Center for the Prevention of Genocide



Large-Scale Massacres in Northern Uganda:

LRA-Perpetrated Violence Escalates



The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a cult rebel insurgency, has terrorized the northern regions of Uganda since its emergence in 1987. The guerrilla tactics employed by this Christianity-inspired militia have threatened Ugandan stability and hindered development for the past seventeen years. In March 2002, the Ugandan government commenced Operation “Iron Fist,” an offensive against LRA bases in southern Sudan . Although the government has declared this offensive a success, LRA activity has since escalated in the region.  The operation forced the rebels to relocate to northern Uganda , where they have intensified their efforts and increased their sphere of influence. 


The proclaimed objective of the LRA is to overthrow the current Ugandan government and institute rule according to the Ten Commandments.  Nonetheless, it is the civilian population, not the Ugandan government or military, which is victimized by LRA attacks.  The rebels murder, mutilate, and rape civilians, abduct children to utilize as soldiers and sex slaves, and loot and burn villages and refugee camps. Most recently, the LRA commenced large-scale ambushes on internally displaced persons camps in the Lira district.  Such attacks have claimed nearly 300 lives in February 2004  alone. 


Additionally, the LRA initiated systematic assaults on Roman Catholic missions, clergy, and schoolchildren during the spring and summer months of 2003.  LRA leader Joseph Kony reportedly ordered his followers to destroy Catholic missions and kill Roman Catholic clergy. As discussed in Articles 2 and 3 of the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, such activity constitutes the incorporation of a genocidal campaign into this violent political rebellion.





            The government of Uganda has been engaged in a civil war with the Lord’s Resistance Army since 1987. The LRA was founded in the Acholi region of northern Uganda by rebel leader Joseph Kony and was originally composed of former members of other resistance organizations and recruited Acholi youths (HRW: “Stolen Children”).  For nearly two decades, the rebels have committed atrocities against Ugandan civilians in their quest for political control.     

In 1994, the LRA began to collaborate with the government of Sudan (HRW: “Abducted and”).  This relationship was established by the Sudanese as retribution for the support provided by Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), a Sudanese rebel group.  For six years, the government of Sudan supplied the LRA with direct military support while allowing the organization to maintain bases in the Eastern Equatoria Region of southern Sudan .  It is from these bases that the LRA conducted its cross-border raids on northern Ugandan villages.  In return for this favor, the LRA provided the Sudanese military with manpower for their battles against the SPLM/A (HRW: “Abducted and”).  Meanwhile, the Ugandan rebels continuously replenished and increased their numbers by abducting thousands of children from the Gulu, Kitgum, and Pader districts of the Acholi region (ReliefWeb: “Eyewitness: Children”). This forced recruitment, paired with the support of the Sudanese government, perpetuated the rebel movement.           

            In 1999, the Ugandan and Sudanese governments signed a bilateral agreement, pledging to withdraw support from their respective rebel benefactors (HRW: “Stolen Children”).  Sudanese commitment to this pledge was reinforced in 2001 when the LRA was declared a “terrorist organization” by the U.S. State Department (HRW: “Abducted and”). Consequently, the governments agreed upon a military plan for the definitive eradication of LRA forces.  Under the plan, the Sudanese government “would permit the Ugandan People’s Defense Force (UPDF) to enter Sudan for the purpose of wiping out the LRA. The Sudanese government itself would not engage in any military action for that purpose, nor would it tolerate a UPDF-SPLM/A collaboration” (HRW: “Abducted and”).

            The planned military offensive, Operation Iron Fist, commenced in March 2002 (AP: “Archbishop: Ugandan” 16 Jun 2003).  The UPDF deployed nearly 10,000 troops to southern Sudan where they attacked numerous LRA camps (BBC News: “Uganda ’s rebels”).  Although the offensive demonstrated the government’s commitment to addressing the LRA issue, the operation itself proved to be ineffectual (ReliefWeb: “Eyewitness: Children”).  A number of the camps attacked by the UPDF were already deserted, and many of the LRA rebels remaining in the region successfully evaded the UPDF due to their familiarity with the territory.  It has also been reported that the success of Operation Iron Fist was hindered by low morale and corruption within the UPDF itself (HRW: “Abducted and”). 

            This offensive, however, provoked extreme retaliation by the LRA (BBC News: “Uganda ’s rebels”).  Having lost its means of support and place of refuge, the rebel group was forced to relocate to northern Uganda , where it has intensified its terrorization and brutalization of Ugandan civilians (HRW: “Uganda : Child”).  Isolated villages, internally displaced persons camps, humanitarian relief convoys, and missions are especially susceptible to targeting by LRA forces.  Additionally, the LRA has infiltrated further into the country and has commenced operations in eastern Uganda .  Human Rights Watch reports that the LRA has abducted over 20,000 children since 1990, with 8,400 of these abductions occurring between June 2002 and May 2003 (HRW: “Abducted and”).  Furthermore, over 1.1 million Ugandan civilians have been displaced as a result of the conflict (New Vision:  “Rebels displace” 26 Sep 2003).

            Civilians in the region hold little hope that LRA forces will soon be quelled by the UPDF, especially since new evidence indicates that the rebel movement is once again enjoying support from Sudanese military officials.  Army officers have reportedly delivered truckloads of military supplies to Kony and his contingent in recent months (AP Worldstream: “Archbishop: Ugandan” 16 June 2003). These reports were verified by the Sudanese minister of defense, who “conceded that some army officers had resumed contact with Kony for purely personal profit” (New Vision: “Sudanese Official” 31 Jul 2003).  The Ugandan government has accused Sudan of sanctioning this activity in return for LRA support for the Sudanese offensive against the SPLM/A.  The Sudanese government has denied these allegations, promising that those military officials collaborating with the LRA would be punished (New Vision: “Sudanese Official” 31 Jul 2003). 

The Ugandan government continues to battle the LRA rebellion. Last fall, the Ugandan and Sudanese governments renewed the bilateral agreement that authorizes UPDF access to southern Sudan for limited military actions against LRA rebels.  The two governments agreed upon a three-month extension of this protocol on September 12, 2003 (IRIN: “Operation Iron” 15 Sep 2003).  In addition to this international military effort, the Ugandan government remains committed to its national offensive against the rebellion. The UPDF has enlisted the assistance of local volunteer militias, such as the “Arrow Group” in the Teso region, to more effectively pursue LRA forces active in northern and eastern Uganda (New Vision: “Arrow Group” 20 Aug 2003).  The continuing violence, however, has led some to question the effectiveness of current military efforts.  Although the government claims to have “nearly defeated” the rebel insurgency, the recent large-scale attacks on IDP camps indicate otherwise (IRIN News: “Rebels Kill” 5 Feb 2004).                      



Key Players

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has developed over nearly two decades and is rooted in earlier Ugandan rebel movements.  Alice Lakwena, a young Acholi native of northern Uganda , founded the primary predecessor to the LRA in 1985 (HRW: “Abducted and”).  Claiming to be empowered by the native spirit Lakwena, she ordered her “Holy Spirit Movement” (HSM) to take up arms against the Museveni government. Lakwena’s spiritual cult received extensive military assistance from the Ugandan People’s Democratic Army, another rebel group composed of Acholi supporters of fallen Prime Minister Tito Okello Lutwa.  Despite this support, HSM was quickly defeated by the Ugandan military, and Lakwena fled to Kenya in 1986. 

Joseph Kony, claiming to have inherited the spiritual powers of Lakwena, formed his own rebel contingency in 1987 (HRW: “Abducted and”).  Initially entitled the Lord’s [Salvation] Army and later named the United [Salvation] Christian Army, the movement developed into the Lord’s Resistance Army in 1994 (HRW: “Abducted and”).  The proclaimed objective of the LRA is to overthrow the current Ugandan government and institute political rule according to the Ten Commandments and its version of Christianity (BBC: “Timeline Uganda ”). The atrocities that Kony and his followers have committed in their pursuit of this end include numerous civilian massacres, the abduction and forced military recruitment of thousands of children, and the looting and destruction of hundreds of private homes and businesses (Reuters: “A voice” 4 Jul 2003).


