Center for the Prevention of Genocide
LRA-Perpetrated Violence Escalates
Resistance Army (LRA), a cult rebel insurgency, has terrorized the northern
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.
In 1994, the LRA
began to collaborate with the government of
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
planned military offensive, Operation Iron
Fist, commenced in March 2002 (AP: “Archbishop: Ugandan”
offensive, however, provoked extreme retaliation by the LRA (BBC News: “
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”
government continues to battle the LRA rebellion. Last fall, the Ugandan and
Sudanese governments renewed the bilateral agreement that authorizes UPDF
access to southern
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
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,
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
Roman Catholic Missions, Clergy, and their Affiliates
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:
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,
missions must be destroyed, priests and missionaries killed in cold blood, and
nuns beaten black and blue” (BBC: “Church fears”
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.
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”
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
Massacres: Civilians are frequently
massacred as the LRA continues its reign of terror across the northern and
eastern regions of
Recent Instances of Abuse:
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
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 (News24.com: “Five hacked”
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”
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”
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:
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).
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”
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”
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).
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: “
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”
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
Location: Kaberamaido district
Victims: 5 killed
Description: LRA rebels killed five people, including
three students from
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: “
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”
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”
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”
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”
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
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: “
Location: near town of
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: “
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”
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
(News24.com: “22 hacked”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
Location: Angaro village
Victims: 5 killed
Description: Five people were killed by
LRA rebels while traveling on Obalanga-Kotido road in the
Location: Okee, Adwari, Lira district
Victims: 7 killed
Description: LRA rebels killed seven
civilians while fleeing UPDF troops in the town of
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”
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
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”
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 (News24.com: “Rebels kill”
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:
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”
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).
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
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”
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”
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
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”
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
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”
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
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
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”
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide
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.
The following acts shall be punishable:
b. Conspiracy to commit genocide;
c. Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
d. Attempt to commit genocide;
e. Complicity in genocide.
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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