Schomerus and Tumutegyereize (2009). Protecting Communities and Building Peace Conciliation
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The military offensive known as Operation Lightning Thunder, launched on 14 December 2008, marked the end of two years of peace negotiations between the Lord’s
Resistance Army’s (LRA) and the Ugandan government. The Ugandan army, in partnership with the forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Southern Sudan
and supported by the United States, carried out aerial bombing of the main LRA camp in Garamba Park in the DRC, followed by a three month ground offensive. Between 2006 and 2008, a set of agreements were negotiated between the Ugandan government and the LRA, under the mediation and facilitation of the Southern Sudan government in Juba. But the Final Peace Agreement (FPA), pulling together five separately signed agreements, was never signed amid the increased insecurity and violence. LRA leader Joseph Kony failed to turn up to scheduled signing ceremonies, first in April and then in November 2008. Billed as a strategy to force Kony to sign the FPA, Operation Lightning Thunder destroyed the LRA base camp and scattered the LRA over the DRC, Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR). The Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) started withdrawing from the operation in
mid-March 2009, handing over to the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC). The operation was declared a success that had significantly weakened the LRA’s command structure,
led to the rescue of about 300 civilians and the killing of about 150 LRA. While the official objectives – to make Kony
sign, or to capture or kill LRA soldiers – were only partially achieved, it remains to be seen how much the LRA’s central command has been hurt. Few senior LRA figures were captured and Joseph Kony remains at large.