Freelance journalist David Axe and artist Tim Hamilton have teamed up to create a non-fiction graphic novel that highlights the impact of the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the countries where the group currently operates. Their collaboration, “Army of God,” specifically depicts the crisis which the LRA has brought upon civilians living in remote areas of the northeastern provinces by highlighting the stories of individuals who have witnessed LRA violence.
“Army of God” was inspired by Axe’s reporting in the Congo as a journalist. Though based on Axe’s experiences from 2010 the comic reflects the continued reality on the ground—displacement, abductions, killings, and terrorized communities—all caused by the LRA and lack of adequate civilian protection from LRA predation. Importantly, Axe and Hamilton highlight the immense impact the LRA has had in the Congo over the last several years.
While the LRA is currently thought to be active in three countries—the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo—the most recent and most deadly string of attacks have occurred in the northeastern region of Congo. The infamous Christmas Massacres of 2008 and 2009 resulted in the death and abduction of hundreds of Congolese. As recently as early March 2012 thousands of civilians fled from LRA attacks in Congo’s Orientale province. According to data from the United Nations and the LRA Crisis Tracker, there has been a recent spike in LRA attacks in Congo.
Many of these refugees end up in the Makpandu camp in South Sudan, home to over 5,000 civilians pushed out of their homes by the LRA threat. Jeanne, a Congolese refugee living in the camp told the BBC, “If the LRA can be stopped, we can return to Congo. But I don’t know when it will happen.”
“Army of God” is based on eyewitness accounts from survivors, former combatants, diplomats, and others working to end the LRA. Each installment features a new character and tells the story of their experiences dealing with the chronic insecurity and atmosphere of fear bred by the LRA’s presence in Congo.
The first chapter focuses on Congo’s long and complex history of exploitation, colonialism, independence, corruption, and civil war. This installment illustrates how years of corruption, and violence have created a state unable to protect its civilians from guerilla-style attacks by armed groups, especially the LRA.
The second installment focuses on the September 2008 LRA attack on the town of Duru in northeastern Congo. The chapter depicts the story of Fidel, a dedicated Congolese teacher who suffers the loss of many of his students due to LRA attacks and abductions.
The graphic novel is an innovative and artistic way to make the broader public aware of the critical human rights and civilian protection issues that stem from the LRA crisis. “Army of God” uses a creative medium to bring the issue of the LRA to a new audience and taps into increased interest in Joseph Kony and the LRA. The graphic novel is being produced in monthly installments that can be viewed here.
Photo: Image from Army of God (Part 1) by David Axe and Tim Hamilton