Opinion

Dramatic rise in child abductions by the Lord's Resistance Army signals terrorist group's resurgence and resilience

Posted April 10

A new report released earlier this month notes that the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel terrorist group from northern Uganda, has abducted 217 people in the past two months in the Central African Republic, 54 of whom are children. This is almost double the number of abductions performed by the group during the entirety of 2015. Experts fear these trends could signal new resilience and the LRA’s attempt to rebuild its military force.

The LRA was founded in 1987 in northern Uganda in response to a repressive government that marginalized the northern Acholi people. The LRA’s original mission was to overthrow Yoweri Museveni’s government, but it has since shed its political motives. The group also lost its support from the Acholi people when it became progressively more violent, abducting and murdering civilians and children in various parts of the Central African Republic (CAR), Congo, Uganda and South Sudan. The group has proved remarkably adaptable, thriving off of regional instability for the past three decades to wreak terror among communities in Uganda, the CAR, Congo and South Sudan.

The LRA is directly responsible for over 100,000 deaths, and UNICEF estimated that the group is to blame for the abduction of upwards of 25,000 children since the organization’s inception. Joseph Kony, according to Invisible Children, leads “the rebel group responsible for Africa’s longest running armed conflict … Kony instructs the members of his LRA to abduct, threaten, destroy, and murder. …” He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

Following African military campaigns and international pressure in 2011 which included the deployment of 100 military advisers responsible for providing logistical and strategic support to local forces, the LRA moved out of northern Uganda and is now heavily active in the CAR and Congo. This increased military pressure caused the group to become increasingly mobile and fractured, and resulted in large defections and arrests. Despite this progress, the LRA has once again adapted its survival tactics.

According to the report, the LRA’s current stability may be linked to reduced international pressure, decreased internal defections among combatants, expansion into illicit trade markets of ivory, gold and diamonds, transitions from violent to nonviolent looting practices, increased fragmentation and movement to rural and forested areas. Increased international pressure will be vital to stem the increase in violent attacks by the LRA.

Here are two key organizations you can donate to now to support efforts to stop the LRA:

The Resolve is an organization that works to end LRA violence in Africa and supports the recovery of communities affected by the LRA. The organization also helps to maintain the LRA Crisis Tracker, and uses data from this platform to research effective policy solutions to the LRA crisis. If you would like to support their work, you can donate here: https://secure.donationpay.org/theresolve/

Invisible Children is an NGO that runs air-drop defection campaigns and an early warning radio network that allows communication of LRA activity between communities in the DRC and CAR. They also run airborne “come home” defection flier campaigns that encourage LRA combatants to surrender. Its on-the-ground work has been vital in generating reliable data for policymakers and the LRA Crisis Tracker. You can support their work against the LRA here: http://invisiblechildren.com/donate/

The LRA Crisis Tracker is a database maintained by the above organizations to record trends in LRA violence. The data from the March 2016 report was obtained from this tracker. For real-time information on the LRA’s regional activity and atrocities, you can access the LRA Crisis Tracker here: https://www.lracrisistracker.com/dashboard

John Hoffmire is director of the Impact Bond Fund at Saïd Business School at Oxford University and directs the Center on Business and Poverty at the Wisconsin School of Business at UW-Madison. He runs Progress Through Business, a nonprofit group promoting economic development. Jake Roble, Hoffmire’s colleague at Progress Through Business, did the research for this article.

John Hoffmire teaches at SaÏd Business School at the University of Oxford.

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