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date: 20 April 2024

Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Armylocked

Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Armylocked

  • Tim AllenTim AllenDepartment of International Development, London School of Economics and Political Science


Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) emerged in northern Uganda when Alice Lakwena’s Holy Spirit Movement was also active (see entry for Lakwena, Alice). The groups had much in common, including spirit possession by their leaders. They were a response to the upheavals in the Acholi region following the seizing of political power in Uganda by Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army in 1986. However, while Lakwena’s forces were defeated in 1987, the LRA proved to be extraordinarily resilient. It has been more orientated to guerrilla tactics and acts of terror, including child abduction. LRA activities, combined with oppressive anti-insurgency operations by Museveni’s government, resulted in forced displacement of over a million people. In 2003, the situation was recognized as one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world by the United Nations Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, and, in 2005, arrest warrants were issued for Joseph Kony and four other LRA commanders by the International Criminal Court. Peace negotiations began in 2006 but failed in 2008. The LRA then became active outside Uganda, in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the Central African Republic (CAR). Hundreds of local people were massacred, and thousands forced to flee their homes in 2008 and 2009. From 2008, the United States supported Ugandan military operations against the LRA, and US support was significantly increased from 2011. The scale of LRA violence declined from 2010, and in 2015, Dominic Ongwen, the only surviving LRA commander wanted by the International Criminal Court apart from Kony, was handed over for trial in The Hague, after being taken into custody by US forces. US and Ugandan forces were withdrawn in 2017, but Kony’s subsequent efforts to reinvigorate the LRA were unsuccessful. While Kony remained at large, Dominic Ongwen’s trial proceeded at the International Criminal Court. In February 2021, Ongwen was found guilty of sixty-one crimes (comprising crimes against humanity and war crimes). The judgment was a landmark ruling in terms of the successful prosecution of forced marriage and forced pregnancy. By 2020, Kony was living with a small band of followers, in a disputed territory between South Sudan and Sudan, bordering the Central African Republic, surviving by farming, and trading in local markets. He has reportedly abandoned his aim to overthrow the Ugandan government.


  • East Africa and Indian Ocean
  • Military History

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