The Government of Uganda and the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) have been intensively targeting the LRA since the launch of Operation Iron Fist in March 2002.  The success of this initial offensive into southern Sudan was limited, and the UPDF has yet to eradicate the LRA from northern and eastern Uganda (ReliefWeb: “Eyewitness: Children”).  In March 2003, the government ordered another full-fledged offensive against the rebels after the LRA disregarded a unilateral ceasefire proclaimed by Kony and continued attacking civilians in the Acholi region (BBC: “Timeline: Uganda ”).  Attempts at peace talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA have thus far proven unsuccessful.

            The purpose of the UPDF and its affiliate defense units is the protection of Ugandan civilians against the abuses characteristic of LRA attacks.  Recent reports, however, accuse UPDF soldiers of committing some of the same crimes for which the LRA is condemned, such as rape, torture, and the recruitment of children for military purposes.  Human Rights Watch reports,


“UPDF forces and officials of other government-related military security agencies have committed multiple abuses of the rights of northern Ugandans, including summary execution, torture, rape, child recruitment, and inhuman living conditions of detention in unauthorized detention locations.  They are rarely prosecuted for crimes committed against civilians.  Even when UPDF abuses have been investigated, the investigations have sometimes been kept internal and therefore have created an appearance of impunity, which has not improved public trust” (HRW: “Abducted and”).


In response to this report, a UPDF spokesman questioned the reliability and credibility of Human Rights Watch sources, although President Museveni himself has “admitted that the Army is not entirely made up of angels” (BBC: “Uganda army” 16 Jul 2003).     


The Government of Sudan provided military assistance to the LRA from 1994 to 1999 (HRW: “Abducted and”).  In 1999, however, Sudan signed an agreement with Uganda in which it pledged to revoke its support from the LRA.  This agreement eased diplomatic tensions between the two countries, and in 2002, Sudan allowed the Ugandan government to launch Operation Iron Fist, a cross-border offensive against the rebel group.  Recently, evidence has arisen that indicates renewed collaboration between Sudanese military officials and the LRA (VOA News: “Allegations of” 27 Aug 2003).  Although the Sudanese government admits that some officials have resumed relations with the LRA for “personal profit,” it denies authorizing this activity.


The Acholi People, an ethnic group constituting only four percent of the Ugandan population, comprises the majority of persons in the Gulu, Kitgum and Pader districts of northern Uganda, a region commonly referred to as “Acholiland” (U.S.: “Background Note”).  Because of its geographic proximity to LRA bases in southern Sudan , members of the Acholi ethnicity have been the primary victims of LRA attacks.  Furthermore, it is this region that was infiltrated by LRA rebels upon the commencement of Operation Iron Fist, subjecting the area to intensified rebel activity since March 2002 (HRW: “Uganda : Child”).  The perpetrators of LRA attacks are also principally Acholi since the rebel movement originated in this region (HRW: “Abducted and”).  Consequently, Acholi on Acholi violence has become commonplace since the advent of the LRA insurgency, and it is this ethnic group that has suffered the greatest losses as a result of the current conflict. 


Roman Catholic Missions, Clergy, and their Affiliates are the most recent targets of LRA aggression.  Historically, the Roman Catholic Church has played a key diplomatic role in the conflict.  On numerous occasions, church leaders have acted as mediators between the LRA and the government in negotiating the terms of ceasefires and peace talks (AP: “Archbishop: Ugandan” 16 Jun 2003).  Individual church officials, as well as organizations like the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), also possess some of the most prominent voices in advocating for peace nationally and internationally.  Church missions provide the unstable northern region of Uganda with many of its social services, including education and health care.  Moreover, thousands of Ugandan civilians have sought refuge in church compounds after being displaced by LRA violence (BBC: “Uganda ’s atrocious” 12 Jun 2003).

            In recent months, however, the prominent role of the Roman Catholic Church in the Acholi region has attracted the LRA’s hostility. In June 2003, LRA leader Kony shifted away from his traditionally political agenda and ordered violence against the Church, bluntly declaring,


“Catholic missions must be destroyed, priests and missionaries killed in cold blood, and nuns beaten black and blue” (BBC: “Church fears” 17 Jun 2003).


In response to this threat, missionary leader Fr. Carlos Rodriguez stated, “We have no reason to doubt the message was authentic…In the last five weeks the LRA has burned, bombed and desecrated churches on nine occasions” (BBC: “Church fears” 17 Jun 2003).  Furthermore, Catholic seminarians and schoolchildren have been targeted for abductions, and numerous missions have been looted and destroyed. 

Additional evidence of an LRA campaign against Roman Catholics was discovered in July 2003 when UPDF soldiers recovered a map from an abandoned LRA campsite in the Katakwi district (New Vision: “Rebels target” 31 Jul 2003).  The locally drawn map highlights most of the Catholic missions in the area, thus suggesting a pre-planned targeting of Roman Catholics. This organized pursuit of the destruction of a specific religious group indicates that Kony has begun infusing his political rebellion with acts of religiously motivated genocide, as it is defined by Article 2 of the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (see Legal Appendix).



The Nature of LRA Abuse


Raids on civilian populations constitute the principal method of terrorization employed by the LRA (ReliefWeb: “Eyewitness: Children”). Rural villages and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps are highly susceptible to LRA infiltration and are therefore the primary targets of rebel attacks.  During these assaults, the LRA kills civilians, abducts children, torches huts, and loots homes, businesses, and humanitarian organizations for food, medical supplies, radio equipment, and other valuable items.  Since the advent of Operation Iron Fist, the attacks have reached epidemic levels in Acholiland and have spread to districts in eastern Uganda (New Vision: “Uganda : LRA” 8 Jul 2003).  The raids have victimized and displaced over a million civilians while jeopardizing road safety, food security, and humanitarian activity in the region.  UPDF efforts have thus far been unsuccessful in effectively protecting civilians against these LRA aggressions (IRIN: “Uganda : Civilians” 2 Apr 2003).



Massacres:  Civilians are frequently massacred as the LRA continues its reign of terror across the northern and eastern regions of Uganda (Reuters: “Uganda ’s Lords” 25 Aug 2003).  Killings most often occur during LRA assaults on villages, refugee camps, and vehicle convoys.  LRA rebels murder civilians indiscriminately: children, adults, and the elderly are victimized during attacks.  Recently, the LRA commenced large-scale attacks on IDP camps in northern Uganda .  In its most devastating attack in the past ten years, the LRA massacred over 200 civilians during the February 21, 2004 assault on the Barlonyo IDP camp in the Lira district.  Maintaining or increasing regional instability and creating a “climate of crisis” seems to be the sole purpose of these massacres, as they have proven fruitless in furthering the LRA’s declared political objectives (IRIN: “Army says” 5 Jul 2002). 


Recent Instances of Abuse:


Date:  February 21, 2004

Location:  Barlonyo IDP camp, Lira district

Victims:  At least 200 killed

Description:  LRA rebels killed over 200 people during its most deadly massacre of civilians in the past ten years.  Approximately 300 rebels ambushed the Barlonyo IDP camp in the Lira district dressed as regular army soldiers and armed with assault rifles and artillery.  The group overwhelmed the local defense force posted to protect the camp and subsequently massacred the camp’s inhabitants.  Numerous civilians were burned alive when rebels torched their homes after ordering them inside at gunpoint.  Many fleeing the assault were shot, bludgeoned, or hacked to death.  Local leaders counted 192 bodies at the scene, while Roman Catholic missionaries reported the discovery of 32 bodies near the campsite.  Additionally, five victims injured during the attack have since died at the Lira hospital.  These reports bring the unofficial death count to nearly 260 (IRIN News:  Uganda : Fear” 24 Feb 2004 ).


