The Lord’s Resistance Army occupied Kapili village in northeastern Congo in late May as violence continues to wrack the eastern provinces. According to the Justice and Peace Commission of the diocese of Dungu, the armed force violently kicked the villagers out of their homes and took them over.
Joseph Kony’s LRA is one of the most destructive factions operating in the region. They are reported to have abducted over 400 people in several attacks since February alone, according to UN and official sources. Of those, some 200 were abducted from eastern Congo, 150 from the Central African Republic and 55 from South Sudan. Most of those kidnapped were children who are forced into military training in the LRA Garamba base. In a cruel twist, Garamba National park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the world’s last known population of northern white rhinos.
The LRA’s supposed goal is to establish a theocratic government in Uganda based on Kony’s warped interpretation of the Ten Commandments. Kony is reputed to have anywhere from 27 to 50 “wives,” most of them abducted girls. He also “awards” young girls to his soldiers for exceptional performance. Kidnapping and enslavement are prime LRA tactics, with the number of abductees estimated at up to 60,000. The terror created by this abhorrent practice is one of the themes of Heart of Diamonds.
The International Criminal Court indicted Kony and four of his commanders in 2005. There were 33 charges against Kony himself, including 12 counts of crimes against humanity which include murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement and rape. The other 21 counts are war crimes including murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, pillaging, inducing rape, and forced enlisting of children into the rebel ranks.
In return for his attacks on northern Uganda, Kony receives support from the Sudanese government of Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir, which is responsible for the Darfur crisis. He hides in northeastern Congo where dozens of similar guerilla groups, insurrectionists, and maurading gangs roam the countryside outside the reach of regular Congolese and UN forces.