Context – Northern Uganda & South Sudan

History of the LRA War

The war in northern Uganda has been described by one UN official as “the world’s worst neglected humanitarian crisis”.  It is Africa’s longest running war which began about 30 years ago.

In 1987 the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was formed by Joseph Kony who claims that his power and authority comes from spirits with whom he communicates.

His relative, Alice Lakwena, led a short-lived rebellion a few years earlier. Calling herself “the holy spirit”, Lakwena’s forces were defeated by the Ugandan government and she fled into Kenya. (She died in 2007, and her body was returned to northern Uganda where it was buried.) Her father, known by his followers as ‘god, the father,’ continues to operate an occult temple in Gulu of Northern Uganda.

Kony claims to be a spirit-medium, and those who have had close association with him concur. He has taken the name “god, the son” and received his cultic power from the evil principalities and powers that inhabited several high places and altars in northern Uganda.

When Joseph Kony declared war on the Ugandan government, he formed a paramilitary group, a “cult” of rebel guerillas to follow him in his holy crusade, said to be based on the “Ten Commandments” of the Bible (clearly his definition differs greatly from God’s Word). His self-named “Lord’s Resistance Army” (LRA) is like a group of pseudo-spiritual warlords that live in the jungle, emerging only at night to raid villages and terrorize people. Women are raped and then killed; the villages looted and burned until their killing spree is satisfied. There is no clear agenda , as such, for the LRA other than waging terror on the civilian population as a means of maintaining attention and of challenging the government. Kony commands the group through mysticism, religious ceremonies, initiation rites, and some say, occultic powers.

             

Some time after the random killing began in the late 1980’s, Kony’s methodology took a gruesome turn. Desperately needing to replenish his troops, and with no willing volunteers, the abductions began, and they continue, capturing children as young as 8 and up to 15 or 16 years of age. Their parents are butchered before their very eyes, their homes burned, and the children force-marched into the bush — sometimes 50, or even 70 miles, without stopping. In order to blunt their emotions and to harden their consciences, many are forced to kill their own parents, close friends, or relatives and teachers before moving into the bush. Kill or be killed. Shoot them, beat them to death with fists and rocks, or hack them to death with a machete. The survivors are indoctrinated through fear and psychological brainwashing. Boys and girls alike are trained as soldiers and killing machines. Girls are raped and given as sex slaves to LRA commanders. Finally, these bands of abducted children return to the villages of Northern Uganda as the abductors, and the violent patterns are repeated again and again.

Somewhere between 30,000 to 70,000 children have been abducted in the past 30+ years. Abductees who escape, face hatred from their own people, torment, and deep emotional, as well as physical trauma.  This requires months, and sometimes even years, of loving rehabilitation which unfortunately is not usually available.

Driven by fear and by direction of the Ugandan government, people have left their villages and fled to camps for internally displaced people (IDP).  There are over 140 camps totaling over 1.5 million people.  Although there is greater safety in numbers, here they must live in squalor, tightly packed, with little sanitation, no electricity or running water, little to no education, and away from the land they once farmed, and jobs they once held. Disease spreads more quickly in these encampments and mortality rates rise. Hunger and malnutrition stalk, alcoholism rises, as livelihoods and dignity are lost. Families struggle to cope emotionally as depression becomes endemic.

         

This has been called a “war that has grandchildren.” Children born in the IDP camps are now having children. Two generations that don’t remember their homes, nor how to farm their land. They know only life in the camps.

In the summer of 2006, the newly-formed semi-autonomous Government of South Sudan agreed to host and mediate peace talks between the warring parties. The involvement of such a strategic mediator , coupled with new openness by the parties to negotiations , led many to call this the “best opportunity in over a decade for peace in northern Uganda”. In August 2006, the parties agreed to a Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) that led to relative calm in northern Uganda, allowing some IDPs to return home. However, the talks have since stumbled due to a number of complicating factors.

Independence Day: July 9, 2011    

                     

Brief History of   South    Sudan

Population: 8,260,490

                       

As a new country & after a vote, South Sudan finally got their long sought-after independence day. In a January referendum, 98.83 percent of South Sudanese, voted to become their own separate country, and in July, the new government of South Sudan announced its status. The peoples of South Sudan endured over 50 years of two long horrific civil wars. Ethnic cleansing of millions, coinciding with religious warfare against Sudan, continues even today near the north-south border. Fuel for the flames of war includes fighting over prospective oil rights, fertile land, minerals and the other fine attributes of South Sudan.

          

Brief History of Uganda

The area of Africa now known as Uganda was first populated, perhaps around the time of Christ, by tribes belonging to the Bantu people group who migrated from southern Africa. The Bantu tribes established centralized kingdoms and fiefdoms below the Nile at about the same time that Queen Elizabeth I reigned in England.

                   

The Nilotic tribes entered the area from the north around the year 100 A.D. The Bantu tribes were hunter-gatherers. The Nilotic tribes were herder-farmers. Since they were from different people groups and their respective languages sprang from different roots, there was little intermingling between them. Arab traders began moving inland from east Africa in the 1830s, followed in the 1860s by British explorers who were searching for the source of the Nile. In 1877, Protestant missionaries entered the area, followed by Catholic missionaries in 1879.

            

The area was placed under the protectorate of the British Empire in 1888, through the charter of the British East Africa Company granted by the Bugandan king. The United Kingdom ruled Uganda as a protectorate from 1894 until Uganda’s independence in 1962, with the present geographic boarders being established in 1914. Edward Muteesa II, King of Buganda, became Uganda’s first President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces after independence was declared in 1962. Four years later, Prime Minister Milton Obote led a coup that over-threw Muteesa and began a twenty year succession of coups and counter-coups.