Date:  February 14, 2004

Location:  Odek and Acet sub-county border, Gulu district

Victims:  5 killed

Description:  Five civilians were hacked to death after being abducted by the LRA.  The bodies were discovered in the jungle of the northern Gulu district four days after the victims were reported missing ( “Five hacked” 14 Feb 2004 ).


Date:   February 10, 2004

Location:  Ojul parish, Lira district

Victims:  15 killed

Description:  Fifteen people were killed during an LRA ambush on Apatonyanga in Abako sub-county of the Ojul parish.  Ten of the victims were residents of the village while the other five were abductees from other areas (New Vision:  “LRA Kills” 10 Feb 2004 ).


Date:  February 9, 2004

Location:  Ojuru village, Abako sub-county, Lira district

Victims:  10 killed

Description:  LRA rebels clubbed ten farmers to death after abducting them from Ojuru village in the Lira district.  The farmers were assaulted after returning to the village to tend their gardens (The Advertiser:  “Ten dead” 10 Feb 2004 ).


Date:  February 5, 2004

Location:  Abia IDP camp, Lira district

Victims:  52 killed, over 70 seriously wounded

Description:  The LRA massacred at least 52 people during a large-scale attack on Abia IDP camp in the northern region of Lira district.  At least 300 rebels ambushed the camp, subsequently overwhelming the UPDF and assaulting civilians.  The rebels were reportedly armed with machine guns and mortar bombs.  Civilians were bludgeoned and shot and their homes set ablaze during the attack (IRIN News: “Rebels Kill” 5 Feb 2004 ).      


Date:  January 2, 2004

Location:  Aloi sub-county, Kitgum district

Victims:  20 killed

Description:  At least twenty people were hacked to death by the LRA during a series of rebel ambushes on villages in the Kitgum district (AFP).


Date:  December 31, 2003

Location:  IDP camp, Lalogi, Omoro county, Gulu district

Victims:  3 killed

Description:  Three elderly men were burned to death when LRA rebels ambushed an IDP camp in the Gulu district (New Vision: “LRA Kill” 31 Dec 2003 ).


Date:  November 26, 2003

Location:  Ogowie, Moroto county, Lira district

Victims:  9 killed

Description:  The LRA killed nine people who were attending the funeral of an individual who had been killed by the rebels the previous day.  Approximately thirty rebels corralled the victims and took them to a nearby swamp where they were subsequently bludgeoned to death with sticks and stones (New Vision: “LRA kills” 29 Nov 2003 ).


Date:  November 22-23, 2003

Location:  Gomi, Dokolo, and Agrero villages, Lira district

Victims:  10 killed

Description:  At least ten people were massacred during a series of LRA ambushes in the Lira district.  The rebels killed four people in Gomi village, five in Dokolo, and another individual in Agrero (AFP).


Date:  November 18, 2003

Location:  Northern Lira district

Victims:  12 killed

Description:  Members of the LRA bludgeoned 12 people to death, including nine abducted children that had been held captive by the rebels (IRIN News: “Uganda : Rebels” 18 Nov 2003 ).


Date:  November 14, 2003

Location:  Aloi parish, Moroto sub-county, Lira district

Victims:  10 killed, unknown number abducted

Description:  Ten people were hacked to death and numerous others were abducted during an LRA raid in the Lira district.   A Roman Catholic church was also looted by the rebels (New Vision: “LRA rebels” 11 Nov 2003 ).


Date:  November 5, 2003

Location:  Awayapiny, Alanyi, and Omari villages, Lira district

Victims:  59 killed

Description:  The LRA massacred a total of 59 people during a series of ambushes in the Lira district.  Thirty civilians were killed in the villages of Awayapiny and Alanyi, twenty people were killed in Omari, and an additional nine were massacred at Omoro Primary School (BBC:  “Scores Killed” 8 Nov 2003 ).


Date:  November 3, 2003

Location:  Kaberamaido district

Victims:  5 killed

Description:  LRA rebels killed five people, including three students from Kaberamaido Secondary School , during a raid in the Kaberamaido district.  The Okapel and Alipa trading centers, located near the school, were also looted during the raid (Agence France Presse).


Date:  October 29, 2003

Location:  Apala village, Lira district

Victims:  13 killed, several abducted

Description:  Thirteen civilians were killed by LRA rebels during a raid in the Lira district.  Most of the victims were captured, bound, and clubbed to death.  The rebels also abducted several people during the ambush (IRIN: “Uganda : LRA” 31 Oct 2003 ).   


Date:  October 13, 2003

Location:  Aparaliek market, Alanyi village, Lira district

Victims:  22 killed, approximately 20 seriously injured

Description:  A group of fifteen LRA rebels ambushed the Aparaliek market in Alanyi village, killing twenty-two people and injuring numerous others.  Those killed were corralled from a local bar and fired upon by the rebels (New Vision: “Kony kills” 15 Oct 2003 ; AFP: “Rebel attack” 14 Oct 2003 ). 


Date:    October 9, 2003

Location:  Soroti district

Victims:  11 killed

Description:  Eleven civilians were killed when LRA rebels ambushed a group of men belonging to the Arrow Group, a pro-government militia.  The rebels also looted supplies during the attack (Reuters: “Sixteen killed” 10 Oct 2003 ).


Date:  September 27, 2003

Location:  Olekai village, Asamuk sub-county, Katakwi district

Victims:  8 killed

Description:  Eight civilians were killed during an LRA attack on Olekai village.  The village was under the protection of the Arrow Group, which lost ten members during the attack (New Vision: “LRA kill” 29 Sep 2003 ).




Date:  September 26, 2003

Location:  Boroco village, Gulu district

Victims:  5 killed

Description:  Five civilians were killed when LRA rebels fired upon a group of pedestrians during an evening attack (AFP: “Ten rebels” 27 Sep 2003 ).


Date:  September 24-25, 2003

Location:  Aminir (between Kulu and Obalanga), Katakwi district

Victims:  9 killed

Description:  The bodies of nine civilians were discovered between the towns of Kulu and Obalanga over the course of a two-day period.  The victims were apparently killed as they fled an LRA attack on the remote village of Aminir .  The bodies of ten rebels were also recovered from the area ( “Rebels kill” 27 Sep 2003 ; AFP: “Ten rebels” 27 Sep 2003 ).  


Date:  September 24, 2003

Location:  Bar-Ariyo village, Ngai sub-county, Apac district

Victims:  5-10 killed, unknown number abducted

Description:  Between five and ten people were killed when LRA rebels armed with rifles attacked the market place at Bar-Ariyo.  Numerous other civilians were abducted or injured during the attack (BBC: “Uganda rebels” 25 Sep 2003 ; New Vision: “Kony rebels” 26 Sep 2003 ).


Date:  September 1, 2003

Location:  near town of Lira , Soroti district

Victims:  25 killed, 60 abducted

Description:  Twenty-five people were killed and 60 others abducted during an early morning LRA ambush on a bus traveling in the Soroti district.  Twenty-two of the victims died on the scene and three others later died from their wounds. Sources report that victims were bludgeoned, hacked, and/or shot to death.  The rebels fled the scene with the sixty surviving bus passengers.  This group of abducted civilians included both women and children (Reuters: “Uganda army” 2 Sep 2003; AFP: “39 civilians” 2 Sep 2003).


Date:  September 1, 2003

Location:  Katine sub-county, Soroti district

Victims:  4 killed, 2 injured

Description:  LRA rebels hacked four people to death during a series of raids on villages in the Soroti district.  The victims were killed in a home where they had taken refuge upon the commencement of the attack.  Additionally, two elderly women were injured and a local business torched during the raid (New Vision: “LRA rebels” 1 Sep 2003).


