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Congo's other killing corps

Uganda attempts to root out Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army in Congo

A rare photo of the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army Joseph Kony (L) and his deputy Vincent Otti when they attended a meeting with U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland at Ri-Kwamba in southern Sudan Nov. 12, 2006. The U.N. official tried to negotiate an end to Kony's violent campaign but failed. Both Kony and Otti have been charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court. (Stuart Price/Reuters)

DORUMA, Democratic Republic of Congo — On the day after Christmas, young men wielding machetes hacked to death 45 people huddled in a church in Doruma, a peaceful community of mud and thatch huts in the verdant reaches of the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Body parts were scattered about the church, in a scene reminiscent of the Rwandan genocide, according to witnesses. Some of the victims, mostly women and children, had been clubbed to death.

In a nearby village, the rebels reportedly slaughtered villagers during their Christmas feast, then finished off the meal and slept that night among the corpses. The death toll around Doruma topped 200 and the victims were among the nearly 900 killed since mid-December.

These massacres were the work of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a militia-cult led by self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium Joseph Kony, who claims to fight for a world based on the Ten Commandments but is considered responsible for these atrocities and many others.

The Lord's Resistance Army has developed a fearsome reputation for kidnapping children and forcing them to commit brutal acts such as chopping off people's arms and killing entire communities. 

After 20 years terrorizing northern Uganda, the LRA decamped in early 2006 to this primeval forest where northeastern Congo meets South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Congo already had the rebels of Rwanda's genocidal Interahamwe lurking in its eastern forests. Now the Kony's Lord's Resistance Army has moved into the northeastern areas, taking cover in its remote corners.

Kony has quietly morphed his militia into a regional killing machine that crosses borders and lives amid communities with no apparent purpose other than its own demonic existence. He has repeatedly refused to to sign a peace deal with Uganda, which in mid-December launched an attack on Kony's camps, apparently provoking the rebels to commit the spasm of holiday atrocities in Congo.

The Ugandan army’s assault on Kony’s camps in Congo's Garamba National Park was assisted by U.S. military advisers, who helped train the thousands of Ugandan soldiers and gave them $1 million for fuel, according to The New York Times.

The assault was botched. First, the early morning aerial strike was delayed by fog. Then Ugandan ground forces arrived two days late, allowing Kony and his army of killers to scatter and launch the militia’s bloodiest rampage in 22 years.

Last June, I looked down at the thatched huts clustered below the canopied forest as the single-engine plane I was in descended to Doruma’s gravel airstrip, the town’s only access to the outside world.