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9/17/04 - ATROCITIES BY UGANDAN REBELS - 2004-09-17

While the world has justifiably been focused on the Sudanese government-sponsored atrocities in Darfur, other people in Africa are also being brutalized. In the northern part of neighboring Uganda, a rebel group that calls itself the Lord’s Resistance Army, or L-R-A, has been terrorizing people for about eighteen years. Andrew Natsios is Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development:

“The level of atrocities in northern Uganda has just been unspeakable. It’s as bad as Darfur actually. We’ve done human rights reports, working with the State Department and the international community. . . . [T]he atrocities [of] the L-R-A are just unimaginable.”

The L-R-A is led by a self-proclaimed Christian mystic named Joseph Kony. In the past, it has received support from Sudan. Since 1986, more than ten-thousand people in northern Uganda have been killed by the L-R-A. In addition, according to the United Nations, more than one-million six-hundred thousand Ugandans have fled their homes to escape the L-R-A’s attacks, which include hacking off of arms, legs, lips, or ears with machetes.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the L-R-A is that a large proportion of its fighters are children. A U-N report says that since the late 1980s, as many as thirty-thousand Ugandan children have been abducted from their villages to work as child soldiers or porters, or to be sex slaves for the rebel leaders.

Because of the L-R-A’s terror tactics, tens of thousands of Ugandan mothers and their children have become what are known as “night commuters.” They leave their villages and walk for hours each night to major towns to find places to sleep where they hope to be safe from L-R-A raids.

Thanks to some recent successes by the Ugandan military, the Lord’s Resistance Army appears to be losing its grip over the countryside. But people in northern Uganda are still in desperate need of humanitarian aid.