Date:  August 29, 2003

Location:  Okwaga village, Lira district

Victims:  14 killed, unknown number abducted

Description:  Fourteen people were hacked to death after being abducted by LRA rebels during a late-night village raid.  Numerous others were abducted during the attack, but the exact number of missing civilians is unavailable ( “22 hacked” 1 Sep 2003).


Date:  August 18, 2003

Location:  Alereke village, Soroti district

Victims:  5 killed, at least 10 abducted

Description:  Five people were killed and at least ten abducted when the minibus in which they were traveling was ambushed by LRA forces (AllAfrica: “LRA Kill” 19 Aug 2003). 


Date:  August 16, 2003

Location:  Bata village, Lira district

Victims:  13 killed, at least 40 abducted

Description:  LRA rebels hacked to death at least thirteen children and kidnapped forty others during a morning raid on Bata village.  The LRA was prepared to massacre an additional twenty children when they were forced to flee by the pursuing UPDF soldiers.  It is reported that all of those killed were former LRA abductees who had escaped captivity or been rescued by the UPDF (AP: “Uganda Rebels” 17 Aug 2003; “Children hacked” 17 Aug 2003). 


Date:  August 9-10, 2003

Location:  Were and Abarilela sub-counties, Katakwi district

Victims:  11 killed

Description:  Eleven civilians were killed during a number of LRA ambushes in the Katakwi district over a two-day period (The Monitor: “Renewed Fighting” 12 Aug 2003).


Date:  August 3, 2003

Location:  Olilim trading center, Adwari, Lira district

Victims:  11 killed

Description:  LRA rebels killed eleven people after infiltrating Olilim trading center during a late-night raid (New Vision: “Rebels Kill” 6 Aug 2003).


Date:  August 2, 2003

Location:  Orum, Adwari, Lira district

Victims:  2 killed

Description:  Two civilians were hacked to death during a rebel attack in Orum (New Vision: “Rebels kill” 6 Aug 2003).


Date:  August 2, 2003

Location:  Katakwi

Victims:  4 killed

Description:  Four people were killed when the LRA ambushed and burned an ambulance traveling on Kapelebyong-Oditel road near Kapelebyong trading center (New Vision: “LRA kill” 4 Aug 2003).  


Date:  August 2, 2003

Location:  Angaro village

Victims:  5 killed

Description:  Five people were killed by LRA rebels while traveling on Obalanga-Kotido road in the village of Angaro (AllAfrica News: “Rebels Abduct” 4 Aug 2003).


Date:  July 31, 2003

Location:  Okee, Adwari, Lira district

Victims:  7 killed

Description:  LRA rebels killed seven civilians while fleeing UPDF troops in the town of Okee (New Vision: “Rebels kill” 6 Aug 2003).


Date:  July 27, 2003

Location:  Omoro county, Gulu district

Victims:  9 killed

Description:  Nine people were hacked to death by LRA rebels during village raids in Omoro county.  Additional deaths were prevented due to intervention by UPDF forces (AFP: “Rebels kill” 2 Aug 2003). 


Date:  July 22, 2003

Location:  Ngai, Lira district

Victims:  1 killed, at least 20 abducted

Description:  One civilian was killed and at least twenty others abducted during an early morning LRA raid on the small town of Ngai in the Lira district.  The incident prompted Lira citizens to voice their concerns regarding the recent spread of LRA activity from the Acholi region to areas in central and eastern Uganda (Misna: “Ugandan LRA” 24 Jul 2003).


Date:  July 20-21, 2003

Location:  Gulu and Pader districts

Victims:  8 killed, 2 injured

Description:  A total of eight people were killed in three separate LRA ambushes in the Gulu and Pader districts.  Four of the victims were killed while traveling in Abalokodi village when rebel forces ambushed their vehicle.  Two others were also injured during the incident (New Vision: “8 killed” 23 July 2003).


Date:   July 19, 2003

Location:  Lalogi IDP camp, Gulu district

Victims:  2 killed, 5 abducted

Description:  LRA rebels managed to kill two people and abduct five others from the periphery of the Lalogi IDP camp before being dispersed by government forces.  The quick response by the UPDF prevented an LRA infiltration of the camp and forced the rebels to abandon a number of their captives ( “Rebels kill” 19 Jul 2003).


Date:  July 15, 2003

Location:  River Moroto, border between Katakwi and Lira districts

Victims:  45 abducted children drowned

Description:  Forty-five abducted children drowned in River Morota while being forced by the LRA to test the depth of the river waters.  The incident occurred after the UPDF blocked the rebels from accessing the only available bridge across the river (BBC News:  Uganda rebels” 16 Jul 2003).



Date:  June 21 2003

Location:  Odudui trading center, Soroti District

Victims:  2 killed

Description:  LRA rebels executed their first attack in the Soroti distric on the Odudui trading center, located 18km north of Soroti town.  The rebels killed two people during the three-hour raid.  The victims were reportedly dragged from their homes, forced to carry loot acquired during the attack, and then beaten to death with sticks.  In addition to the killings, the rebels burned more than 50 huts and ransacked numerous businesses.  The attack instigated a mass exodus of civilians from Dakabela, Odudui, Agirigiroi, and Arapai (New Vision:  “Kony strikes” 23 June 2003 ).


Date:  June 15, 2003

Location:  Obalanga trading center, Kapelebyong county, Katakwi district

Victims:  4 killed, 12 abducted

Description:  Over one hundred LRA rebels stormed Obalanga trading center during a raid that claimed the lives of four people, including one Local Defense Unit (LDU) officer.  During the four-hour attack, the rebels also abducted another twelve civilians, burned 101 huts, eight shops, a police post and an LDU detachment, and looted Obalanga health center (New Vision: “Kony Rebels” 17 June 2003).


Date:  June 15, 2003

Location:  Alito sub-county, Kole county, Apac district

Victims:  18 killed, 83 abducted

Description:  Eighteen people were reportedly hacked to death and eighty-three others abducted during an LRA attack in Alito sub-county.  Victims of the assault included children and the elderly.  Additionally, 400-500 huts were torched during the raid, which began at 10:00pm and lasted into the morning hours.  The UPDF claims that eight, not eighteen, people were killed in the attack. News reports, however, were able to name at least thirteen people who lost their lives during the violence (New Vision: “Kony Hacks” 16 June 2003


Date:  June 5, 2003

Location:  Pabbo village, Kilak county, Gulu district

Victims:  13 killed

Description:  LRA rebels hacked thirteen farmers to death with machetes and clubs.  The group was attacked as they returned home from tending their outlying plots (AP Worldstream: “Rebels kill” 5 Jun 2003).


Date:  June 4, 2003

Location:  Kaladima village, Lamogi sub-county

Victims:  2 killed

Description:  Two civilians were gunned down during an LRA ambush on Kaladima village (The Monitor:  “24 killed” 6 June 2003).


Date:  June 4, 2003

Location:  Pabbo IDP camp, Kilak county, Gulu district

Victims:  13 killed

Description:  Thirteen civilians were killed during an LRA attack on Pabbo IDP camp.  Twelve of the victims were clubbed to death outside of the camp, while the thirteenth was caught in the crossfire between the rebels and UPDF.  The victims were from both Pabbo camp and the nearby Pawal village.  The rebels left a letter addressed to the inhabitants of the camp stating that the murders “were carried out because local officials and the military have in the eyes of the rebels incited the population to fight against them” (BBC News: “Rebels club” 5 June 2003)


Date:  May 30, 2003

Location:  Madi Opei sub-county, Lamwo county

Victims:  2 killed

Description:  LRA rebels ambushed a lorry, killing two people and burning the vehicle (The Monitor:  “Rebels kill” 2 June 2003).


Date:  May 30, 2003

Location:  Omiya Anyima trading center

Victims:  5 reportedly killed (unverified figures)

Description:  LRA rebels infiltrated Omiya Anyima trading center, killing five civilians and one UPDF soldier.  The group also torched 100 huts and destroyed a Catholic mission during the raid (The Monitor: “Rebels kill” 2 June 2003).


