In recent weeks, the Ugandan rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been attacking villages, raping women, abducting children, and leaving hundreds of people dead in north-eastern DR Congo.
But over the weekend LRA spokesman David Matsanga delivered a letter to U.N. mediator Joachim Chissano calling for a truce.
After 20 years of conflict during which time the people of Northern Uganda were brutally terrorized by the LRA, the rebel group was finally pushed out of Uganda but continues to operate in Congo, Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Peace talks were initiated in Juba, Southern Sudan in 2006, but have failed and been restarted repeatedly because LRA leader Joseph Kony consistently refuses to sign a peace agreement until a 2005 indictment against him from the International Criminal Court is lifted.
The most recent breakdown in talks, this past December, prompted the creation of a joint campaign among the Southern Sudanese, Congolese, and Ugandan forces–Operation Lightning Thunder–whose aim was to defeat and dismantle the LRA. In response, the LRA launched its recent campaign of violence–including targeting churches on Christmas day, killing 254 people in nine villages. But Kony escaped capture and is reportedly headed to the Central African Republic. Operation Lightening Thunder’s forces have already obtained permission to follow him.
After two years of obstructing the peace talks it would seem that Kony is finally willing to cooperate. However, Julia Spiegel, a policy analyst with The Enough Project who works and lives in Uganda, doesn’t hold much stock in the LRA’s call for a ceasefire.
“It’s relatively meaningless. Matsanga’s just trying to turn down the heat on the LRA,” Spiegel said.
And the LRA’s actions seem to confirm this theory. While Matsanga was seeking a truce on behalf of the LRA, 100 members of the LRA raided two towns in northeastern Congo killing twenty-two people.
It’s estimated that there are about 600 members of the LRA roaming around Eastern Congo and Southern Sudan many of whom were abducted as children and haven’t known anything else.
“What needs to happen now is that they need to apprehend the key members of the LRA,” Spiegel said, referring to the rebel leader Joseph Kony and two of his cohorts Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen who have also been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
An estimated 25,000 children were abducted and taken into the LRA’s ranks during 20 years of conflict in Uganda. In Lord’s Children, WIDE ANGLE meets former child soldiers from the LRA who are trying to put their lives back together.