The Lord’s Resistance Army and the Threat Against Civilians in Southern Sudan


The cross-border nature of the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA—currently active in northeastern Congo, the Central African Republic, and southern Sudan—is a clear threat to international peace and security.

Protecting Civilians in Western Equatoria
and Beyond

The situation in Western Equatoria is dire and poised to get much worse in the months ahead. The region is on the brink of a major humanitarian crisis, and the Government of Southern Sudan, the United Nations, and international donors must take urgent steps to protect civilians there from the LRA. A successful approach in Western Equatoria has two key prerequisites:
Improved SPLA relationship with the local population:LRA attacks have highlighted the SPLA’s inability to protect civilians and general discontent felt by Western Equatorians toward their national army. The SPLA must urgently gain the trust of the local population and build lines of communication with community leaders to determine civilian protection needs and priorities. Improving cooperation and communication between the SPLA and local communities will require a change in perception between the two ethnically divided groups. Military experts and regional analysts also underscored the importance of communications between the army and the local population. “Gathering information from the local population is of utmost importance in counterinsurgency theory,” said a military analyst. “It is something that the U.S. army has been pursuing vigorously in Iraq and Afghanistan with success.”[30]
When Enough inquired among the local population about how to improve civilian protection, most of the answers involved integrating Zande and other Equatorian soldiers into the SPLA unit at Western Equatoria. “They should bring our Zande boys here,” said a local chief. “But if that is not possible, we want other Equatorians here, soldiers from the Rotuka tribe for instance.”[31] Other suggestions included changing the leadership of the SPLA troops. “We need more active leaders in the SPLA here,” said a local journalist. “It might be good to have a Zande force commander here, someone who knows the problems of the community.”[32]
Increased troop presence:The SPLA and United Nations urgently need to deploy more forces to Western Equatoria, especially in the towns of Ezo and Nzara, which have been regular targets of LRA attacks. The SPLA and UNMIS can be more effective by increasing patrols, identifying and surveying known LRA incoming routes, and collecting and using intelligence from the local population. With an increased military presence, the United Nations should assume a coordinating role in civilian protection, cooperating and exchanging information with U.N. peacekeepers in Congo as well as the SPLA and the Ugandan army.
Further thought should also be given to helping the SPLA with logistics such as transport and intelligence sharing. Increasing troop presence on the Congolese and Central African Republic borders is also important. A regional military analyst told Enough that because of the cross-border activities of the LRA “a strategy of adequate civilian protection would involve a simple stationing of troops in strategic areas who would actively engage any incoming forces.”[33]
However, improved civilian protection is only one element of a comprehensive strategy to address the LRA threat. Civilians in the region will not be safe so long as the LRA continues to operate as a transnational terrorist group. As Enough has argued, the U.N. Security Council must authorize and member states must resource a comprehensive strategy to protect civilians in LRA-affected areas, identify and sever external lines of support, increase opportunities for rank-and-file fighters to defect, and end the insurgency once and for all through more effective military pressure on Joseph Kony and the LRA high command.

[1] See Julia Spiegel and Noel Atama, “No Excuses: The End of the Lord’s Resistance Army Is in Sight,” Enough strategy paper (January 2009), available at
[2] See Human Rights Watch, “The Christmas Massacres: LRA Attacks on Civilians in Northern Congo”, (February 16, 2009), available at
[3] U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Gap analysis for LRA response, October 1, 2009. On file with Enough.
[4] Villagers of Bomu, for instance, who reported an LRA attack to the SPLA in September 2009, were accused of being LRA collaborators. SPLA soldiers did not go after the LRA, despite 16 people being killed and many abducted. When the Arrow Boys decided to pursue the LRA, SPLA soldiers reportedly stopped them and beat up one badly. On September 5, 2009, the village of Uze was attacked by the LRA. One man was killed and another was cut with machetes. The villagers informed the SPLA of the exact house where the LRA were hiding. According to one witness, the SPLA refused to go near the house arresting instead one of the villagers.
[5] Interview with religious worker, Nzara, October 9, 2009.
[6] Interview with Nzara resident, October 9, 2009.
[7] Interview with local pastor, Yambio, October 8, 2009.
[8] One local politician told Enough, ‘The SPLA fought for 22 years during the struggle [with the Sudanese Army] unpaid and unfed. Why can’t they protect their own people now that they have won?”
[9] Sudan Radio Service, “SPLA to pursue LRA in Garamba,” September 3, 2009, available at (last accessed November 4, 2009).
[10] Interview with journalist, Yambio, October 8, 2009.
[11] Interview with IDP, Duduma VST camp, October 10, 2009.
[12] Interview with journalist, Juba, October 4, 2009.
[13] Interview with local official, Yambio, October 6, 2009.
[14] Interview with paramount chief, October 8, 2009.
[15] Interview with U.N. worker, Yambio, October 7, 2009.
[16] Interview with international NGO worker, Yambio, October 7, 2009.
[17] S/RES./1870 (2009), April 30, 2009, available at,,,RESOLUTION,SDN,456d621e2,49fef6032,0.html (last accessed November 30, 2009) and S/RES./1663 (2006) March 24, 2006, paragraph 7, available at (last accessed November 30, 2009).
[18] AFP, “U.N. says new peacekeeping mandate needed for LRA hunt,”,August 27, 2009, available at (last accessed November 30, 2009).
[19] Interview with U.N. worker, Juba, October 5, 2009.
[20] Interview with paramount chief, October 8, 2009.
[21] UNMIS.incident reports from September 26 to October 8, Yambio. On file with Enough.
[22] Interview with GOSS official, Yambio, October 8, 2009.
[23] Interview with religious leader, Yambio, October 6, 2009.
[24] Interview with Arrow Boy, Yambio, October 8, 2009.
[25] Email exchange with leader of Arrow Boys, WES. Received on November 3, 2009.
[26] U.N. Security report. On file with Enough.
[27] Interview with Richard Tambua, Nzara, October 9, 2009.
[28] Letter of demands from the leadership of Arrow Boys in Yambio. On file with Enough.
[29] Interview with priest, Yambio, October 6, 2009.
[30] Interview with U.S. military expert. Kampala, November 24, 2009.
[31] Interview with paramount chief, Yambio, October 8, 2009.
[32] Interview with local journalist, Yambio, October 9, 2009.
[33] Email correspondence with regional analyst. October 2009.