Joseph Kony’s LRA abducts scores of child soldiers in new wave of attacks

Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army Photo: 

The Lord’s Resistance Army has carried out more raids in Central Africa in the first two months of 2016 than during the whole of last year

Rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have dramatically escalated their attacks, abducting more than 200 people – including 54 children – in the first two months of this year.

The LRA carried out twice as many raids in January and February alone as during the whole of 2015, according to “LRA Crisis Tracker”.

The rebel movement founded by Joseph Kony, the Ugandan warlord, had been seen as a vanquished force after high-level defections and an offensive by African armies, backed by US Special Forces. The LRA had been reduced to as few as 120 fighters and 100 accompanying women and children.

Kony himself was thought to be hiding in Kafia Kingi, an area of South Sudan under the de facto control of the army of neighbouring Sudan. He was keeping his fighters supplied with ammunition and basic supplies by trading poached ivory with the Sudanese military.

Paul Ronan, the director of The Resolve, a US lobby group studying the LRA, said the group had resumed its attacks in the Central African Republic (CAR), which borders Kony’s refuge in South Sudan. “The LRA is one of the most resilient rebel groups in modern history,” he said. “It is once again abducting children in Central Africa, betting that the international community will fail to protect those most vulnerable to Kony’s forces. So far in 2016, that bet has paid off.”

Some attacks also took place in the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo, close to the border with the CAR. The assaults followed the typical pattern of LRA raids, with fighters abducting children and looting villages of food, clothing and mobile phones.

Sasha Lezhnev, an Associate Director of the Enough Project, said the LRA had suffered some setbacks, but there needed to be a renewed focus on finding Kony as well as cutting supply chains and trafficking routes.

“The new attacks clearly indicate that Kony’s LRA is not yet down and out,” he said. “They’ve been weakened by the defection of one of their most senior commanders in January, Okot Odek, but the LRA retains a strong capacity to abduct more fighters and attack civilians.”

The Enough Project has charted how the LRA poaches elephants and profits from the ivory trade. Kasper Agger, a field researcher, said the LRA was “deeply involved with elephant hunting and illicit ivory trafficking, because of massive profits.” He added: “Blood ivory is now a major driver of insecurity across Africa and not only threatens elephants but also directly leads to killings of people.”

The LRA was founded by Kony in northern Uganda 30 years ago with the supposed aim of ruling the country according to the Ten Commandments. His campaign of terror has claimed at least 100,000 lives and driven 2.5 million people from their homes. As many as 100,000 children have fallen into the hands of the LRA, being forced to fight or enslaved as porters.