Date:  May 28, 2003

Location:  Karuma-Pakwach Road , Muchison Falls National Park

Victims:  14 killed, at least 31 abducted

Description:  Fourteen people were killed, at least thirty-one abducted, and numerous others injured when the LRA ambushed a convoy traveling on Karuma-Pakwach Road from Arua to Kampala .  The convoy consisted of three vehicles, including a fuel tanker and a bus carrying civilians.  The UPDF has dispatched more troops to the region in response to the attack (BBC News: “Uganda rebels” 29 May 2003; New Vision: “14 Killed” 29 May 2003; The Monitor “UPDF rushes” 31 May 2003).   


Date:  May 23, 2003

Location:  Abim trading center, Kotido district, Karamoja region

Victims:  4 killed

Description:  LRA rebels killed four civilians in an early morning raid on Abim trading center.  Sources reported that UPDF forces were pursuing the rebels after successfully deterring them from their main target, the Morulem Mission Hospital and Secondary School.  (New Vision:  “Six killed” 24 May 2003).


Date:  May 13, 2003

Location:  Opit forest, Lalogi sub-county, Omoro county

Victims:  4 killed

Description:  The LRA ambushed a civilian vehicle traveling on Gulu-Moroto road, killing four people and injuring three others.  Before they could burn the vehicle, the rebels were forced to flee by an approaching UPDF foot patrol (New Vision: “Four killed” 19 May 2003).



Date:  April 22-23, 2003 

Location:  Aromo and Ogur sub-counties; Lira district

Victims:  11 killed, 39-289 reported abducted, hundreds displaced

Description:  On April 24, local authorities and media reported that the LRA had killed at least eleven people and abducted approximately 289 others in a number of coordinated attacks on villages in the sub-counties of Aromo and Ogur.  Additionally, it was reported that hundreds of civilians were displaced by the violence and desperate for food, shelter, and medical care (New Vision: “LRA Abduct” 24 April 2003).

Days later, however, the army released a statement asserting that only thirty-nine people, not the 289 initially reported, had been abducted during the raids.  The statement also announced that twenty of those abducted had been rescued by the army, and that UPDF forces were still searching for the nineteen remaining in LRA custody.  No reason was given for the discrepancy in reporting (New Vision: “Uganda: Thirty-Nine” 26 Apr 2003).


Date:  April 21, 2003

Location:  Adjumani-Gulu road, between the villages of Palukere and Pawel, Atiak sub-county, Gulu district

Victims:  between 8 and 16 killed, including 4-5 UPDF soldiers

Description:  LRA rebels ambushed a convoy of ten UPDF-escorted vehicles traveling from Adjumani to Gulu.  Reports on the number of casualties vary from eight to sixteen killed, including four or five UPDF soldiers.  Also on this date, the rebels ambushed a pick-up truck traveling on the Adjumani-Gulu road.  No deaths or injuries were reported as a result of this incident.  (New Vision:  “Kony Ambush” 23 Apr 2003; The Monitor:  “Soldiers killed” 22 Apr 2003; BBC News “Ambush in” 22 Apr 2003).


Date:  April 13, 2003

Location:  Oroko IDP camp, Aswa, Gulu district

Victims:  13 abducted and killed, 200 huts burned

Description:  Thirteen youths were hacked to death with hoes after being abducted by members of the LRA during a night raid on the Oroko IDP camp.  Two hundred huts were also destroyed during the attack.  The camp had been without military protection since last year after the UPDF ordered its inhabitants to vacate the premises and move to Logore camp, where protection was provided.  The UPDF dispatched a number of officers to Oroko following the April 13 raid in order to “assess the situation” (New Vision: “LRA Hack” 18 Apr 2003).


Date:  April 13, 2003

Location:  Lacor and “For God” village, Bar-Dege division, Gulu district

Victims:  2 killed, 16 abducted

Description:  Two people were killed and sixteen civilians abducted during an LRA raid on the Bar Dege division.  The rebels also looted foodstuffs and other items during the two-hour attack (New Vision: “Kony rebels” 16 Apr 2003).


Date:  April 9, 2003

Location:  Adjumani

Victims:  13 killed

Description:  Thirteen people died and numerous others were injured when the LRA ambushed a convoy of ten civilian vehicles traveling in the district of Adjumani.  Two vehicles were also torched.  Additionally, four civilians were injured in a separate LRA ambush in Loyo-Boo (New Vision “ Kony Rebels” 10 Apr 2003). 


Date:  April 5, 2003

Location:  Lagile IDP camp; Awere sub-county, Gulu district

Victims:  9 killed

Description:  Seven people were killed when a gang of thirty LRA rebels infiltrated the Lagile IDP camp in the Gulu district of northern Uganda.  The UPDF immediately responded, killing two of the rebels before the group managed to flee the camp (New Vision: “LRA kills” 8 Apr 2003)


Date:  April 2, 2003

Location:  outside of Acholibur, Kitgum district

Victims:  7 killed, at least 15 injured

Description:  The LRA ambushed a pick-up truck traveling just outside of Acholibur.  Seven were killed and at least fifteen injured in the attack (The Monitor: “Silent death” 6 April 2003).


Date:  April 1, 2003

Location:  Porogati, Aruu county

Victims:  6 killed

Description:  Six civilians were killed in two separate road ambushes staged by LRA members (New Vision: “LRA kills” 1 April 2003).


Date:  March 17, 2003

Location:  Kitgum

Victims:  1 killed

Description:  An unidentified man was gunned down by LRA members as they fled UPDF troops in Oryang village (New Vision: “LRA shoots” 20 Mar 2003).



Abduction, Torture, and Rape of Children and Other Civilians: For over a decade, the LRA has been abducting children to replenish and increase its membership (HRW: “Uganda: Child”). The LRA conducts violent raids on villages and schools for this purpose.  The rebels generally target children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, although abductions of children as young as seven or eight have occurred (New Vision: “LRA Hits” 19 Jun 2003).  In recent months, the rebels have been seeking “younger children, whose minds can be transformed in a matter of weeks.” The LRA has abducted over 20,000 children since 1990, with 8,400 of these abductions occurring between June 2002 and May 2003 (HRW: “Abducted and”).

Abducted children face a life of extreme violence and brutality.  Upon abduction, the children undergo an initiation process that often includes severe beatings and forced participation in the killing of other captives (HRW: “Abducted and”).  After initiation, they are compelled to serve as LRA soldiers and sex slaves (ReliefWeb: “Eyewitness: Children”).  They endure inhumane living conditions characterized by hunger, thirst, exposure, long hours of hard labor, beatings, and inadequate medical attention.  Both boys and girls undergo military training and are subsequently forced to face UPDF offensives and participate in raids, ambushes, and abductions.  Those females not installed as soldiers perform grueling tasks as virtual slaves for the LRA.  At the age of fourteen or fifteen, girls are “sexually enslaved as ‘wives’ of commanders and subjected to rape, unwanted pregnancies, and the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS” (HRW: Abducted and”).  Those children who are weak, injured, or resistant are generally killed (HRW: “Stolen Children”).

Escaping from LRA captivity, while not impossible, comes with a very high risk.  Those who are recaptured are severely beaten, if not killed, as an example for other abductees (HRW: “Abducted and”).  Escapees also jeopardize their families, as it is common for the LRA to retaliate against an escaped child’s loved ones. Those who manage to successfully escape live in constant fear of reabduction, and many suffer from severe psychological and physical trauma. 

It is not uncommon for the LRA to abduct adults, but they are rarely instituted into the organization to the same extent as children (HRW: “Abducted and”).  Adults are usually abducted by the LRA to transport looted goods and are released after a short period of time.


Recent Instances of Abuse:


Date:  September 8, 2003

Location:  Aminit village, Soroti district

Victims:  5 abducted 

Description:  Five internally displaced persons were abducted during a late-night LRA raid.  Fourteen IDP huts were also torched (New Vision:  “LRA burn” 10 Sep 2003).


