Global Policy Forum

UN, Others Must Defeat Darkness of Lord’s Resistance Army


By Michael Gerson

Washington Post
July 27, 2007

Across Sudan, northern Uganda and eastern Congo, many have lived in the shadow of violence for decades. A brutal few are loyal to the darkness. Two years ago, I visited a squatter's camp of mud houses and open sewers on the outskirts of Kampala in Uganda where thousands have sought refuge from the Lord's Resistance Army — a cultish rebel group that has caused perhaps 100,000 deaths, and displaced more than 1.5 million people.

Many of the boys in the settlement had been kidnapped by the LRA and trained as soldiers. One of the former child soldiers was about 16. When the leader of the LRA, a messianic madman named Joseph Kony, visited his prisoners, all were forced to prostrate themselves — but this young man looked up in curiosity, and one of his eyes was gouged out. The man he briefly glimpsed is a cunning thug with a touch of insanity. Kony takes kidnapped sex slaves for wives, is prone to trances and claims he can turn bullets into water. His proven skill is turning children into killers, who intimidate villagers by cutting off lips, ears and noses.

But Kony's forces, under military pressure, have now retreated to the remoteness of the Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Northern Uganda has experienced a year of relative peace, and many displaced villagers are returning to their homes. With African mediation, Uganda and the LRA are engaged in peace talks which have reported incremental progress.

Some in Congress are now calling for the appointment of an American special envoy to push for a final agreement. Mediators from Mozambique, South Sudan and the African Union want to take the lead — and they have more urgent needs than getting an envoy.

First, a peace settlement will require resources. Demobilized LRA soldiers will need medical and psychiatric assistance, employment and education — a new life to replace old habits of plunder.

Second, the military pressure must continue. Garamba Park may sound like a destination for adventure tourism. It is actually a safe haven for some of the worst killers on earth — first the Hutu authors of the Rwandan genocide and now the LRA. There are rumors LRA forces may be rearming. And the more secure and confident the LRA becomes, the less likely it is to disband. The United Nations has more than 18,000 peacekeepers in Congo. They should act to prevent the LRA from putting down roots in Garamba Park. And the United States should support them by sharing intelligence and paying what we owe for U.N peacekeeping.

The final obstacle to a peace treaty is likely to be the treatment of Kony, who fears the justice he deserves. Securing his surrender may involve a Ugandan promise of house arrest or exile to a country not party to the ICC — the traditional tyrant's bribe. Like Idi Amin in his Saudi exile, Kony may live for many years and die in comfort. This would not be justice. But many of his victims seem to prefer peace to a reckoning. And at least Kony's immense darkness would finally be confined to his own heart.

More Information on the Security Council
More Information on Uganda
More Information on Joseph Kony


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