Countering the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa by Andre Le Sage
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is one of Africa’s most brutal militia forces.1 It has plagued Central Africa, particularly northern Uganda, for over two decades. The group’s tactics provide textbook examples of war crimes and crimes against humanity. When attacking civilians, the LRA instills fear by selecting random individuals for brutal executions. Children are abducted to serve as porters, sex slaves, and new militia. In order to indoctrinate child soldiers, young abductees are routinely forced to kill their own family members and other children, or be murdered themselves. Anyone caught trying to escape from the LRA is summarily executed. By contrast with other African rebel groups, which occasionally adopt such brutal tactics, the LRA has conducted such atrocities on a systematic and prolonged basis.
With intelligence and operational planning support from the United States, in December 2008, the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) launched Operation Lightning Thunder to attack LRA bases in the Garamba National Park of northeastern Congo, where the LRA had been located since 2005. The initial attack was intended to overwhelm the LRA and decapitate its leadership with a combination of airborne assaults and ground troop movements.2 However, the top LRA leadership survived this initial attack, and LRA forces separated into small groups of dozens of fighters.
Nearly 2 years later, the LRA’s area of operations has extended deep into the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), southern Sudan, and Sudan’s Darfur region even though the LRA is now comprised of only several hundred members using small arms and light weapons.