Date:  August 6, 2003

Location:  Acowa sub-county, Katakwi district

Victims:  several abducted – exact number unknown

Description:  LRA rebels conducted raids on several villages in Acowa sub-county, during which they abducted an unknown number of people (New Vision: “Rebels Abduct” 8 Aug 2003). 


Date:  July 30, 2003

Location:  Laroo, Gulu district

Victims:  between 5 and 14 reported abducted

Description:  LRA rebels conducted a seven-hour raid on the Laroo forest ward during which numerous people were abducted.  The Laroo division boss reported at least fourteen people abducted, but UPDF intelligence officers claim the rebels seized only five people (New Vision: “LRA raids” 2 Aug 2003). 


Date:  June 18, 2003

Location:  Adjumani

Victims:  29 abducted

Description:  Twenty-nine people, including fifteen Sudanese refugee children, were abducted during the first LRA attack on Adjumani in fourteen years.  The children, ranging from age seven to fifteen, were seized from an orphanage run by the Sacred Heart Sisters (The Monitor:” Rebels abduct” 19 June 2003).


Date:  June 6, 2003

Location:  Alito sub-county, Kole county, Apac district

Victims:  17 abducted

Description:  Sixteen children and a Catholic priest were abducted by LRA rebels.  The victims were later released after carrying looted goods seized by the rebels (New Vision: “LRA Abduct” 9 June 2003).


Date:  June 4, 2003

Location:  Opit trading center and IDP camp

Victims:  unknown number abducted

Description:  LRA rebels attacked Opit trading center and IDP camp, burning thirty huts, looting numerous homes and businesses, and abducting an unknown number of civilians (BBC News:  “Rebels club” 5 June 2003).


Date:  May 26, 2003

Location:  Alebtong trading center, Moroto and Otuke counties, Lira district

Victims:  30 abducted

Description:  Thirty people were abducted when over one hundred LRA rebels attacked the Alebtong trading center.  The rebels also looted merchandise from numerous shops, stole medicine and supplies from the health center, and freed numerous prisoners during the five-hour raid (New Vision: “LRA Abduct” 29 May 2003).


Date:  May 25, 2003

Location:  Alep Tong Prison, Lira district

Victims:  6 abducted

Description:  LRA rebels abducted six prisoners from the Alep Tong Prison (New Vision: “LRA abduct” 27 May 2003).


Date:  May 11, 2003

Location:  Lacor, Gulu district

Victims:  60 abducted, including 44 seminarians

Description:  Over one hundred LRA members raided the village of Lacor, 8km west of Gulu town, in the early morning hours.  The rebels targeted St. Mary’s Seminary School, abducting forty-four seminarians and forcing them to carry property seized during the attack.  The rebels abducted approximately sixty people during the two-hour raid (Panafrican News Agency: “Ugandan Rebels” 11 May 2003; New Vision: “LRA Rebels” 12 May 2003).


Date:  April 18, 2003

Location:  Moro village, Aramo sub-county, Lira district

Victims:  more than 60 abducted

Description:  The LRA abducted more than 60 civilians, including some children and a local government official, from Moro village in a raid on the morning of Good Friday.  In addition to the abductions, the rebels looted drugs and supplies from a local health center (The Monitor: “Kony Abducts” 20 Apr 2003).



Date:  March 24, 2003

Location: Palabek-Kal Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp; Lamwo county, Kitgum district

Victims:  39 abducted

Description:  LRA forces assaulted the Palabek-Kal IDP camp in northern Uganda.  They abducted 39 civilians and raided a number of homes and businesses.  The rebels forced abductees to carry the loot (New Vision: “LRA abduct” 27 March 2003).   


Date:  March 20, 2003

Location:  Odek sub-county, Omoro county

Victims:  over 27 abducted

Description:  LRA rebels raided the villages of Agweng-Tina and Te-got-Ayamo on Thursday evening.  In a span of three hours, the rebels abducted more than twenty-seven civilians, among them children and senior citizens, and looted numerous homes for foodstuffs.  The abductees were forced to carry the loot into the bushes, where they subsequently disappeared.  Only a few of those abducted managed to return to the villages.  The raids reportedly targeted the home villages of LRA leader Joseph Kony (New Vision: “LRA Abducts” 22 March 2003)



Targeting of Roman Catholic Missions, Clergy, and their Affiliates:  Since LRA leader Joseph Kony ordered his rebels to target Roman Catholics last spring, an increased number of missions, clergy, and persons affiliated with the Church have been victimized in LRA attacks (BBC: “Church fears” 17 Jun 2003).  The nature of the assaults against Roman Catholics parallels that of the attacks against the general population.  In recent months, more than a dozen churches or missions have been looted and destroyed and over 150 seminarians and Catholic schoolchildren have been abducted by LRA forces.  The 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide defines genocide as,


“Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:  killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” (see Legal Appendix).


Additionally, Article 3 of this convention declares that punishable activities include genocide itself, as well as the conspiracy, incitement, and attempt to commit genocide.  As targeted violence against Roman Catholics continues, the evidence builds for categorizing this LRA aggression as “genocide,” in accordance with the Genocide Convention.   


Direct Incitement to Commit Genocide:


June 2003: Military officials became aware of a direct order by LRA leader Joseph Kony for his forces to target Catholic missions and clergy.  The UPDF immediately notified the Church of the threat.  Kony declared, “Catholic missions must be destroyed, priests and missionaries killed in cold blood and nuns beaten black and blue.”  Information regarding the date when the order was issued was not available (BBC: “Church fears” 17 Jun 2003).


Evidence of Targeting of Roman Catholics:


July 2003:  UPDF soldiers uncovered an LRA map in the Katakwi district on which numerous Catholic churches are marked.  The map indicates pre-planned targeting of Roman Catholics and Catholic missions in the region (New Vision:  “LRA targets” 31 Jul 2003).


Recent Instances of Abuse:


Date:  September 7, 2003

Location:  Apac district

Victims:  6 abducted, 1 priest injured

Description:  The Iceme Roman Catholic mission was looted and an elderly priest assaulted by LRA rebels during a late night raid.  Six people were also abducted during the attack.  Five of the hostages were released, but one hostage remains in LRA custody (AFP: “Army kills” 8 Sep 2003).


Date:  July 22, 2003

Location:  Kaberamaido, Soroti district

Victims:  100 abducted

Description:  Approximately one hundred schoolgirls were abducted when LRA forces raided Lwala Girls Secondary School, a Catholic-founded school in Kaberamaido.  Most of the girls managed to escape or were rescued by the UPDF.  By June 25, only six remained missing (Agence France Presse: “Most of” 25 June 2003; New Vision “Kony Abducts” 25 June 2003).


Date:  June 17, 2003

Location: Oditel IDP Camp, Katakwi district

Victims:  1 killed, 1 injured

Description:  A Catholic priest was injured when rebels fired upon the car he was driving.  The priest and a second individual were fleeing an LRA attack on Oditel IDP camp.  The other passenger was killed (The Monitor: “Rebels abduct” 19 June 2003)


Date:  June 17, 2003

Location:  Adjumani

Victims:  29 abducted, including 15 children from Redeemer Orphanage Center

Description:  The LRA targeted Adjumani Catholic Parish during a late-night raid in Adjumani.  Fifteen children were abducted from the Redeemer Orphanage Centre after rebels failed to break into the radio room and the nuns’ quarters. (New Vision: “LRA hits” 19 June 2003).  


