US Special Forces now fighting the LRA in four African countries

Lord's Resistance ArmyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
American troops fighting one of Africa’s most notorious rebel groups are now officially stationed across four African countries, a move that highlights the expansion of Washington’s military presence in the continent. Last October, the administration of US President Barack Obama announced the deployment of 100 US Special Forces members to Uganda, to fight an insurgency group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Founded in the 1980s, the LRA is widely considered the world’s most brutal Christian terrorist group. Its leader, Joseph Kony, who is wanted along with four of his commanders by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, is seen as a prophet by his followers. Washington had initially said that the Special Forces members would act as “advisors” to the Ugandan government, which has sustained the majority of the LRA’s attacks over the years. But Rear Admiral Brian L. Losey, the US Special Operations’ senior commander for Africa, said on Wednesday that, in addition to Uganda, American forces are currently stationed in military bases in Nzara, South Sudan, Obo, Central African Republic, and Dungu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Speaking to Western reporters on the telephone, Rear Admiral Losey said that counterinsurgency activity directed at the LRA “will increase in frequency” during the spring and summer, and hinted that the Christian rebel group would soon be forced to go on the defensive. It is important to note that this official acknowledgement does not mark the beginning of Washington’s military involvement in activities against the LRA. In 2009, The New York Times revealed that the US Department of Defense assisted in the planning of a major offensive against the LRA. The paper alleged that the operation had been “personally authorized” by the then US President George W. Bush, who had also commanded the Pentagon to provide Ugandan forces with satellite communications, intelligence data and “$1 million in fuel”. The operation failed, however, as Kony’s forces managed to successfully break into small groups and move independently toward the interior of the DRC, killing nearly 1,000 civilians in the process. Commander Losey told journalists on Wednesday that US forces in the cross-border region —which is the size of the US state of California— are working on integrating communications and intelligence-collection systems, and have no access to unmanned aircraft.

3 Responses to US Special Forces now fighting the LRA in four African countries

  1. hipbone says:

    Hi Joe:

    You write, “the LRA is widely considered the world’s most brutal Christian terrorist group”

    The doctrinal basis of Kony’s thinking is pretty murky, as Lt. Col. Richard Skow’s notes posted by the NY Times indicate [ ]:

    I’ve blogged about this a bit [ & ], and I guess that Maya Deighton’s summary a while back for the DFID magazine Developments [ ] catches the main features. She writes, “Kony manages to combine a heady blend of occultism, born-again Christianity, and most recently, a much-proclaimed conversion to Islam, with his campaign of terror and child abduction.”

    I’ve just been reading up on the Xhosa Cattle Slayings of the 1850s as it happens, and I imagine there are subtleties here in terms of the LRA that are comparable to that powerful apocalyptic movement — and to those that Christopher Taylor explores in his book on the Rwandan gencide, _Sacrifice as Terror_. I’d be grateful if you could point me to any other useful OSINT sources for Kony’s belief — particularly with regard to the “occult” / magical aspects, and to any suggestion that there’s a millenarian / return to a golden age theme invoked.

    With appreciation for your preference for “drawing careful conclusions” — not always a high priority in these highly politicized and polarized times.


  2. AlbertE. says:

    Juju is an important part of African warfare. Called muti in some places, black magic by Christians. Amulets worn for protection against bullets, the Mai Mai [water, water, bullets turned to water] type of military that was prevalent in the Congo during the early 1960’s, etc. Cannibalism to gain the strength or magic powers of a vanquished enemy slain in battle is also quite common. Mai mai was encountered by the first European colonialists and is an ancient and venerable tradition among the African peoples. Joseph is merely following in the footsteps of many that have gone before him. It was unknown to me recently that the UN sent a special forces team from Guatemala [?] to hunt down Joseph in 2006 but the entire unit was wiped out to the last man, the commander of the SF unit beheaded, probably in some grotesque ritual manner!

  3. intelNews says:

    @Charles: Thanks for your excellent and insightful comment. I’ve been looking into the LRA for several years now, and I have personally never seen any evidence to convince me that their ideological basis (such as it is) is anything other than Christian. Now, as AlbertE. points out, it is a religious identity colored by local customs that go back centuries. But this applies to all religions applied in localities the world over. Ugandan Christians throwing in ritualistic belief in amulets does not necessarily make them any less Christian than, say, American Southern Baptists, who often equate their belief in Christianity with their devotion to the American flag. We can, of course, go the other way, and completely strip all of these terrorist groups –including the LRA, al-Qaeda, the KKK, etc– off their religious underpinnings. But I would propose that, in going down that road, we ought to be consistent, i.e. completely deny the religious angle. In this case, the LRA would not be considered a Christian terrorist group, but then neither should al-Qaeda –which routinely distorts Qur’anic scriptures and the hadiths to suit its purposes– be considered a Muslim terrorist group. [JF]

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