(EXCLUSIVE TO CHALCEDON)
“We need your prayers” to bring an end to “a spiritual war” that has ravaged northern Uganda for 19 years, Uganda’s Ambassador to the United States appealed to American Christians.
In an exclusive interview with Chalcedon, Ambassador Edith Ssempala discussed her country’s war against the Lord’s Resistance Army — a terrorist organization that has, in the name of God, murdered tens of thousands, driven more than a million people from their homes, and abducted many thousands of children to be slaves or “soldiers.”
“I prefer to call it the Devil’s Resistance Army,” the ambassador said. “It’s blasphemous to call it ‘the Lord’s.’ All those atrocities in the name of God.”
The worst aspect of the war, she said, is its use of children as slaves and cannon fodder. To convert children into “soldiers,” the LRA forces them to commit atrocities, which cuts them off from their communities.
“There was one boy who was ordered to murder his father,” she said. “He went home to his village one night to do it. But his father showed quick thinking. ‘You can’t kill me,’ he said, ‘because I’m already dead. I died while you were away.’
“This poor child’s mind was so confused by the LRA’s false teachings and witchcraft that he believed his father really was a ghost, so he ran away. From then on, he thought his father’s ghost was haunting him. It got to be too much for him, and he escaped from the LRA.
“He’s back with his family now and receiving therapy, but he needs a spiritual deliverance. Thanks to what the LRA did to him, he says he still has an unsatisfied urge to kill.”
Madman or ‘Demon’?
Self-proclaimed “General” Joseph Kony, who claims he has supernatural powers conferred on him by the Holy Spirit, created the LRA and still leads it. The government has tried many times to negotiate with him, Ms. Ssempala said — but it’s impossible to negotiate with a madman.
“Those who’ve met with him say they can’t make any agreement with him,” the ambassador said. “He always says he needs to consult the spirits.”
Publicly, Kony says his mission is to impose the Ten Commandments on Uganda as law. Uganda’s Christians, of course, already believe in the Ten Commandments.
“He says he wants to establish the Ten Commandments as the nation’s law, and he violates every one of them,” Ms. Ssempala said. “Nobody knows what he really wants. He’s motivated by pure evil. He maims, he murders, he rapes. He makes children do these things as their initiation into his army. It’s demonic.”
Since 1990, the LRA has abducted at least 28,000 children and uprooted 1.6 million people from their homes, forcing them to live in guarded refugee camps for their own protection. In a country where the Labour and Gender Ministry estimates unemployment at 65 percent, the economic dislocation is hard to bear. The IDPs (“internally displaced persons”) cannot maintain their farms or businesses.
‘A Spiritual War’
Why has Uganda’s army been unable to wipe out the LRA?
“It’s taking so long because it’s a spiritual war,” Ms. Ssempala said. “The LRA is getting weaker; but to finish the whole thing, we need lots and lots of prayer — and international assistance.”
The LRA eludes the army by slipping over the border to camps in Sudan. For years, Sudan supplied the LRA with modern weapons and training — a way to keep Uganda from interfering in Sudan’s genocidal war against black Christians in its southern provinces.
Until recently, Uganda had an agreement with Sudan allowing its forces to follow the LRA across the border in hot pursuit.
“Now our army is not allowed to go all the way after them,” the ambassador said. “Kony is in Sudan right now, despite the Sudanese government’s denials. His people are still being trained and supplied by Sudan.”
Can the U.N. Help?
Although the United Nations, and international organizations like Oxfam and World Vision, have provided food and medicine to the IDPs, the U.N. Security Council has yet to hold a formal discussion of the crisis.
U.N. peacekeeping forces in the Congo have been accused of sexually abusing Congolese girls. U.N. action to halt Sudan’s genocide in Darfur province has been held up because Security Council members France and China have pledged to veto any measures against the Muslim government in Sudan — which sells them oil at favorable prices.
Ambassador Ssempala said she expected little help from the U.N.
“They have their own political agenda,” she said, “and it takes precedence over their humanitarian goals.”
The War Goes On
Uganda is a solidly Christian country (with a significant Muslim minority), Ms. Ssempala said, but Kony’s exploitation of fear and superstition has paralyzed the northern part of the country.
“People ask how one man with an army of children can do this to a whole country,” she said. “But it can happen anywhere — even in America. Remember how the two snipers terrorized the whole Washington, D.C., area for two weeks in 2002? Nobody could find them. That’s what made them so effective.
“I suppose there must be some support for Kony in the north, but it’s by no means universal. Intimidation and pure fear are much more important to him.”
Meanwhile, the war goes on. The latest battles and murders are reported in Uganda’s newspapers, such as The New Vision (www.newvision.co.ug). People cower in their protected camps. Schoolchildren sleep on streets in the towns, too frightened to go home to their villages at night.
“Uganda needs the prayers of Christians in America and all over the world,” Ms. Ssempala said. “Only with God’s help can we finish this thing.”
 Church Mission Society, “Joseph Kony.”