Thursday, June 19, 2003

Northern Uganda: Kony orders the LRA to target the Church.

Date: Thursday 19 June 2003
Subj: Northern Uganda: Kony orders the LRA to target the Church.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is a blasphemous, cult-militia that has been terrorising the predominantly Christian population of northern Uganda for the past seventeen years, in order to try and force concessions from the Ugandan government.

The LRA have claimed to want to establish a theocratic government based on the Biblical Ten Commandments. As such it is not uncommon to hear the secular media referring to the LRA as a "fundamentalist Christian group". Yet the signature trademarks of the LRA are torture and maiming - such as the chopping off of hands, lips, noses and ears, as well as rape, kidnap, murder and the cruellest, most degrading torments - horrors so shocking they are unspeakable.

ESCALATION OF TERROR

An escalation of LRA hostility led the Ugandan government to launch a military offensive in March 2002. In spite of the fact that the LRA presently consists of only around 300 soldiers and 400 abducted child soldiers, the Ugandan military's "Operation Iron Fist" has failed to curb LRA terror - rather, the terror has escalated. In fact Father Joseph Gerner of Saint Joseph's Mission in Kitgum says, "The rebels are all over. I would say practically the whole countryside is in their hands".

While more than 20,000 children have been abducted by the LRA for use as child soldiers and sex-slaves in the past 17 years - more than 5,000 of those have been taken since June 2002.

The church carries most of the burden of this suffering. Christian missions and aid organisations provide care and counselling for escaped and rescued child soldiers and assist with their reintegration back into society. The missions also run orphanages, schools and clinics, and provide safe havens for children afraid of being abducted. This is no small task. For example, over 5,000 people are presently seeking refuge at St Joseph's Mission in Kitgum, and Noah's Ark Children's Ministry Uganda (NACMU) in Gulu takes in around 1,200 children each night.

As the LRA has waged war on the government of Uganda, the church has been the primary sustainer of society and protector of civilians, as well as the primary peace-broker. Now however, the LRA has declared war on the church. (Link 1)

LRA ORDERED TO TARGET THE CHURCH

Kony has been using radio equipment stolen from Catholic missions to communicate with his soldiers. As this equipment is set to a specific mission frequency, other Catholic missions have been picking up Kony's transmissions. On 14 June at 6pm, Joseph Kony was heard giving this order to his troops: "Catholic missions must be destroyed, priests and missionaries killed in cold blood and nuns beaten black and blue."

The Ugandan Army also picked up the transmission and has confirmed it as authentic. An escaped LRA prisoner/child-soldier also corroborated the order.

This is a radical shift in the LRA's attitude to the church. Previously the LRA had been willing to place its trust in Acholi religious leaders to broker peace negotiations. Most Acholi Religious Leaders' Peace Initiative (ARLPI) representatives are representatives of the Catholic Church. Father Joseph Gerner of the Catholic parish in Kitgum said that Kony's recent statements had
revealed a very worrying shift in the LRA's rhetoric. "This is very strange, this change, given that before it was only the Catholic Church they said they would trust". (Link 2)

The Roman Catholic archbishop of the northern Ugandan town of Gulu, John-Baptist Odama said, "I'm only wondering why, suddenly, it has switched and changed into a religious war targeting specifically the Catholic Church and particularly the leaders of the Catholic Church, like the priests, the religious nuns," he said. "This to me has been a puzzle. Up to now, I have failed to understand." (Link 3)

Father Carlos Rodriguez, a Catholic priest in Gulu who is involved in the Acholi Religious Leaders' Peace Initiative (ARLPI), explained that the LRA is furious that the peace efforts being made by the ARLPI have led to the defection of senior LRA commanders. (Link 2)

The WEA RLC Prayer ministry released a prayer posting on Tuesday 17 June 03 detailing the most recent LRA abuses as well as Kony's order, and requesting urgent prayer.

