Today marks the 12th anniversary of one of the most brutal attacks committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda. On May 19th, 2004, more than sixty people lost their lives at the hands of Joseph Kony’s army in what has since been called the Lukodi Massacre.
Last month, our Invisible Children team had the opportunity to visit the community of Lukodi, which lies less than 20 km from Gulu town, the main urban hub in northern Uganda. Upon our arrival, our team was greeted by two men from the community who were in Lukodi at the time of the LRA massacre, and had offered to tell us about their experience.
Around six o’clock in the evening, as the sun began to set over the community and locally stationed Ugandan soldiers were making their way back to their barracks, the LRA entered the town and began their attack.
In this strategically-planned operation, the rebels divided themselves into three groups, surrounding the town. The first LRA group targeted the Ugandan soldiers who, according to witnesses in the community, began to flee because they were overpowered by the LRA group. The second group of LRA fighters began looting the community, stealing cattle, food, and valuables. The third group targeted civilians, killing, abducting, and burning homes as they moved through town.
Not long after nightfall, the LRA were gone, taking with them goods, livestock, and abducted children who would be conscripted to fill their ranks. They left behind an empty town with many of its residents left dead, injured, or displaced — hiding in the bush or nearby communities.
Today, with the LRA long gone from Northern Uganda, many of Lukodi’s citizens have returned home and live in relative safety. In the center of town, where much of the violence was concentrated, there is a small memorial to those who lost their lives in 2004.
Surrounded by tall grass, it could be easy to miss, but our two hosts knew the way well and guided us therethere. The simple stone monument, topped with a cross, holds a plaque with the names of the dozens who were killed. As our team stopped to read each inscribed name, the men with us began to point out the names of their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends who they lost in the massacre.
It was a painful reminder of the pain and suffering caused by LRA for years in northern Uganda — suffering that continues today in communities across central Africa. Twelve years after the massacre, the people of Lukodi continue to bear the physical and psychological scars of that terrible day as they courageously move forward with life. Meanwhile, the LRA continues to enact violence against other communities not so far away.
At Invisible Children, we remember and honor the victims of the Lukodi Massacre by continuing to stand with those still targeted by LRA violence. We won’t stop until every community is safe from Joseph Kony’s crimes, and every abductee is brought home.