The Lord’s Resistance Army is steadily weakening due to the growing weariness and disillusionment of its combatants, many of whom want to defect, according to a new report by The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative, a US-based advocacy group.

The factions are scattered across an area of central Africa about the size of California, and, despite LRA leader Joseph Kony’s integration of high-frequency radios, communication between factions is difficult. Morale is at a new low; at least 31 Ugandan LRA combatants, which is at least 15 percent of the LRA’s core Ugandan fighting force, have defected since the beginning of 2012.

Months spent in remote rainforest villages have left the soldiers with little energy and enthusiasm, and the army’s new venture into new forms of crime, such as harvesting elephant ivory, have left many disenchanted and guilt-ridden. Recently, the army has also almost entirely failed to end conflicts with decisive victories leading to further weariness.

“The large majority of people in the LRA were forcibly conscripted, and most, including many Ugandans, want to defect,” the report says.

Pressure from the Ugandan, the US military in Uganda, the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are all contributing to the weakening of the LRA. Campaigns such as the “Come Home” campaign, a collaboration between the Ugandan and US militaries that uses helicopters to canvas sensitive areas with dropped leaflets and loudspeaker messages encouraging soldiers to defect, have been particularly effective. The authors suggest, however, that these campaigns should be more widespread and better able to target areas where the LRA are actually operating.

While the report admits that the rebel group will not be dismantled any time soon, it outlines the steps that can be taken by the Ugandan government, Congolese government, US government, African Union, and all involved peacekeepers and donors to best ensure the LRA’s ultimate demise. It is assumed by the initiative that the most effective way to weaken and ultimately wipeout the LRA is to encourage as many soldiers as possible to defect.

One of the suggestions listed in the report is for the Ugandan government to implement a “re-integration program” for defected soldiers to assimilate back into their communities. Often, it is extremely difficult for former members of the LRA to integrate themselves back into their old lives while facing the challenges of “rebuilding their livelihoods, overcoming trauma and community stigmatization with little support.” Often, the Ugandan government will force the returned soldiers to join the UPDF, which they had spent so many months fighting against. For obvious reasons, the report encourages the government to halt this activity.

“There is a need to continue to encourage and persuade the LRA members to defect. Let them abandon the rebellion and come back home. They are victims of circumstances,” retired bishop Baker Ochola, a member of Acholi Religious Peace Initiative (ALPI), told IRIN. “Let them leave LRA to Kony and his people who started it… Kony will remain alone and will not have support.”

– Kathryn Cassibry
Sources: IRIN, Red Pepper, The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative

Kony’s Elephant Poaching
Poaching elephants is a practice in which people kill elephants in order to sell their tusks, meat, or hide. Poachers tend to target old matriarchs, or the oldest adult females, which is especially problematic for the elephant herds because the adult females are responsible for holding the herd together. In many cases, the structure of the herd was additionally disrupted as many young elephants died alongside their mothers.

Elephants are also known to grieve much as humans do. They visit the carcasses of their dead mates, families, or herd members and are emotionally affected by the loss. Should African elephants be completely killed off, there would be no way to repopulate, which would irreversibly damage the ecosystems of Africa and the environment as a whole. Such a disruption in the environment could affect the societies living near herds of African elephants, and potentially negatively affect Africa’s population and economy.

Unfortunately, elephant poaching still occurs in Africa as of 2013, and one of the people who have been partaking in the act is the well-publicized Joseph Kony. Kony, along with the Lord’s Resistance Army, or the LRA, has been elephant poaching in order to keep itself going. This is rather surprising, but most of all, it reflects the negative energy of the LRA as a whole. Kony and his army are using one atrocity to help fuel further atrocities. Kony is wanted for international crimes due to his crimes against humanity and children, and his war crimes. The Enough Project, along with the Satellite Sentinel Project, has documented evidence that the LRA has been poaching elephants. Kony has asked his army to give him elephant tusks to sell in order to buy food, weapons, and any other number of supplies.

This poaching has led to the support of Kony and the LRA, which is just one more reason that elephant poaching should be stopped. Throughout this elephant poaching, the LRA has also fought with the Garamba park rangers using weapons and has outmaneuvered the rangers using GPS and satellite technology. Unfortunately, the current rates of elephant poaching mean that more elephants are being killed than are reproducing. The U.N. has given an estimate that the African elephant population has declined by at least 50% but possibly up to 90% percent, which is a detrimental loss of an already endangered species. The LRA is poaching elephants and it allows them to continue to spread violence in the region and to continue to evade the international community.

There is not all bad news, though; the LRA can still be stopped. The way to do this is by supporting the Garamba park rangers, in order to give them better equipment to find and fight the LRA. An example of this support was through the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), which has launched an initiative worth over $2 million to combat elephant poaching. If the international community focuses on ending elephant poaching, it could also end Kony’s dangerous reign.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: Enough Project, CNN, Conservation Biology
Photo: National Geographic

At the age of 18, Natalie Warne became a symbol for young activists everywhere. Inspired by Invisible Children, the documentary about Joseph Kony and how he forced children to become soldiers for the Lord’s Resistance Army, Warne interned with the Invisible Children movement and eventually showed how being young is no obstacle to changing the world.

Warne, along with other interns with Invisible Children, was working to bring awareness to a bill that would make it American policy to go after Kony and the LRA. Her efforts brought her to the Oprah studio where the Invisible Children movement advocated for the bill. Ten days later, the bill was introduced into Congress. And a year later, the bill was signed into law.

People will remember most that moment she got to appear on Oprah. However, she points out that what made their movement a success was not what was shown on television but what happened behind the cameras. She talks about the people who showed up to support the cause of Invisible Children even when it rained, the other interns that planned other events, and even a family that bought a hundred boxes of pizza for the supporters. These are people that didn’t do it for the glory but for the goal. “The moment isn’t a movement,” she said. “What fuels a movement is the anonymous extraordinaries behind it.”

She leaves us with the message to chase after our dreams and not let youth stop us. “In the small anonymous monotonous every single day acts, I have to remind myself to be extraordinary.” she said.

“It is the acts that make us extraordinary. Not the Oprah moments.”

– Rafael Panlilio
Source:  TED