A group of
child-enslaving cultists might not sound like much of an enemy, but the
group, which should not have survived its first battle, has persisted
for 25 years
Ugandan soldiers deploy in 2009 to the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight the Lord's Resistance Army / Reuters
The story of the Lord's Resistance Army begins with a madwoman from the village of Opit in northern Uganda. After 30 years of uneventful life, Alica Auma disappeared into a nature reserve for several weeks. When she emerged, she said she had been possessed by an Italian army officer whom she called Lakwena, which means "word of God." For about a year, Alice Lakwena, as she was now known, worked as a healer and oracle. Then, one day, she announced that Lakwena had a new plan for her. She would purify first her native lands in northern Uganda, and then the world, through combat. War would be a divine form of healing, she said, in which those that die are like rotten flesh cut out by a surgeon, and in which the pure could not be killed.
It was 1986, and though Uganda's five-year civil war had just ended, the violence had not. Southerner Yoweri Museveni's armed uprising had toppled the northerner-dominated government (Museveni is still in power today), sending the national army fleeing into the north, where it splintered into rebel groups that kept fighting. In Lakwena's northern Uganda, violence was becoming an increasing part of daily life, with an ever-shifting roster of armed groups that polarized communities and the country. Government soldiers cracked down, killing and imprisoning northerners with little cause.