A new UN report has revealed that the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army has kidnapped almost 600 children in the past three years.
The United Nations has published a report accusing Joseph Kony, the fugitive leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of kidnapping hundreds of children, who were subsequently forced to become child soliders, sex slaves, human shields, and spies.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon presented the report to the UN security council, giving a detailed analysis of the LRA’s brutal regime against children.
The report found that, between July 2009 and February 2012, Kony’s group kidnapped at least 591 children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Of the kidnapped children, 323 were boys, and the remaining 268 were girls.
“Children reported that they were used in various capacities, as cooks, porters, guards, spies or directly in hostilities as combatants or human shields,” Secretary General Ban said.
“Girls who spent a substantial period of time associated with the group reported to have been subject to sexual slavery and exploitation, including by being forcibly ‘married’ to combatants. Some children were forced to use violence, including to kill their friends or other children in the armed group.
“Numerous children abducted, especially boys, reported to have received so-called magical potions from LRA leaders, which they were told would increase their physical capacities and make it possible to trace and re-abduct them if they escaped.”
Furthermore, the report outlines the difficulty and stigma faced by victims of sexual violence when returning to their former lives.
Ban said: “Families that take in such LRA victims are often accused by their community of supporting LRA and the girls or young women escaping LRA with babies are often seen as bringing bad luck.”
“[The] LRA continues to pose a significant threat not only to children, but also to the civilian population at large and has forced 45,000 persons in the region to leave their homes. While the number of children killed or maimed by LRA in 2010-11 appears to have decreased compared to previous years, the ongoing abduction and forced recruitment of children, as well as the systematic rape and sexual exploitation of captive girls, is egregious and unacceptable.”
Formed over 20 years ago, the LRA initially sought to fight against what it perceived as the marginalisation of the ethnic Acholi people from northern Uganda. However, its current aims are much less clear.
The UN describes the LRA as maintaining organisational cohesion through “a mixture of violence justified by a cultic ideology which posits individuals outside the LRA as being impure and therefore deserving death; spiritualism which promotes the authority and appearance of clairvoyance of Joseph Kony; and severe punishments for indiscipline or disloyalty.”
Kony has been hunted unsuccessfully for decades. However, a senior LRA commander, Caesar Acellam, was captured this May. Last year US President Barack Obama sent 100 special forces personnel to assist Ugandan soldiers in track Kony and his senior commanders.
Major General Caesar Acellam Otto, LRA third-in-command after Kony and Okot Odhiambo, was captured along the banks of the Mobou River in the Central African Republic in mid-May. Top Ugandan army officers, announcing the arrest, defined it as ‘‘big progress’’ towards the capture of Kony. Uganda’s Major General Katumba Wamala said Acellam’s arrest has boosted the morale of forces hunting Kony and his fighters.
According to the UN, Kony changes his location every few days, and could be in DR Congo, South Sudan or the Central African Republic. All three countries are preparing to coordinate their efforts to capture Kony after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest.
Kony and the LRA gained widespread international notoriety when a video produced by the US charity Invisible Children was watched by hundreds of millions of people after going viral. The video was subsequently criticised for over-simplifying the situation, and its director (and co-founder of Invisible Children), Jason Russell, was arrested and hospitalised after a bizarre public breakdown.
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