09 March — 06 May, 2012

Marcus Bleasdale

Stolen Children. Soldiers of the Lord’s Resistance Army

Since 1999 renowned photojournalist Marcus Bleasdale has tracked the LRA in Central Africa and documented the army’s reign of terror over the local population.

Children abducted by the LRA are abused by army commanders as well as forced to commit acts of cruelty

The LRA or Lord’s Resistance Army, is a violent militia group, which is active mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and Southern Sudan. The exhibition features Bleasdale’s photographs of abandoned homes and communal spaces as well as vivid portraits of those who have suffered needlessly at the hands of the LRA. A video piece will also be on view, in which survivors of the LRA voice their personal stories of anguish and hope.

The LRA was established in the late 1980s in northern Uganda. Its aim was to overthrow the Ugandan government in order to establish a theocratic state, based on the Ten Commandments. Joseph Kony is the army’s founder and Commander in Chief. Although Kony failed to realize his original mission, he continues to lead the sect-like LRA to commit violent acts without reason or provocation. The LRA is notorious for its oppression of the local population and the forced recruitment of child soldiers.

Children abducted by the LRA are abused by army commanders as well as forced to commit acts of cruelty, often against their own families. Approximately 20% of children abducted by the LRA participate in mortal combat, 80% work as porters and household slaves, 100% of abducted girls are raped. Since the 1980s the LRA is believed to be responsible for the abduction of approximately 25 000 children.

Joseph Kony is considered one of the world’s most ruthless war criminals. In 2005 the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued a warrant for the arrest of Kony as well as four of his closest commanders; however, they have managed to avoid capture. One of these commanders, Vincent Otti, is believed to have been executed by LRA soldiers, by order of Joseph Kony, in the autumn of 2007. Otti was supportive of the peace talks between the LRA and the Ugandan government, and therefore it is believed that Kony considered him to be a traitor. So far, the peace talks have not been successful.

On May 24th, 2010, in response to pressure from victims and humanitarian groups, President Barack Obama signed into law the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. By making this act U.S. policy Obama has pledged, “to protect civilians from the Lord’s Resistance Army, to apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield…and to disarm and demobilize the remaining LRA fighters.” In October 2011 President Obama sent more than 80 special operation forces to assist the Ugandan military in locating and disarming Kony. In early 2012, Kony has yet to be apprehended.

Text: Michelle Marie Roy & Karin Jerneld

Curator: Michelle Marie Roy

Över 25 000 barn

Omkring 20 % av de barn som förs bort av LRA beräknas användas i väpnad strid och för att döda. 80 % används som hushållsslavar och bärare. 100 % av de flickor som förs bort tros utsättas för våldtäkt. Sedan slutet av 1980-talet anses LRA ha gjort sig skyldig till bortrövandet av över 25 000 barn.

Joseph Kony och hans fyra närmaste kommendanter är sedan 2005 efterlysta av Internationella Brottmålsdomstolen i Haag. En av dessa kommendanter, tillika Konys närmsta man, Vincent Otti, tros ha avrättats hösten 2007 av LRA-soldater. Otti stöttade fredsförhandlingarna mellan LRA och den ugandiska regeringen, och tros därför ha betraktats som svekfull av Kony. Fredsförhandlingarna har hittills inte gett något resultat.
Kony anses vara en av vår tids i särklass mest hänsynslösa krigsförbrytare. Efter påtryckningar från arméns offer och icke-statliga organisationer aktiva i centrala Afrika, undertecknade USA:s president Barack Obama den 24 maj 2010 The Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. På så vis har Obama åtagit sig att beskydda civilbefolkningen i centrala Afrika från LRA och att gripa eller oskadliggöra Kony och hans närmsta män, samt att avväpna kvarvarande soldater i LRA. Så sent som i oktober 2011 skickade Obama omkring 100 elitsoldater till Uganda för att bistå landets armé i den allt intensivare jakten på Kony. Vårvintern 2012 är Kony och hans närmaste kommendanter ännu på fri fot.

Curator Michelle Marie Roy