Lord’s Resistance Army (Joseph Kony)

A notorious rebel group, led by the elusive Joseph Kony, known for their brutal tactics and use of child soldiers


Religion: Christianity; Folk Religion
Denomination: Syncretist
Founder: Joseph Kony
Founded: 1987
Location: Originally Uganda, later operated in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan
Size: 3,000 (at peak; 100 as of 2020)
Offshoot of: The Holy Spirit Movement
Other Names: Lord’s Resistance Movement; United Holy Salvation; Uganda Christian Army; Uganda Christian Movement; Lord’s [Salvation] Army; United [Salvation] Christian Army


The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, a warlord and self-proclaimed prophet, has been a source of significant turmoil and violence in northern Uganda and surrounding countries since the late 1980s. The LRA’s ideology initially combined elements of Acholi nationalism with Christian fundamentalism and mysticism, but its ideology became increasingly erratic and less coherent over time. They are most known for their use of child soldiers, which has sparked international concern and grassroots awareness efforts, such as the Kony 2012 campaign.

Kony, born around 1961 in Odek, Uganda, into an Acholi family, dropped out of school early and initially served as an altar boy. He rose to prominence in the mid-1980s, initially as part of the Holy Spirit Movement before eventually leading the LRA in a brutal campaign against the Ugandan government and local populations​​​​.

The LRA, known for its severe human rights abuses, including the mass abduction of children to serve as soldiers or sex slaves, has conducted a long-standing insurgency against the Ugandan government. The group’s ideology is a complex mix of mysticism, Acholi nationalism, and a distorted version of Christianity, aiming to establish a theocracy based on the Ten Commandments. Kony claims to be a spokesperson of God, visited by a multitude of spirits, and has used this supposed spiritual authority to justify the LRA’s actions​​​​.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued warrants in 2005 for Kony and other LRA leaders for crimes against humanity, marking the first warrants issued by the court since its establishment. Despite international efforts to capture him, Kony has remained at large, with the LRA continuing its activities, albeit on a reduced scale. By 2017, the group’s strength had significantly diminished, and efforts by the US and Ugandan governments to combat the LRA were concluded, stating that the group no longer posed a significant security risk​​​​.

Efforts to combat the LRA have included international and regional initiatives, with the United States declaring the LRA a terrorist group and imposing sanctions on Kony. The US also provided logistical and financial support to Ugandan military efforts against the LRA. The African Union launched an initiative to coordinate the fight against the LRA, with mixed success, as the focus on military solutions has been criticized for exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in affected areas​​.

The legacy of the LRA and Joseph Kony remains a painful chapter in the history of Uganda and the region, highlighting the challenges of addressing deeply rooted social and political grievances, the impact of colonial legacies, and the complexities of achieving peace and reconciliation in the aftermath of prolonged conflict​​​​.

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