While world attention remains riveted on the ongoing slaughter in Darfur, another African bloodbath continues unabated. Unlike Darfur, Uganda hasn't attracted the attention of any celebrities, but there are plenty of abducted children, terrified refugees and limb-severing killers to go around. On June 5, elements of the Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) attacked into southern Sudan, killing twenty-one men, women, and children. Peace talks are on the brink of collapse. For regional African security forces and United Nations peacekeeping forces deployed in theater, the choice is crystal clear: put the LRA to the sword or let them continue to slaughter the innocent with impunity.
LRA fighters have raped, mutilated, and killed thousands of Ugandans, displaced over one million refugees, and abducted nearly 30,000 children. These captives are brutalized and pressed into slavery as child soldiers. Worse still, the LRA's insanity is by no means confined to Uganda. Cross-border raids like last week's murderous foray into Sudan have killed many and destabilized an already volatile region. According to their press releases, the LRA is fighting for a Uganda where the Ten Commandments are the law of the land. Evidently, the LRA -- like so many other cultists -- forgot "Thou Shalt Not Kill."
Former ethnic militant Joseph Kony is the LRA's messianic--and almost certainly psychopathic--supreme leader. Kony is revered by his men as a religious prophet and enjoys a multitude of mistresses and sex slaves. His confused theology and unrealistic military objectives are elaborate justifications for his refusal to give up his power, plunder, and cult of personality. Kony thrives off war and will never willingly put down the gun.
Kony is among a new class of killers ranging from the Serbian snipers of Sarajevo to the frequently intoxicated tribal "technicals" of Mogadishu. Military writer Ralph Peters dubs them "The New Warrior Class," a new wave of murderous brigands empowered by increasing state failure and ethnic hatreds. Uneducated, unattractive, and shiftless, the average "warrior" is a man with little future in an orderly society. But with a gun and some convenient ideology to justify his evil deeds, he can murder those who offend him, take the women who spurn him, and steal what he cannot earn. Clad in his uniform and stomping a helpless victim under his boot, he feels alive for the very first time. But, as Peters notes, "his dedication to the cause is rarely as enduring as his taste for spoils."
In recent years the LRA's military fortunes have waned. Its depravity erased whatever support it once enjoyed from Uganda's restive Acholi minority and Ugandan troops have hounded it into a remote part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The LRA opted to negotiate with the Ugandan government, but demanded immunity from International Criminal Court (ICC) war crimes indictments. Negotiators struck a compromise: in return for laying down their arms, the LRA would face traditional and lenient tribal justice. In April 2008, a peace agreement was finalized -- but Kony didn't show up to sign it.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that the LRA used the respite provided by the peace talks to "recruit" more children, acquire new weapons and communications systems, harden its already formidable Congolese base, and expand into the Central African Republic. The time for talking is over. The LRA must be hunted down and destroyed.
The humanitarian think-tank ENOUGH Project recommends crafting a military strategy to defeat the LRA. Such a plan would involve regional African governments and UN peacekeeping missions deployed in theater and capacity-building for African special forces and multinational intelligence cells. Psychological operations should also be conducted to maximize defections within the already fragmenting LRA. Once his organization has been cut down to size, Joseph Kony should be given an ultimatum: comfortable exile in a foreign villa or forcible apprehension.
Regional United Nations peacekeeping missions must also help African police forces protect civilians in Uganda, southern Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Congo. The LRA's dispersed bands have wantonly targeted civilians throughout northeastern Africa and will likely step up their raids in the event of a military push against their leader. Finally, Sudan's central government and individuals within the Ugandan diaspora utilizing the LRA as a means of undermining Uganda's government must be pressed to cease their material support. Otherwise, Joseph Kony and his wretched organization might live to mutilate another day.