Sources of Resilience in the Lord’s Resistance Army
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Ugandan national Joseph Kony, has survived for over three decades despite a concerted effort to defeat it. The LRA was formed in the late 1980s in response to the historic marginalization of the Acholi people, inequitable treatment by the Ugandan government and uneven development across the country. The LRA became a powerfully destructive force in northern Uganda, with thousands of combatants killing over 100,000 people. Since 2006, the group has been largely degraded to less than 150 core combatants, and is currently in survival mode on the borders of the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and South Sudan. Despite these setbacks, the LRA is still active in central Africa and serves as a lesson in resiliency and survival. In March 2017, U.S. Africa Command announced the end of its anti-LRA operations. Although some observers see the operation as a success, it failed to capture Kony or to eliminate the group. This paper argues that the LRA has two major sources of resilience: it positions itself within the nexus of four interconnected conflicts in the region, and it adapts its tactics to changes in its capabilities and environment. The resilience of the LRA has implications both for its potential resurgence and for other armed groups who may look to it as a template for survival.