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Lecture ‘The cosmological order of the LRA, relevance for the Ongwen trial’

NSCR and CICJ welcome dr. Kristof Titeca for a public lecture: The cosmological order of the Lord's Resistance Army, relevance for the Ongwen trial at the International Criminal Court. The Dominic Ongwen case is much discussed for the victim/perpetrator discussion: abducted as a child, he grew up to be a high-ranking LRA commander. Related with this, a contentious issue at his trial is the 'duress' argument: to what extent was he forced to do what he did, and stay within the LRA? This paper engages with this debate from a specific angle: the role of the spirits, and the general cosmological order of the LRA.
By dr. Lidewyde Berckmoes | 24 April 2018

Tuesday 15 May 2018 | 15 - 16:30 AM | VU University | Main Building, Room 02A24

Joseph Kony, the LRA's leader, claims to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and the spiritual order (the different spirits and spiritual rules) plays an important role in structuring the LRA and the individual fighters' behaviour. Based on long-standing research with former LRA combatants in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, this paper discusses the forms of agency, which these combatants had within the movement, and this cosmological space.

To what extent were fighters controlled?

This space serves a range of strategic functions for the LRA as an organisation, but also is a profound lived experience for the LRA fighters themselves. Based on research on these experiences, the presentation engages with questions of agency and domination within the LRA: to what extent were LRA fighters controlled by the LRA, and in particular the messianic Kony - who not only was using these 'spiritual' powers, but also brutal military control?


Kristof Titeca is a lecturer based at the Institute of Development Policy (University of Antwerp). His research interests are governance and conflict in spaces where the state is only weakly present, particularly in Central and Eastern Africa. His main research foci are:

  • ‘Green criminology’, particularly ivory trade in Central and Eastern Africa.
  • Conflict and rebel movements in the DRC and Uganda, notably the LRA and ADF in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as conflict dynamics in Western Uganda.
  • Public services in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a particular focus on the traffic police and taxes.

Read more about dr. Kristof Titeca

dr. Lidewyde Berckmoes

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