Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army: the new order no one ordered
Afr Aff (Lond) (2004) 103 (412): 335-357.
01 July 2004
For almost 18 years, the so-called ‘Lord’s Resistance Army’ (LRA) has waged war on the Ugandan government and its own people, the Acholi. The robustness of the conflict indicates that the forces working against peace outstrip those working for it. Analysis of the conflict is often reduced to describing the LRA rebellion as the handiwork of a religious fanatic. However, the social disorder that the National Resistance Movement, led by current President Museveni, inherited in 1986 after the downfall of the Acholi-led Okello regime, contained the root causes for continued insurgency. These were amplified by external circumstances that created the operational leeway for rebellion, gathering force in the absence of a credible Acholi political leadership. A deliverance couched in religious discourse resolved the quandary. The emergence and transformation of the LRA can be made comprehensible only in relation, or even in opposition, to the emergence and downfall of the Holy Spirit Mobile Forces (HSMF) as a radical structure of rejection. Millenarian religious justification contextualizes violence and the use of terror as a means of immobilization and control of the population. As the character and composition of the LRA evolved to include the kidnapping of children, and as the terror escalated, the insurgency became increasingly ensnared in a web of internal contradictions. The result is that the LRA has exacerbated the process of dehumanization the HSMF first set out to counter.