More than two decades into Joseph Kony’s reign of terror in central Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo has added itself to the list of nations who have lent troops to the effort to apprehend Kony and halt his path of violence and destruction in the region.
Congo has sent 500 soldiers to Uganda in the search for Kony, joining with the 2,000 Ugandans and 500 troops from South Sudan who are already engaged in the hunt for the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. They are assisted by about 100 American military advisers. According to some estimates, the LRA has just 350 fighters, yet they have wreaked havoc in Uganda and surrounding countries for many years.
Due to a 30-minute video detailing horrors that Kony has allegedly committed, which has been viewed more than 96 million times on Youtube, apprehending the charismatic leader has become an international cause celebre, even drawing the interest of major Hollywood stars.
Since he began his activities in 1986, Kony has recruited as many as 66,000 children to become soldiers, often killing their families and neighbors in the process so they have no choice but to come with him. Kony, who believes he is a messiah, is thought to have as many as 88 wives and 42 children. He advocates a theocracy and insists on killing those who are not living in adherence to the Ten Commandments.
Even as more soldiers are added to the effort, the LRA watchdog group, Enough Project, says the military mission against the LRA still needs more soldiers. Meanwhile critics of the effort say that the hunt for Kony by the U.S. and others is really just a concerted effort to hunt for oil in east and central Africa.
“I don’t buy this LRA business, not for one minute,” said Black Star News Editor Milton Allimadi. “The United States is not interested in going after the LRA. If the Ugandan government, which is familiar with the terrain, could not defeat the LRA in 24 years of conflict, what added dimension can the United States bring to this?”
But in northern Uganda, there is fierce opposition to the idea of any kind of amnesty. These residents say the LRA stole their children for soldiers, raped their women, killed families and looted properties.
The residents note that those calling for amnesty have never faced the direct results of rebel atrocities. “Those who lived in towns can of course forgive, but not those who were affected directly,” says Francis Okello, a resident of Lira, where Kony began his terror.
Okello, a Kampala-based architect, says the agony still blankets Lira, especially in the resettlement camps where abuse is rampant. “A family of six was killed. In another family of three, the elder bread winner was taken, never to be seen again. Do you expect the close ones of such victims to forgive?” he asked.
Okello said the efforts to end the rebellion will not work.
“People have talked, people have prayed, but the man cannot come out,” he said.