The common perception of the rebel group is that they are a ‘messianic cult.’ But far more likely is that they are now just fighting for survival and so that Kony can maintain his power.
Mid this week the internet was bursting with talks and discussions on a video called KONY 2012. The film and campaign by Invisible Children aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest because of his atrocities against humanity, children for that matter. The campaing also seeks to set a precedent for International Justice.
What is worrying me is that, Kony's activities are just across the border, in Uganda. Kony is a neighbor, a husband and a father perhaps but the injustices he commits are beyond me. This intrigues me to know about this man, his background, his activities. Why should we be wary of his activities in East and Central Africa? Why should we stop the man? Why should we be part of the 'movement' against him? Why?
To begin with, Joseph Kony was born in Atyak, Uganda some 48 years ago. The warlord and leader of the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) who has staged war half his life was ironically a catholic altar boy who is now a cult leader of his movement. His cult aims at installing a government in Uganda based on the Biblical 10 Commandments, a theocratic state. Kony's LRA has kidnapped an estimated 20,000 children for use as fighters or sex slaves. The more reasons why Kony should be apprehended.
Sadly, as part of their initiation, these children are often required to kill their own parents, so they'll have no homes to return to. (It's not clear which of the Ten Commandments Kony's strategy is based on.) Once kidnapped, children are used as pack mules, carrying LRA supplies until they are too weak to walk, at which time they're killed or simply left to die. Kidnapped boys also serve as targets and decoys, sent to the front lines, unarmed, whenever the Ugandan Army engages the LRA. Kidnapped girls either become wives for some of the senior member of LRA while others become sex slaves and at times even both. Troublesome captives have their noses, lips, and/or ears cut off, and are then made to eat their own flesh.
Over the years, his activities have crossed the Uganda's borders as his rebels now terrorize large swathes of the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic raising the question whether his initial objective of Institutionalizing the ten commandments in Uganda is what he hopes to achieve in the new regions. Kony is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Interestingly, he was to sign a peace deal with the Ugandan government in 2008, but peace talks fell apart as he wanted assurances that he would not be prosecuted.
The LRA's aims were heavily influence by the Holy Spirit Movement; a 1980s group that represented the Acholi people of northern Uganda. The movement was formed by Alice Lakwena, a former prostitute who was believed to be Mr. Kony's cousin. They felt excluded from power after northern leader Milton Obote was overthrown in a military rebellion, and eventually replaced by current President Yoweri Museveni in 1986.Like the Maji Maji Rebellion(1905-1907), Ms Lakwena promised her followers immunity from the bullets of the Ugandan army, but Mr. Museveni troops defeated her movement in 1988 and she fled to Kenya. After this defeat, Mr. Kony founded his own rebel group which over the next 20 years has gone on to abduct thousands of children to become fighters or sex slaves. Mr Kony himself is thought to have at least 60 wives, as he and his senior commanders take the pick of the girls they capture.
He has created an aura of fear and mysticism around himself and his rebels follow strict rules and rituals. Furthermore, he says he gets strategic advice from angels. There are eight of these angels, he says -- three American, two Sudanese, two Chinese, and one Congolese.
"When you go to fight you make the sign of the cross first. If you fail to do this, you will be killed," one young fighter who escaped from the LRA told US-based Human Rights Watch.
"You must also take oil and draw a cross on your chest, your forehead, and each shoulder and you must make a cross in oil on your gun. They say that the oil is the power of the Holy Spirit."
Mr Kony appears to believe that his role is to cleanse the Acholi people. He uses biblical references to explain why it is necessary to kill his own people, since they have, in his view, failed to support his cause.
"If the Acholi don't support us, they must be finished," one abductee said in a past interview.
In 2008, Kony during an interview was surrounded by some of what was estimated were his 3,000 heavily armed fighters, and insisted he was not the monster he was portrayed to be.
"Let me tell you clearly what happened in Uganda. Museveni went into the villages and cut off the ears of the people, telling the people that it was the work of the LRA. I cannot cut the ear of my brother; I cannot kill the eye of my brother."
The LRA later went on a major offensive, carrying out a massacre on Christmas Day 2008. On that day and over the following three weeks, the LRA beat to death more than 800 people in north-eastern DR Congo and South Sudan, and abducted hundreds more.
Clearly, Kony must be stopped as soon as possible as:
- He leads a violent cult of abducted fighters also the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
- He abducts children from their homes who force them to be soldiers and sex slaves, to murder and mutilate their neighbors.
- In 2005 he became the first man indicted by the ICC.
- So far 30,000+ children have been abducted.
- Mastermind behind the 26+ years of violence in various parts of East and Central Africa.
- 440,000 people currently displaced across 3 countries
The Invisible Children campaign advocates for the arrest of Joseph Kony so that he can be tried for his crimes in an international court. Kony’s capture would not only end his ongoing atrocities, but it would also set a strong precedent for the future of International Criminal Justice. However, if Kony is killed during the ongoing operation according to the campaign, it would still be a victory for the hundreds of thousands of innocent people living in fear. That said, it would not necessarily result in the immediate end of the LRA. Once Joseph Kony and his top commanders are removed from the battlefield, and the LRA is completely disarmed, reuniting families and rehabilitation will be the first priority.
Invisible Children has constructed the first and only child rehabilitation center in the LRA affected region in DR Congo. The center is currently treating the most traumatized children. Again I ask why should we be wary of Kony's activities in East and Central Africa? Uganda is a stone throw away from Kenya, what happens there has a domino effect on us. We need to be on the lookout for Kony and his activities. What we can do is to spread the word around, get more support for the arrest on Joseph Kony. We can stop Kony by advocating against these atrocities through our various abilities and platform. It takes a small deed to achieve a great one...It takes you, your voice, your message, your assistance in protecting and safeguarding our children, younger brothers and sisters. I have started my walk towards 'stopping' KONY....when will yours begin?
"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. "
On the other hand, we have Kony's in our midst, those who rape our finances, steal from our development kitty and then go ahead and hold us hostage after a re-election and five years later bribe us to vote them in. Well, that’s a discussion for another article.
My Kenyan Thoughts.