Sudan, and the Central African Republic.
The LRA has abducted large numbers of civilians for training as guerrillas; most victims were children and young adults. The LRA abducted young girls as sex and labor slaves. Other children, mainly girls, were reported to have been sold, traded, or given as gifts by the LRA to arms dealers in Sudan. While some later escaped or were rescued, the whereabouts of many children remain unknown.
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 place the number of abducted children still held captive by the LRA at around 3,000, although estimates vary substantially.
Civil strife in the north has led to the violation of the rights of many members of the Acholi tribe, which is largely resident in the northern districts of Gulu and Kitgum. Both government forces and the LRA rebels--who themselves largely are Acholi--committed violations. LRA fighters in particular were implicated in the killing, maiming, and kidnaping of Alcholi tribe members, although the number and severity of their attacks decreased somewhat compared with 1997.
The LRA rebels say they are fighting for the establishment of a government based on the biblical Ten Commandments. They are notorious for kidnapping children and forcing them to become rebel fighters or concubines. More than one-half-million people in Uganda's Gulu and Kitgum districts have been displaced by the fighting and are living in temporary camps, protected by the army. The Ugandan government has in place a night time curfew and provides protected Internally Displaced Camps (IDC) which force the Acholi people of the north out of the rural agricultural area's leaving them dependent on aid. The IDC camps becoming a breeding ground for poverty and disease as there is no food or work and no sanitation running water or electricity.