Lord’s Resistance Army




    The flag of the Lord's Resistance Army.[1]

    Status: ACTIVE
    AKA: Holy Spirit Movement II, Lord’s Army, LRA, Lord’s Resistance Movement, Lord’s Salvation Army, Uganda Peoples’ Democratic Christian Army (UPDCA), United Democratic Christian Force
    Formed: 1987
    Area of Operation: Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Uganda, Central African Republic
    Ideology: Political (Nationalist - Acholi), Religious (Christian Fundamentalism)
    Group: 300-2,000 members
    Leader: Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, second in command
    Affiliates: Interhamwe, South Sudan Democratic Movement

    Organizational History

    Joseph Kony began the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in 1987 with the intention of spiritually cleansing the Acholi people of northern Uganda and implementing the Ten Commandments as a basis of governing Uganda.[2]  The seeds of the Ugandan conflict with the LRA were sown in 1986 with the defeat of Presidents Milton Obote and Tito Okello by forces loyal to Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s current leader. After Museveni took power, the Ugandan military, which was overly represented by the Northern Acholi people, fled to Sudan where they formed the Ugandan People’s Defense Army (UPDA). However, the UPDA did not mount a long resistance because their supplies dwindled quickly and a lack of overall outside support. Alice Auma Lakwena, leader of the Holy Spirit Movement, successfully convinced demoralized UPDA commanders to supply her with troops.

    Joseph Kony, the founder of the LRA and a school dropout, was part of the UPDA’s black battalion in 1987. It is believed that his control over this local UPDA force formed the nucleus of the original LRA after Lakwena’s Holy Spirit Movement was defeated, and the UPDA was dismantled through peace negotiations. Kony originally named his group the Holy Spirit Movement II, though the group went through several name changes, including the Lord’s Salvation Army and the United Democratic Christian Force, before deciding on the Lord’s Resistance Army.[3]

    The Lord’s Resistance Army began its operations against the Ugandan government in 1987 by targeting local government officials, government soldiers, and international humanitarian convoys and aid workers. [4] [5] In 1991, the Ugandan army launched Operation North which was intended to cut off the local supply and support to the LRA fighters.[6] The LRA responded to the military operation with increased attacks against government targets and increased violent attacks against civilians. Shortly after the launch of Operation North the LRA began to move into southern Sudan and in 1994 the Sudanese government began to supply the LRA with weapons, ammunition, fuel, and other supplies.[5] In 2002, the Ugandan government conducted Operation Iron Fist which sent almost 10,000 Ugandan soldiers into Sudan to attack and destroy LRA bases.[5] Operation Iron Fist pushed LRA fighters deeper into Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and allowed the LRA to conduct small attacks in Uganda.

    By 2005, a majority of LRA fighters had been driven out of Uganda by the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF).[7] By the end of 2006, all the LRA fighters moved from the Sudan into the Garamba National Park in the Congo’s Province Orientale, continuing operations targeting government soldiers and civilians.[8][6] On December 14, 2008, the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) with support of the U.S. African Command launched Operation Lighting Thunder which targeted LRA militant bases in the Garamba Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [8][6] The LRA responded to Operation Lighting Thunder with violent and deadly attacks targeting civilians in northern Congo and southern Sudan; the most violent of the attacks known as the Christmas Massacre. The Christmas Massacre, which occurred two weeks after Operation Lighting Thunder, was a series of attacks by the LRA against several Congolese villages that left over the 400 people dead.[6] Currently, the LRA continues to target civilians and government soldiers in South Sudan, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[9]


    The Lord’s Resistance Army is led and commanded by Joseph Kony and a group of commanders that make up what is called the Control Alter.[10] Under the control of Kony are four generals that command four brigades: Gilva, Sinia, Stocktree, and Trinkle Brigades.[6] Each brigade contains an independent number of battalions and they operate semi-independently of Joseph Kony in different areas of Africa. The structure of the LRA is loosely based on a military structure. The ranks are assigned by Joseph Kony and the ranks, in order of increasing authority, are as follows: Sergeant, Second Lieutenant, Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel, Brigadier, and Major General.[8] There are two types of fighters for the LRA; active soldiers and non-active soldiers.[8] Active fighters receive training in battle formations and tactics and do a majority of the fighting, while non-active soldiers do not participate in the fighting, but are charged with protecting and maintaining the militant camps and guarding hostages.


    The weapons used by the Lord’s Resistance Army were amassed over many years from several different sources. The weapons of choice for the LRA are the machete and the Kalashnikov assault rifle.[8] The AK-47, is widely used both by militaries-including the Military of the Democratic Republic of the Congo-is also popular amongst militant groups, including LRA and the former Sudan People Liberation Army.

