Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 25 January 2006

Ugandan LRA: The global low profile and lethal terrorist group


By Steve Paterno*

Jan 24, 2006 — There is no doubt that the activities and the presence of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), presents untold human misery to the civilians of Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan. Throughout its history, the arm band LRA is notoriously known for killing, torturing, kidnapping, and raping innocent civilians. The shockwave of terror that the LRA sends across its area of operation requires a clear analysis to determine whether the LRA is merely a guerrilla movement fighting for a legitimate cause or it is indeed fits the definition of twenty-first century terrorist outfit that the global war on terror covers in all its aspect of dislodging terrorism.

To begin with, one has to consult with the classical theories of guerrilla warfare that have been used by successful guerrilla movements from around the world so as to understand the circumstances surrounding the LRA. The theory starts by stating that when there is unjust society and all peaceful means of affecting changes are exhausted, then the launching of a guerrilla movement is justified. Uganda, the country whereby the LRA originates is no exception from the other of its African sisterly countries that produces right circumstances for the existence of the guerrilla movements. The history of Uganda is characterized by guerrilla warfare. The present regime of Yuweri Kaguta Museveni made its way into power through guerrilla warfare just as the ones before it, and it is not surprising that there is an urge to topple this regime in a guerrilla fashion. The pretentious democratic practice in Uganda, which demolishes all the democratic principles through elimination of political opponents by means of arrest and banning of multi-political party have almost exhaust the peaceful means of affecting changes in the system. Therefore, the launching of a guerrilla movement in such a system is the most likely option left for those who care in affecting changes.

Even though the atmosphere in Uganda presents justification for the guerrilla warfare as the most likely alternative for change, however, the emerging guerrilla movement has to meet certain criteria to qualify as a formidable force that affect changes in the system. The criteria a guerrilla movement has to meet include; gain the support and sympathy of the masses mainly from the rural population, launch successful attacks on government garrisons and installations, capture and occupy strategic locations, create a parallel structure of the government, and ultimately overthrow the existing government to change the system. While these will determine the success and the definition of a guerrilla movement, the arm band LRA on the other hand never meets these criteria and yet it earns the name of a guerrilla movement throughout its nineteen years of existence.

Instead of the LRA to gain the support and the sympathy of the masses, it embarks on killing, torturing, rapping, kidnapping, and gradually driving the rural masses to resettlement camps far from their homes. As oppose of creating a parallel structure of government, the LRA instead allies itself with a brutal regime of Khartoum acting as its proxy to terrorist the population of the South Sudan and those of Northern Uganda. Instead of attacking the government targets, the LRA indiscriminately targets the innocent civilians. And, instead of fighting for a better change, the LRA fighting is resulting into the misery of the population-a change for the worse just to be exact.

Given these facts and explanations, the LRA is obviously then not a guerrilla movement, hence, it is a terrorist organization as it premeditates its attacks, it is designed to change a political system, its aim is to target civilians so as to intimidate and coerce, and it acts as a subnational-all the attributes of a terrorist organization.

So, one will expect the U.S.A. government, which is taking a lead on global war on terror would have launched an all out war against the LRA and the government that harbors it. Perhaps the U.S.A. government agencies that fight and coordinate the global war on terror varies in their definitions of terrorism, but this can strike someone as odd because the definitions of all those agencies qualify the LRA as a terrorist organization. For example, the U.S. State Department, the most diplomatic wing of U.S. government defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.” The U.S. Department of Defense definition of terrorism is: “the calculated use, or threatened use, of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives.” And the Federal Bureau of Investigation definition of terrorism is “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” The Bush’s doctrine on global war on terrorism is even more blunt, as it states, “the U.S. war on terror begins with Al-Qeada, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated. The U.S. will direct every resource at its command-every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war-to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network. This is not, however, just America’s fight. This is the world’s fight. And the U.S. will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism.”

So if this is the case, why then does the U.S. State Department not use its diplomatic influence to pressure the regime in Khartoum to at least cut its support for the LRA? Why should the U.S. Department of Defense then not help to equip and train the forces such as the Uganda People Defense Force, the Sudan People Liberation Army, and the military from the Democratic Republic of Congo who are fighting the LRA, if it is really willing to fight the global war on terror and even at a cheap cost on U.S. military casualties? And why should the Federal Bureau of Investigation, then not use its valuable intelligence resources to track and capture the LRA leadership, and if there is no clause in the U.S. Constitution to prosecute the LRA leadership, at least, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will hand them over to the International Tribunal for prosecution. The LRA leadership has already been indicted by the International Tribunal and a warrant for their arrested is out. The only thing left is for the LRA leadership to be captured and brought to the world’s justice. Besides, the United Nation will support any capture or killing of LRA, because its definition of terrorism is: “any act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act,” which are clear descriptions of the LRA activities. Perhaps the United Nations personnel and other aid workers affiliated to the United Nation who have been the victims of the LRA terroristic activities will make a better case against the LRA than the innocent civilians who are constantly being terrorized by the LRA.

It will also be good for a change, if President George W. Bush will at least make a reference or two on LRA terroristic activities in one of his many speeches on global war on terror. These are the least and bare minimum the world can do to those who are constantly being terrorized by the LRA activities in Southern Sudan, Northern Uganda, and soon will be in Democratic Republic of Congo. But the problem sometimes is that those who are in real need of help do not get real help, and who can say it any better other than a film maker and journalist, Cullum Macrea, who has witnessed the horror of LRA activities, and sadly concluded, “it is tempting to think that if the LRA had been stealing oil rather than children, the rest of the world would have paid more attention.”

* Steve Paterno is a Sudanese residing in the U.S.A., and he can be reached at stevepaterno@yahoo.com

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