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Christmas at the Forgotten Front
Posted on Dec 18, 2010
By Barry Lando
Almost 10 years ago, with the invasion of Afghanistan, President Bush announced the global war on terror. Since then hundreds of thousands of soldiers and mercenaries have been dispatched to far corners of the globe, and hundreds of billions, probably trillions, of dollars have been poured into the effort.
But over that same period, the lot has only worsened for some of the most terrorized people on the planet, millions of people across a huge swath of Central Africa, living in constant fear of a horde of bloody Ugandan marauders known as the Lord’s Resistance Army.
At Christmas time, the threat is only worse.
One survivor of the LRA’s bloodlust is Josephine [not her real name], an 18-year-old girl who was having lunch with her family when a group of men stormed into her village.
“They tied us up and then shot and then killed my grandfather right in front of me,” she says. Two of her brothers were led off. She never saw them again. She was forced to pack heavy loads for her captives, repeatedly raped, then assigned as a “wife” to one of her captors, a young boy. “They sometimes would take one boy,” said Josephine, “tie him up, then force another boy to kill him by hitting him on the back of the head with a heavy stick or a machete.”
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“We walked three kilometers to the next village, where the LRA men did the same thing, kidnapping more than 100 people. This time though, they counted out 20 people, tied them up, and killed them by hitting them on the back of the head,” the youth said.
“Every few kilometers we would stop and they would count out another 20 people and walk them into the bush. After a while, I was among the group that the LRA separated from the rest. They tied our arms together behind our backs and forced us to kneel down. They took hammers, machetes and heavy sticks and began killing people one by one. One of the LRA men took a big stick and hit me hard on the back of my head. I blacked out.
“When I woke up, I was still tied up and had several dead bodies piled on top of me. I spent four days drifting in and out of consciousness, tied up and bleeding in that stack of bodies. When people arrived to bury us, they discovered that I was still alive. They untied me and carried me to the nearest hospital, where I took six months to recover.”
Over the past few years across a huge expanse of Central Africa, such tales have become commonplace: thousands of civilians hacked, stabbed and bludgeoned to death; thousands of girls raped; boys kidnapped and murdered or forced to commit heinous atrocities themselves, turned into criminal outcasts, so they will never be able to return to their tribes. Instead, they have come to fill the ranks of the LRA.
What’s remarkable is that, despite the widespread savagery and terror across the region, the LRA probably has only a few hundred ragged men and boys under arms.
Their leader is a demented despot by the name of Joseph Kony, a character right out of Conrad—a faith-healer, self-styled revolutionary and Christian fundamentalist, who launched the LRA more than 20 years ago in northern Uganda with support from the Sudan. Over the years, the group has morphed into an increasingly bloody band of killers, intent on rape, plunder and murder.
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