The Ugandan rebel group Lord's Resistance Army is increasingly
venturing out from its new base in the Democratic Republic of Congo
into neighboring South Sudan and the Central African Republic,
expanding what was already a transnational conflict. While humanitarian
groups call attention to the plight of the locals terrorized by the
LRA, analysts struggle to explain what strategy - if any - is driving
the rebel group's movements.
The guerrilla group led by
international fugitive Joseph Kony is perhaps best known for its tactic
of abducting children to replenish its ranks and for its leader's
mysterious claims to being a prophet of God.
The LRA began
intensifying civilian attacks in the DRC a year ago, but the group is
now regularly crossing the border into neighboring Central African
Republic and the Western Equatorial region of southern Sudan.
Nthengwe, a spokesman for the United Nations agency UNHCR based in
eastern Congo, says that approximately 400,000 have been displaced in
the region by the LRA in the past year.
He says the brutal
attacks are usually carried out by small bands of LRA guerillas who
loot the towns and leave little in their wake.
have been systematic attacks where the LRA targets the civilians in the
villages, attacking these villages and then burning these villages,
kidnapping the woman and children - the adults also in some cases - and
also raping women and killing the civilians," said Nthengwe.
According to U.N. officials, the attacks on civilians have been increasing and pouring over into surrounding areas.
UNHCR official based in South Sudan confirmed to VOA that it had
started receiving a steady flow of refugees from the Central African
Republic, adding to the large number of Congolese refugees who were
displaced by the group.
But one of the agency's three refugee
camps in the Western Equatorial region recently had to be re-located
after its town was attacked by a group of LRA during a food
distribution exercise. All U.N. personnel have now been barred from the
entering the town.
Local authorities in southern Sudan say that
since the start of the year 186, people have been killed by the LRA and
133 abducted, mostly young girls. The U.N. says that violence has
displaced 165,000 in South Sudan alone.
The erratic movements
of Kony's men are rapidly expanding the number of outside players into
the conflict. His followers are now targets of the Ugandan, south
Sudanese, CAR, and the U.N.-backed Congolese forces, leading many to
question what objective his latest moves could possibly be designed to
David Matsanga, the former chief negotiator for Kony in
peace negotiations with the Ugandan government, expressed exasperation
at trying to comprehend the motives behind the expanding attacks. Kony
has failed to show up to sign the peace agreement Matsanga helped
"That's why I've quit," said Matsanga. "Where Kony is
fighting from is different from where I went to negotiate this
agreement. I negotiated this agreement for the people of Uganda. If he
is fighting, he is fighting for something that I don't understand."
reportedly wants the International Criminal Court to drop its arrest
warrant against him before he signs any deal. Some have speculated that
Kony hopes his new destructive rampage will raise international
pressure for renewed negotiations.
But Louise Khabure, an analyst on the LRA for International Crisis Group, thinks this analysis is unlikely.
like to look at things logically," he said. "What are your chances of
negotiating peace when now we have over 1000 civilians dead? I think it
reduces your chances and your ability to be able to talk peace and to
Khabure said that her best sense of the situation
is that the LRA's original objectives were long ago hijacked by the
numerous outside groups who benefited from the region's instability and
began supporting Kony's rebels.
She says the list of alleged
former supporters of the LRA include northern Ugandan leaders,
opposition leaders in the Ugandan diaspora, elements in south Sudan,
and Khartoum. Although she couldn't name who might now be sponsoring
the group, she thinks it's unlikely the LRA has been able to sustain
its campaign this long without outside help.
the civilians who must live under the group's ravaged domain, Khabure
says that the military campaigns against the group are clearly not
"What is clear to me is that they don't seem cornered,"
he said. "The [Ugandan] operation Lightning Thunder was launched, and
to date we have no inkling from Kony or the LRA that they are willing
to talk, or that they are cornered, or that they are under pressure."
was given permission by Congolese authorities to carry out attacks
against the rebel group late last year. Uganda claims that it has since
withdrawn its troops, but it is reported that Ugandan forces remain.