Date:  June 6, 2003

Location:  Alito village, Kole county, Apac district

Victims:  17 abducted

Description:  A Roman Catholic priest and sixteen children were abducted during a raid on Alito village.  All seventeen of the abductees were released after carrying goods seized by the rebels.  The priest, Fr. Alex Ojera, was ordered by the rebels to read an LRA message over the two main radio stations broadcasting in the area.  The message stated that the LRA was willing to negotiate with the government.  Still, they declined any mediation by local religious leaders, who, until this point, had been active intermediaries between the rebels and the government.  During the raid, the rebels also looted and destroyed the Alito Catholic Mission and burned over fifty huts in the area (The Monitor: “LRA now” 8 June 2003; New Vision “LRA Abduct” 9 June 2003).  


Date:  May 30, 2003

Location:  Omiya Anyima trading centre

Victims:  6 killed

Description:  A Catholic mission was torched during an LRA raid on the Omiya Anyima trading center.  Six people were killed, but none of these victims were reported as affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church (The Monitor “Rebels kill” 2 June 2003).


Date:  May 11, 2003

Location:  Lacor, Gulu District

Victims: 44 abducted; 4 killed of those initially abducted

Description:  Forty-four seminarians were abducted when the LRA targeted St. Mary’s Minor Seminary during an early morning attack on the village of Lacor.  The seminarians, along with sixteen other abductees, were forced to carry property seized by the rebels during the ambush.  Four of the abducted students were later killed on the banks of the rivers Abera and Aswa in Gulu district.  Five others were rescued by the UPDF (New Vision:  “Kony Kills” 17 May 2003; New Vision: “LRA Rebels” 12 May 2003; Panafrican News Agency: “Ugandan rebels” 11 May 2003).  


Date:  April 25, 2003

Location:  Gulu Catholic Mission

Victims:  1 abducted and released, 1 injured

Description:  In an early morning raid, the LRA ambushed Gulu Catholic Mission.  One priest, 85-year-old Fr. Albertini, was injured as a result of the assault, while another, Fr. Gabriel Durigon, was abducted and later released less than one kilometer from the mission.  The rebels stole a number of items from the mission, including a solar panel.  They also set three mission vehicles ablaze (New Vision: “LRA Raid” 26 April 2003).


Date:  April 23, 2003

Location:  Palabek-Kal, Kitgum district

Victims:  None

Description:  LRA forces raided a Catholic mission in the Kitgum district. The rebels looted radio communication equipment, medicine, and other valuables (New Vision: “LRA Raid” 26 April 2003).



Internal Displacement:  Nearly 800,000 Ugandans are internally displaced in the northern regions of the country (IRIN: “Uganda: Civilians” 2 Apr 2003).  500,000 of these persons were initially displaced by LRA violence, while an additional 300,000 have been displaced as a result of an October 2002 order by the Ugandan government. The order established a policy requiring the relocation of civilians from unstable areas of Acholiland to protected government camps (HRW: “Abducted and”).  The purpose of these camps is to improve the security of civilian residences. Unfortunately, the measures taken by the government to protect the camps have proven inadequate, and these areas have become LRA targets for lootings and abductions (HRW: “Abducted and”).  The recent large-scale LRA ambushes on IDP camps in the Lira district evidence the specific targeting of these vulnerable settlements.  Currently, fifty-three camps operating in northern Uganda host nearly 70% of the Acholiland population (IRIN: “Uganda: Civilians” 2 Apr 2003).  Additionally, the World Food Programme has estimated that 300,000 people have been displaced in the Teso district of eastern Uganda as a result of LRA activity (New Vision: “Rebels displace” 26 Sep 2003).  This brings the total number of displaced Ugandan civilians to 1.1 million.  

            Furthermore, thousands of Ugandan children commute to urban areas on a nightly basis in order to avoid abductions and raids in their rural villages (HRW: “Uganda: Child”).  These “night commuters” take refuge in bus stations, parks, shop verandas, church grounds, and local hospitals by night and then return home the following morning.  It is estimated that up to 20,000 children commute to the towns of Gulu and Kitgum on a nightly basis (IPS: “Rebels Decline” 3 Jul 2003).  Many fear that LRA rebel activity will spread to urban areas as this concentration of “night commuters” becomes an attractive target for mass abductions.



Mutilation:  The LRA utilizes grotesque maiming as a means of striking fear in Ugandan civilians (BBC News: “Uganda’s atrocious” 12 Jun 2003).  Individual captives abducted during LRA raids are selected as “examples” and subsequently have their ears, noses, lips, hands, and/or feet cut off.  Oftentimes, fellow captive are forced to commit these atrocities.  The disfigured abductees are released and returned to their villages with notes of warning from the rebels.  The LRA believes mutilation serves as an effective means of averting civilian resistance to the rebel movement. 



Threat of Man-Exacerbated Famine:  The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) recently announced, “Food aid is urgently needed for over 1.6 million people in northern and eastern Uganda in the worst humanitarian crisis the country has seen for years” (IRIN: “Uganda: Food” 29 Jul 2003).  As a result of the LRA conflict, 800,000 people residing in government-protected camps are completely dependent on humanitarian food aid for their sustenance.  Although stocks were available for August, WFP has warned of an impending “pipeline crisis” for the fall months unless international food donations to the region increase dramatically (IRIN: “Uganda: Food” 29 Jul 2003). 

            The current security situation in northern Uganda has exacerbated this crisis.  Rebel ambushes have rendered major roads in Uganda’s northern and eastern districts insecure (IRIN: “Uganda: WFP” 15 Aug 2003).  Even when food supplies are available, this situation greatly hinders the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver food aid to Ugandan civilians.  National food production has also been hampered due to LRA attacks and killings (Reuters: “A voice” 4 Jul 2003).  Rebels regularly burn fields and loot foodstuffs, and farmers are prime targets for LRA attacks while tending their crops.  Additionally, it has been reported that UPDF soldiers “have gone on a rampage, cutting down paw-paw and banana plants and uprooting cassava, purportedly to deny the rebels access to food” (The Monitor: “Silent death” 6 Apr 2003).  This perilous national situation, paired with international apathy, creates a bleak prospect for the future food security of northern Ugandans.           



Legal Analysis


The LRA rebellion is characterized as an internal armed conflict.  The actors involved, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF), are both local to Uganda, and the conflict is primarily centralized in the country.  Both forces have a centralized military command structure and exert control over territory within Uganda.  The LRA is under the command of its founder, Joseph Kony, while the UPDF remains under the control of the recognized Ugandan government. 


The LRA has declared political goals: the usurpation of power in Uganda and the creation of a fundamentalist Christian state based on the Ten Commandments.  To achieve this end, the LRA has established a policy of attacking and terrorizing the civilian population in Uganda.  With a territorial base in northern Uganda, the rebels are able to implement attacks and raids upon civilians throughout the northern and eastern regions of the country.  In consideration of these facts, the LRA may be classified as an organized armed force, with a clear agenda, central command, and sizable resources.


As a result, the LRA is subject to the provisions of the Geneva Convention of 1949, particularly the Third and Fourth Conventions, dealing with the treatment of prisoners of war and the treatment of civilian persons in time of war.  International law also requires the rebels to adhere to Protocol II of this Convention, addressing internal armed conflicts.  In addition, the LRA is subject to customary humanitarian law and a number of other international human rights instruments.


The LRA has violated nearly all of these international conventions and instruments.  Through its brutal practices of child slavery, torture, rape, pillaging and murder, the LRA has consistently shown a complete lack of regard not only for the provisions of international law, but for the lives of their fellow human beings.  Additionally, the recent systematic targeting of Roman Catholic clergy and their affiliates necessitates the classification of many LRA activities as genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 (See Legal Appendix).


The sustained presence of the LRA in northern Uganda has only served to worsen its human rights violations by lengthening its reach, supplying its needs, and serving as a base from which to conduct raids on the surrounding populace.  In essence, the LRA is conducting an organized operation of calculated cruelty and destruction on the people of Uganda in an attempt to forcibly seize power.