In 1971 the notorious Idi Amin took power and ruled the country by means of the military. His rule was ended in 1979 through another coup, but the damage to the land once known as “The Pearl of Africa” had already been done, and it was devastating! The economy of Uganda was all but ruined when Amin expelled the entrepreneurial Indian minority from Uganda. Much of the financial and educational infrastructure was decimated when he, a Muslim, declared Uganda to be a Muslim nation (even though only approximately 3% of the population embraced that religion at the time) and began a campaign to eliminate Christian leaders and Jews.

It was in 1985 that the current president, Yoweri Museveni, came in to power through a violent overthrow of the government. In spite of several major problems, such as becoming involved in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other conflicts, widespread accusations of corruption, and the on-going civil war with the insurgent group, Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the north, Museveni has managed to retain power and some semblance of stability in Uganda for over 20 years. Anyone considering the history of Uganda must understand that political power in Uganda, and indeed much of Africa, has its roots in tribalism and witchcraft with the inevitable result of chaos, killing, and destruction.

The War in the North

Within 8 months of Museveni taking power, an insurgency against his army began in the north. The LRA was formed by Kony.  The modus operandi of the LRA has been to create fear and terror through the use of surprise raids on the civilian population during which many people are tortured, mutilated or murdered, homes are destroyed, and property is stolen. The LRA is notorious for abducting children, some as young as 8 years old, and forcing them to become soldiers or sex-slaves.

The United Nations has estimated that more than 30,000 children have been abducted by the LRA in its 21-year history. Other organizations put the number as greater than 60,000. In 1991 the Ugandan military launched “Operation North,” arming local villages to combat the LRA. In retaliation, Kony massacred and mutilated many suspected government supporters among the Acholi population.

                

During the ensuing years the LRA insurgency grew and became more violent. Families began to flee their villages and take up residence in Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps, established by the government to provide safety for the citizens of the north. As the attacks and abductions escalated over the next 7 years, 1.6 million people – 85% of the population – sought refuge and safety in the often squalid and dangerous camps.

In 1996 more than 200 LRA rebels attacked and raided St. Mary’s College (secondary school) in the town of Aboke, abducting 139 female students. At the risk of her life a teacher – a nun – pursued the rebels and negotiated for the release of 109 of the girls. However, she was unable to secure the release of them all. Of the 30 girls that remained with the rebels, many were given to LRA commanders as “wives,” and many died in captivity. This incident was the first of several that focused the attention of the international community on the atrocities occurring in northern Uganda.

Until the “Aboke Girls” were abducted, the Christian community in the south had essentially ignored the situation in the north. But that abduction, which affected many Christian families in the south, forced them to face the issue and ignited the fires of intercession on behalf of the abducted girls and their families. These intercessory fires continue to burn today. Christian leaders in both the north and the south began investigating the situation from a spiritual perspective and realized the strongly occult foundation of the rebel group. This realization prompted a call for the Ugandan church to rise up and, through spiritual warfare, pull down the strongholds, alters and high places from which Kony was receiving his power.

After this call to spiritual warfare was made the tide began to turn in the battle against the LRA. Although the government’s “Operation Iron Fist” in 2002 resulted in escalation of fighting, the spiritual power fueling the LRA had been overcome and it was only a matter of time until that fact was seen in the natural world.

Following the spiritual warfare against Kony’s empowering spirits, international attention became increasingly focused on the situation in northern Uganda. In 2003 the United Nation’s top humanitarian official was quoted as saying, “I cannot find any other part of the world that is having an emergency on the scale of Uganda, which is getting so little international attention.” Additionally, the plight of the “night commuters” became known throughout the world. This rending of the veil of deception served to shine the spotlight of truth on the situation, raise a world-wide outcry and increase the pressure on both the government and the LRA to seek a solution.

It was i n 2005 that the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Kony and his 6 top commanders, citing crimes against humanity. With the swelling tide of sympathy for the plight of the children caught in the web of political violence, the government of Uganda offered amnesty to any child soldier or captive  who could escape and surrender. Thousands of children have taken this opportunity to escape from the evil of the LRA. After interrogation by the military, these children are taken to a rehabilitation center, such as World Vision’s Children of War Rehabilitation Center. There they are given psychological and spiritual counseling, deliverance ministry if necessary, and if they chose to believe in Jesus and follow Him, discipleship training.

Often these returning young people have no family or home to return to; or they don’t know where their relatives are due to the mass migration of the population into IDP camps. Rehabilitation center staff assists in the effort to find some relatives or, failing that, to establish some sort of home for themselves. Although the LRA has greatly diminished over the past few years, a permanent peace agreement remains to be signed and enacted.

Intercessors and politicians alike continue to seek a final resolution to this 21-year-old conflict.

Possessing This Good Land

Life in northern Uganda has changed drastically since a cease-fire was declared and peace talks began in September of 2006. Slowly, but steadily, people have begun to rebuild their lives. In Gulu town one can see the old being restored and new shops, hotels, restaurants, and banks being constructed. Roads and streets which were deserted a few months ago now swarm with activity at all hours of the day and evening. There is hope and a new confidence on the faces of the people here. And, while most of the people in the IDP camps have not yet ventured out to reclaim their rural villages and homesteads, there is real hope that the time is coming soon when they can leave the camps of war and repossess this good land in peace.

However, it will take courage and perseverance. It will take strength, both in the spiritual and in the natural. And, to possess the land peacefully and permanently, it will take the wisdom, grace and favor of God.

To this end, believers are coming from southern Uganda and around the globe, standing with their brothers and sisters in the north to share the Gospel of peace, in word and deed. The harvest is ripe and it is massive. Pray for the LORD of the Harvest to send laborers into His harvest field of northern Uganda to labor until Uganda is united in Christ, from north to south…east to west…and the Prince of Peace rules in this good land.

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