    In 1994, the Sudanese government began to supply Kalashnikov rifles, Heckler & Koch G3 7.62 mm battle rifles, PK 7.62 mm general purpose machine guns, and ammunition to the LRA.[8] It was also believed that the Sudanese government supplied the LRA with Russian-made 82 mm illuminating mortars and Russian-made SPG9 73 mm caliber recoilless guns along with various types of anti-personnel mines and rocket launchers.[6] The LRA were also able to confiscate numerous M16 5.56 mm rifles from fighting with Garamba park rangers and the Israeli-made Galil 5.56 mm assault rifle from United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) peacekeepers in 2006.[8] The LRA is also equipped with numerous types of rocket launchers and heavy machine guns. The number of weapons that are currently operational and the amount of ammunition for the weapons is unknown.


    Due to the many military operations that have been conducted against the Lord’s Resistance Army, the LRA has not been able to establish any illicit channels of funding to support. There is also no known relationship between other militant groups like the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda, the Allied Democratic Forces, or political opposition groups that are operational in Central Africa. The only known support for the LRA has come from the Sudanese government. The Sudanese government began to supply weapons, ammunition, and supplies to the LRA in 1994.[6] The Sudanese government continued to supply the LRA until sometime between 2001 and 2005.[8] The only known way that the LRA supports itself is by looting unprotected villages and abducting unarmed civilians.


    Though Joseph Kony started the Lord’s Resistance Army in 1987, recruitment numbers for the LRA began to wane in 1988.[8] To counter this, Joseph Kony began the practice of kidnapping children and indoctrinating them into the LRA. While this method of recruitment is still used and is the most popular method of recruitment for the LRA, majority of the LRA fighters are teens and young adults.

    The initial composition of the LRA contained a majority of Ugandan nationals, but due to the LRA’s movement across Africa, the composition of the LRA began to include Congolese, Central African, and Sudanese nationals. The current size of the LRA has been estimated as low as a few hundred fighters and as high as a couple thousand fighters.[7][8]


    The Lord’s Resistance Army is known to implement caution when launching an attack and usually attempt to collect information by kidnapping a member of a village or a cattle herder on the target before an attack is conducted.[8] To reduce the likelihood of LRA casualties, the group typically target unprotected villages. These attacks against unprotected targets allow the LRA to resupply with goods and personnel and serves to divert military resources towards defending civilians instead of pursuing the rebels.[11] The LRA also use many of its child fighters to ambush and attack government soldiers. The children play or somehow distract the government soldiers and when the soldiers lower their guard, the LRA fighters attack the soldiers.[7] 



    Joseph Kony, the long time leader of the LRA.[12]


    Vincent Otti was the LRA's second in command until his death in late 2007.[13]


    One of the hundreds of children that have been captured and forced to become soldiers by the LRA.[14]

    posing LRA.jpg

    Members of the LRA pose for a journalist in Sudan where they had expanded their operations to in 2009.[15]


    These are patches worn by LRA members which include the official symbol of Uganda in order to make the group appear to be a legitimate fighting force.[16]


    A man shows the machete wound inflicted by the LRA. The militants commonly cut off the lips of villagers as a warning to others to keep their mouths shut about the group's whereabouts.[17]



    1. Cameron, C. (2011, October 15). The Limbaugh Rush to Erroneous Judgment. Zenpundit. Retrieved from [1] on December 8, 2011.
    2. Voice of America (2011, October 17). LRA’s Joseph Kony: Leader of 23-Year Terror Campaign. Retrieved from [2]
    3. Global security. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Retrieved from [3]
    4. LeSage, Andre (2010 July). Countering the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa. Retrieved from [4]
    5. Wilkerson, Michael (2010, April 19). Why Can’t Anyone Stop the LRA?. Retrieved from [5]
    6. Cakaj, Ledio (2010 November). The Lord’s Resistance Army of Today. Retrieved from [6]
    7. Cameron, C. (2011, October, 15). The Limbaugh Rush to Erroneous Judgment. Retrieved from [7]
    8. Schomerus, Mareike (2007 September). The Lord’s Resistance Army in Sudan: A History and Overview. Retrieved from [8]
    9. Rice, X. (2009, September 14). Life with Joseph Kony, leader of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. The guardian. Retrieved from [9] on December 8, 2011.
    10. Dysart, J. (2009, January 29). Kony’s Child Soldiers. Unknown Soldier Web Series. Retrieved from [10] on December 8, 2011.
    11. Howden, D. (2009, October 17). Darfur: A deadly new chapter. The Independent. Retrieved from [11] on December 8, 2011.
    12. Spiegel, J. (2009, March). FINISHING THE FIGHT AGAINST THE LRA: A PHOTO ESSAY. !enough. Retrieved from [12] on December 8, 2011.

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