I. Violations of International Law


Genocidal Targeting of Roman Catholics


Recently, the LRA began the systematic targeting of Roman Catholics in Uganda.  In response to the increasing prominence of the Church in the region, the LRA has burned and attacked Catholic churches and missions on numerous occasions and is threatening to attack missionaries, priests and nuns.  Recent evidence shows that LRA leaders have planned coordinated, deliberate attacks on Catholic establishments throughout Uganda.  The LRA is intentionally and systematically attacking a religious group with the intent to destroy its members and resources


These coordinated, deliberate attacks on Catholic missions and missionaries can be defined as genocidal acts under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention).  Article 2 of the Genocide Convention defines genocide as acts “committed with intent to destroy…a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.”  Furthermore, Article 4 states that ALL parties, whether states parties or private individuals, shall be punished for the act of genocide. 


Regardless of the extent or number of attacks, these actions by the LRA constitute a violation of the Genocide Convention, as Article 3 states that conspiracy to commit genocide, incitement to commit genocide, and complicity to commit genocide shall all be punished under its auspices.  As such, the LRA can clearly be held in violation of the Genocide Convention.



Attacks on Civilians and Internally Displaced Persons




The LRA has instituted the massacre of innocent civilians as common practice in its violent offensives in northern and eastern Uganda.  Civilians are killed indiscriminately, children are brutalized and murdered, and women are often killed after being raped by LRA soldiers.  Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA, has directly ordered the murder of Roman Catholics, stating, “Catholic missions must be destroyed, priests and missionaries killed in cold blood…[italics added]” (BBC: “Church fears” 17 June 2003).  The targeting of the Catholic establishment in such a fashion is not only symptomatic of the brutal nature of the LRA with regard to non-combatants, but also indicates the propensity for genocidal activity by LRA rebels.


Violence against civilians is in direct violation of several international conventions.  Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions requires each party in a conflict to abide by certain provisions ensuring the safety of non-combatants.  The Convention defines “non-combatants” as “persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause.”  The Geneva Convention specifically prohibits the infliction of violence upon non-combatants by any party to an internal conflict.  Furthermore, Article 13, paragraph 2 of the Second Protocol to the Geneva Convention (Protocol II) states, “The civilian population as such, as well as individual citizens, shall not be the object of attack.”  Uganda has also acceded to the Covenant on Civil and Economic Rights, Article 6, which states: “Every human being has the inherent right to life.  This right shall be protected by law.  No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”  The LRA is in direct violation of these international conventions.




Pillage and Destruction:


Members of the LRA loot and steal food from numerous villages, oftentimes destroying infrastructure and displacing thousands of Ugandans as a result of their actions.  Such activity exhibits the blatant disregard of the LRA for the lives and property of their fellow citizens and further testifies to their casual indifference towards human rights.


The Geneva Conventions explicitly prohibits these activities. Article 4 of the Second Protocol forbids the pillaging of people who are not involved in hostilities.  Article 14 further prohibits actors from attacking areas necessary for the survival of the civilian population.


Crimes against Children


Many international humanitarian treaties give special protection to the welfare and rights of children in times of conflict.  These instruments reflect the international community’s concern for the welfare of children, especially those exposed to the trauma of armed conflict.


Child Conscription:


The LRA has a consistent practice of kidnapping children, sometimes as young as seven years old, to serve as soldiers in its ranks.  These children are trained and forced to participate in raids, kidnappings, and murders.  The group also engages in a violent ceremony of initiation for child soldiers, during which they are submitted to brutal beatings and participation in the execution of fellow captives.  The ramifications of such activities on the young body and mind of the child are understandably severe.


Article 4, paragraph 3(c) of Protocol II states, “Children who have not attained the age of fifteen years shall neither be recruited in the armed forces or groups nor allowed to take part in hostilities.”  Furthermore, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute) lists child conscription as a war crime in Article 8 of the document.  The LRA’s behavior in this regard is in clear violation of this protocol.


Child Brutality and Slavery:


Even beyond the horror of child conscription, the LRA kidnaps children to utilize as domestic and sexual slaves.  Upon the infiltration of towns and villages, LRA soldiers often kidnap children from their homes and schools in order to institute them into the rebel organization.  The children are subsequently raped, tortured, and forced into long hours of hard labor.  Oftentimes, those who are too weak to work are chosen as victims for the previously described LRA initiation ceremonies.


Article 7 of the Rome Statute specifies rape, sexual slavery and enforced prostitution, when knowingly committed against a civilian population, as a crime against humanity, and specifically states in its definition of enslavement that the people particularly protected are women and children.   The LRA, therefore, is in defiance of the International Criminal Court.




Sexual Abuses


The LRA often abducts women for the purposes of rape and sexual assault while kidnapping younger girls for sexual enslavement.  These actions are not merely incidental to the conflict, but constitute an intentional and widespread attack on the Ugandan people as the rebels seek to destroy the will of those who oppose the rebellion.


These actions are obvious violations of customary human rights law.  Specifically, Article 4, Section 2(e) of Protocol II, addresses the practice of sexual assault in armed conflict.  This article prohibits the humiliating treatment of non-combatants.  Such treatment includes “rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault.”  Furthermore, the International Criminal Court categorizes rape, sexual slavery, and other forms of sexual violence as crimes against humanity.  The Ugandan government ratified the ICC statutes on 14 June 2002 and has therefore granted the ICC jurisdiction over any crimes of humanity that occur within the country.




II. Applicable Regional Law


Just as the aforementioned international covenants institutionalize customary human rights, the African (Banjul) Charter on Human Rights, ratified by Uganda on 10 May 1986, protects African citizens from murder, rape, pillaging, and degradation of human dignity.  Specifically, Articles 4, 5, 6, and 14 guarantee freedom from murder, exploitation and degradation (including rape, torture, and slavery), arbitrary seizure of person and property.  LRA activities specifically violate these regional provisions as well as the international laws previously discussed.



III. Applicable Domestic Law


The Constitution of Uganda, adopted in 1995, prohibits the violation of many customary human rights, including murder, rape, slavery and servitude, torture, unjust deprivation of property and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.  Specifically, Articles 22, 24, 25, and 26 prohibit these actions.  Furthermore, Article 28 of the Ugandan Constitution prohibits actions of terrorism, defined as “the use of violence or threat thereof with intent to promote or achieve political ends.”  As a consequence of their violation of these basic rights, members of the LRA are subject to prosecution under this Constitution.






The human rights atrocities perpetuated by the Lord’s Resistance Army continue to cause massive suffering among civilian populations in northern and eastern Uganda.  Massacres, abductions, displacement, and famine beleaguer these societies, and civilians hold little hope for a prompt end to LRA brutality.  The atmosphere of fear and distress wrought by the rebels has left civilians struggling to cope with the challenges of daily life in this violence-stricken region. 



The tactics employed by the LRA are clearly in violation of numerous national and international laws.  The 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide specifically addresses the targeting of a group on the basis of religious affiliation.  LRA leader Joseph Kony’s recent incitement of genocidal activity against Roman Catholics together with the systematic targeting of clergy and missions that followed evidence the propensity of the LRA for religiously motivated genocide.  A number of the clauses of the Genocide Convention have therefore become applicable to this violent insurgency.


This extensive humanitarian crisis, now augmented by large-scale attacks and marked with evidence of genocidal activity, remains largely overlooked by the international community.  Although the rebel forces have approached non-governmental organizations such as the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy to broker an agreement with the government, attempts to establish a lasting peace in the region have thus far been unsuccessful.  Unless efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict are intensified on both the national and international levels, the prospects for alleviating human suffering in this region are bleak.     
























Legal Appendix



Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide


Article 2


In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part,  a national,  ethnical,  racial or religious group,  as such:


a.       Killing members of the group;


b.      Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;


c.       Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;


d.      Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;


e.       Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.


Article 3


The following acts shall be punishable:


a.       Genocide;


b.      Conspiracy to commit genocide;


c.       Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;


d.      Attempt to commit genocide;


e.       Complicity in genocide.


Article 4


Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials, or private individuals.






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