Since then, the LRA have raided two camps for Internally Displaced People and murdered a Catholic priest (17 June). Then on Wednesday 18 June at around 3am they raided the Redeem Children's Home, an orphanage for girls run by the Sacred Heart Sisters, and kidnapped 15 Sudanese and Ugandan girls aged between 7 - 15 yrs. A military battalion rescued 6 girls, 9 are still missing. Later that day the LRA attacked a group of nuns in Gulu.

SUDAN ACCUSED OF SUPPLYING ARMS TO THE LRA.

From 1991 until recently, the LRA had an agreement with the National Islamic Front/Government of Sudan (NIF/GoS) - that they would support the NIF/GoS in their jihad against the Southern Sudanese, if the NIF/GoS would support the LRA. For many years the LRA received arms, training and funding from Khartoum.

Following a peace accord in Nairobi in 1999 Sudan and Uganda agreed to stop supporting each other's rebel movements: the GoS agreed to stop supporting the LRA in exchange for Uganda withdrawing support for the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA).

However, on 1 September 2002, after the SPLA re-captured Torit, a strategic southern garrison town, from GoS hands, Khartoum alleged that Uganda had aided the SPLA. Some observers allege that this led to the GoS restoring its former pact with the LRA. (The GoS re-took Torit in Oct 2002.)

The relationship between the GoS and the LRA certainly appears to be restored and active, although Khartoum denies this. Recently escaped LRA soldiers report that the Sudanese Armed Forces are supplying guns, bullets, bombs, anti-personnel mines, anti-aircraft guns, rocket launchers and various other munitions to the LRA. (Link 4)

Uganda's Acholi Religious Leaders' Peace Initiative (ALRPI) says Sudan's army has been supplying the LRA officers with arms and ammunition since late last year. They believe that this accounts for the fact that in recent months violence against the civilian population of northern Uganda has escalated to unprecedented levels.

MORE TO KONY THAN MEETS THE EYE

There is even more to the LRA than this - literally more than meets the eye. Joseph Kony is a spirit medium. The WEA RLC Prayer posting of 14 May 2003 quoted a social worker who was helping former LRA child soldiers. She told the BBC that the children tell her that Joseph Kony gets possessed, and whatever Kony says when he is possessed comes exactly true. The children report that when Kony is possessed they are supposed to sing and worship. The social worker said, "I believe there is a deadly evil spirit misleading him" (link 5). There is little doubt the appalling blasphemy and extreme, inhumane cruelty and evil of the LRA is demonic.

The involvement of Khartoum and the demonic power associated with Kony and the LRA give a whole new dimension to the words of Ugandan MP, Ben Wacha, who on Tuesday 17 June questioned why the Ugandan Army's "Operation Iron Fist" had failed. "How can a few hundred people be more effective than 50,000 soldiers with their tanks and helicopter gunships equipped with night vision?" he asked. "Is it the LRA or somebody else?"

The Christian religious leaders in northern Uganda are courageously forging ahead with their peace initiatives despite the LRA's threats. (Link 6)

- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Reports Say Uganda Rebels Kill 18, Threaten Clergy
By Paul Busharizi, Kampala, 16 June 2003
http://reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=2935650

2) UGANDA: Lord's Resistance Army ordered to attack Catholic
missions. Kampala, 17 June 2003,
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN),
part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
(OCHA).
http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=34784

3) Priest in Uganda Killed in Apparent Rebel Attacks
By Cathy Majtenyi in Nairobi, 18 Jun 2003.
http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=DA74A68E-2E34-45A0-96220
1DD7FF5E782#

4) President Accuses Sudan of Rearming Rebel Fighters
By Alfred Wasike And Dennis Ojwee, 16 June 2003
New Vision (Kampala)
http://allafrica.com/stories/200306160194.html

5) Uganda's rebel war. By Caroline Pare, 2 November 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/crossing_continents/1003463.st
m

6) Uganda bishops undaunted by rising rebel violence
KAMPALA, 19 June 2003 (Reuters)
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L19148861.htm

See also:
Uganda's atrocious war, By Will Ross
BBC, Kitgum, Uganda, 12 June 2003
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/africa/2982818.stm