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Special Report
Last Updated: 03/18/2004
The World’s Worst Forgotten Crisis? Uganda To-day.
Stella Laloyo


The World’s Worst Forgotten Crisis? Uganda To-day.

PDF version here >>





 Today Uganda is a republic and has been defined by many member states of the African Union, the media and international community as democratic. It is true that since the National Resistance Movement party (N.R.M) took over power in 1986, Uganda has had two “free and fair” elections, but the state of Uganda’s democracy still stands to be questioned.   The nation currently faces two different internal wars facilitated by the Allied Democratic Front (A.D.F) in western Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (L.R.A) in the northern part of the country.



Origins and Trends of the War in Northern Uganda

The war in northern Uganda began as a simple move by the army deserters of the previous government headed by Tito Okello Lutuwa to regain power in Kampala where they had been defeated.

“The army deserters formed themselves into the Uganda People’s Democratic Army (UPDA) and launched a series of attacks on positions held by the government forces; by the late 1986 the UPDA suffered a series of military defeats and was an increasingly demoralized force. In the wake of the moment the unlikely figure of Alice Lakwena a 28-year old spirit medium took over power and formed the Holy Spirit movement with the same objective of regaining power in the capital Kampala. In September1987 she was thoroughly defeated by government troops and the war took on an aggressive and ruthless turn as it was taken over by her cousin Joseph Kony who formed the Lord’s Resistance Army.”[i]

Joseph Kony took up a very cannibalistic approach with the mutilating of people’s bodies, combined with his bloodthirsty nature that led to the use of children as mine detectors and active combatants in war.


Currently, the war in northern Uganda is greatly affecting the three districts of Kitgum, Pader and Gulu where the Acholi people live. The war is also being fought by the L.R.A who hail from these districts and mainly abduct children and youth to form a large part of their recruits. Neighboring districts have also felt the effects of the war; they are from time to time bombarded for recruits and supplies[ii]. They have also hosted a number of internally displaced persons (IDP) and financed their basic needs.


As is with the war in Northern Uganda, the complexity of internal war has “multiple dimensions”[iii].  “The so-called life style of war, once thought to be predictable, has proved contingent and unpredictable”[iv]. The war in northern Uganda started out with a clear objective namely to regain power from the N.R.M government, but since 1987 has totally lost focus.  The L.R.A has continuously targeted civilian populations, abducted children to form recruits, killed, looted and forced the entire population to be internally displaced.


Just like many other internal conflicts around the world, the internal war in northern Uganda has had its surges of slight peace, promise of cease-fire and a resurfacing of violence on civilians; the trend of the war had been highly unpredictable. For example 1999-2001 were relatively peaceful, but the conflict resurfaced in June 2002 with the government’s military policy called “Operation Iron Fist” which aimed at completely destroying the rebels from their military base in the Sudan.


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Stella Laloyo is from Uganda and is currently doing postgraduate work in Costa Rica.