Bye-Bye, Kony?

The Lord’s Resistance Army After the U.S.–Ugandan Withdrawal

Ugandan soldiers during the campaign to track down LRA leader Joseph Kony, in a forest near the borders of the Central African Republic, Congo, and South Sudan, April 2012. STRINGER / REUTERS

In October 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama sent around 100 Special Forces soldiers to back the Ugandan army’s hunt for the Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony. The American forces provided advisory, intelligence, and logistical support, transporting Ugandan troops to the remote regions of Central Africa where the rebels had been spotted.

Since then, the LRA has become a shadow of its former self. The group has not recently carried out any large-scale attacks, such as the so-called Christmas massacres of 2008, in which its fighters killed more than 800 people in northern Congo. Its ranks have thinned to fewer than 100 loosely organized fighters, down from roughly 400 in 2010. (At the peak of its power in the late 1990s, the LRA controlled nearly 3,000 combatants.) And many of the group’s commanders have either surrendered or been killed. Survival, not rebellion, has become the LRA’s raison d’être.

In April, the United States and Uganda ended their mission against the LRA, withdrawing their forces from the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan. Kony is still at large, however, and neither local army units nor UN peacekeepers can put an end to the LRA or adequately protect civilians from its assaults. That is why the United States should increase its support for the United Nations’ mission in the CAR and do more to help professionalize that nation’s army.


Joseph Kony founded the LRA in 1987 as an armed rebellion against the regime of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. With covert support from the Sudanese government, Kony filled the LRA’s ranks with young men and women abducted in northern Uganda. In 2005, as part of a peace treaty aimed at ending a civil war, Sudan declared that the LRA would have to abandon its bases in the country. The group soon decamped for Congo, where it came under attack from the Ugandan army in December 2008. After that offensive failed to defeat the LRA and led to large-scale retaliatory attacks against Congolese civilians, Ugandan

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