Six years ago the charity Invisible Children released a 28 minute film titled Kony 2012. The film highlighted the plight of many children in Northern Uganda and the role played by the leader of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony. Millions watched, commented and shared the film. Kony went from being relatively unknown to being one of the most famous rebel leaders on the continent. As the video was being shared, I remember countless Facebook statuses and events being created to protest against Kony and the LRA. According to the charity, Kony 2012 led to 3.7 million pledges calling for the arrest of Kony in just 6 days. There is no doubt that Kony 2012 was a viral success and dramatically increased people’s awareness of events in Northern Uganda.
Many will remember the Kony 2012 campaign, which did receive some Yet many are also unaware that six years on the LRA still exists and Joseph Kony has never been brought to justice. LRA numbers and scope of activity has significantly decreased over the past few years and they are no longer located in Northern Uganda, where the group originated from. Instead they are believed to be operating out of the disputed border region of Kafia Kingi between Sudan and South Sudan.
So who is Joseph Kony, and what is the LRA? Kony is the cousin Alice Lakwena, who was the leader of a rebel group known as the Holy Spirit Movement (HSM). HSM was set up to protect the Acholi people of Northern Uganda, and rebelled against the current Ugandan President Museveni between 1986-87. Historically the Acholi people had suffered at the hands of Ugandan governments in the 70’s and 80’s. Many of those who had been part of the HSM ended up joining Kony’s LRA at the end of the 80’s.
Like the HSM, the LRA began its insurgency against President Museveni. One of the aims of the LRA was to overthrow the government in Kampala, however, these are clearly no longer the goals of the LRA and have not been for some time, due to the current geographical location of the group. Kony wanted to rule Uganda through his interpretation of the biblical 10 Commandments. Those who have escaped the LRA claim that Kony sees himself as a spirit medium, often talking in tongues and claiming to receive instruction from the Holy Spirit. It is well known that the LRA has many different rituals that its members have to abide by. For example, one former combatant told the International Criminal Court (ICC) how new members were “anointed” with shea oil in the shape of a cross on their feet and foreheads. They were told that this oil would cause confusion and return them to the group if they attempted to escape and protect them in battle.
Following years of committing atrocities in Northern Uganda, such as abduction of around 66,000 people, the LRA left the country around 2006 having been forced out by the Ugandan army. This was shortly after the ICC had issued an arrest warrant for Joseph Kony and other members of the LRA. Since then, the LRA have been operating mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), what is currently South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR). That means at the time of the Kony 2012 campaign Kony and the LRA were actually operating outside of Uganda. According to the LRA Crisis Tracker, most of the atrocities committed by the LRA between 2011 and 2012 were actually in northern DRC and CAR. This also suggests that since 2006 the LRA’s motives have not been the overthrow of the Ugandan government.
Throughout this period the Ugandan army, alongside the American military, had been conducting one of the world’s largest manhunts. Even with these efforts, no one has caught Kony, despite the LRA diminishing in numbers. Last year both the United States government and the Ugandan government decided to withdraw from operations against the LRA. Uganda had been operating in the eastern part of the CAR, a state which itself has been experiencing civil conflict for the past couple of years.
Currently, the Enough Project predicts there are only about 100 LRA fighters, not all under the control of Kony, who himself is believed to be operating out of the Sudanese-controlled disputed enclave of Kafia Kingi. Despite the reduction in size of the LRA, without American and Ugandan forces actively pursuing him, it is unlikely that Kony will be caught and brought to justice in the near future.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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