|Born||July–September 1961 (age 52)
|Known for||Leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)|
|Height||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
|Weight||180 pounds (82 kg)|
|Religion||Holy Spirit Movement|
|Spouse(s)||Thought to have 88 wives as of 2007|
|Children||Thought to have 42 children as of 2006|
Joseph Kony (pronounced IPA: [koɲ]; born sometime between July and September 1961) is the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a guerrilla group which used to operate in Uganda. While initially purporting to fight against government suppression, the LRA allegedly turned against Kony's own supporters, supposedly to "purify" the Acholi people and turn Uganda into a theocracy. Kony proclaims himself the spokesperson of God and a spirit medium, and has been considered by some as a cult of personality, and claims he is visited by a multinational host of 13 spirits, including a Chinese phantom. Ideologically, the group is a syncretic mix of mysticism, Acholi nationalism, Islam, and Christian fundamentalism, and claims to be establishing a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments and local Acholi tradition.
Kony has been accused by government entities of ordering the abduction of children to become sex slaves and child soldiers. An estimated 66,000 children became soldiers. And from 1986 up until about 2009, there were at least 2 million people internally displaced.
Kony was indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2005 but has evaded capture. Kony has been subject to an Interpol Red Notice at the request of the ICC since 2006. Since the Juba peace talks in 2006, the LRA no longer operate in Uganda. Sources claim that they are in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Central African Republic or South Sudan. In 2013 Kony was reported to be in poor health and Michel Djotodia, president of the Central African Republic, claimed he was negotiating with Kony to surrender.
Kony was born in 1961 in Odek, a village east of Gulu in northern Uganda, to farmers Luizi and Nora Obol. He is a member of the Acholi people. Kony enjoyed a good relationship with his siblings, but was quick to retaliate in a dispute and when confronted he would often resort to physical violence. His father was a lay catechist of the Catholic Church and his mother was an Anglican. His older sister, Gabriela Lakot, still lives in Odek.
Kony first came to prominence in the 1990s in Acholiland after the Holy Spirit Movement of Alice Auma (also known as Lakwena and to whom Kony is thought to be related). The overthrow of Acholi President Tito Okello by Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army (NRA) during the Ugandan Bush War (1981–1986), had culmunated into mass looting of livestock, rapes, burning of homes, genocide, and murder by the Museveni's army.
The atrocities committed by the Museveni's National Resistance Army now known as Uganda People's Defence Force led to the creation of LRA or Joseph Kony. The insurgencies also gave rise to concentration camps in Northern Uganda where at least over 2 million people lived. The government burned people's properties using helicopter gunships killing many of them. There were forceful displacements in the northern region. However, international campaigns called for all camps to be dismantled, and for the people to return to their former villages. In 2006 in the course of Juba peace talks with the LRA rebels, the Museveni's government gave permission for the local people to return to their villages. This marked the beginning of rehabilitation of homes, roads and so on.
Lord's Resistance Army
Kony has been implicated in abduction and recruitment of child soldiers. While there is no doubt that Kony recruited children, the government of Uganda has equally been accused of abducting and recruiting children into the army. In June 2006, the UN's representative found more than 5000 children in the Ugandan army.
From 1990s to 2006, the LRA have had battle confrontations with the government's National Resistance Army or UPDF within Uganda and in South Sudan. However, in 2008 the Ugandan army invaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo in search for the LRA in Operation Lightning Thunder., in November 2013, Kony was reported to be in poor health in the East CAR town of Nzoka
On 6 October 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that arrest warrants had been issued for five members of the Lord's Resistance Army for crimes against humanity following a sealed indictment. On the next day Ugandan defense minister Amama Mbabazi revealed that the warrants include Kony, his deputy Vincent Otti, and LRA commanders Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen. According to spokesmen for the military, the Ugandan army killed Lukwiya on 12 August 2006. The BBC received information that Otti had been killed on 2 October 2007, at Kony's home.
In November 2006, Kony met Jan Egeland, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Journeyman Pictures released a 2006 interview with Kony in which he proclaims, "I am a freedom fighter not a terrorist." He told Reuters: "We don't have any children. We only have combatants."
Kony was thought among followers and detractors alike to have been possessed by spirits; he has been portrayed as an elusive leader. Kony believes in the literal protection provided by a cross symbol and tells his child soldiers a cross on their chest drawn in oil will protect them from bullets. He also believes in polygamy. He is thought to have had many wives--some of whom were killed during the insurgency--and there are claims that he has 42 children. Kony insists that he and the Lord's Resistance Army are fighting for the Ten Commandments. He defends his actions: "Is it bad? It is not against human rights. And that commandment was not given by Joseph. It was not given by LRA. No, those commandments were given by God."
Betty Bigombe remembered that the first time she met Kony, his followers used oil to ward off bullets and evil spirits. In a letter regarding future talks, Kony stated that he must consult his self-styled holy spirit. When the talks did occur, they insisted on the participation of religious leaders and opened the proceedings with prayers, led by LRA's Director of Religious Affairs Jenaro Bongomi. During the 1994 peace talks, Kony was preceded by men in robes sprinkling holy water. According to Francis Ongom, a former LRA officer who defected, Kony "has found Bible justifications for killing witches, for killing [those who farm or eat] pigs because of the story of the Gadarene swine, and for killing [other] people because God did the same with Noah's flood and Sodom and Gomorrah."
Action against Kony
The Ugandan military has attempted to kill Kony throughout the insurgency. In Uganda's attempt to track Kony down, former LRA combatants have been enlisted to search remote areas of the Central African Republic, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo where he was last seen.
After the September 11 attacks, the United States declared the Lord's Resistance Army a terrorist group. On 28 August 2008, the United States Treasury Department placed Kony on its list of "Specially Designated Global Terrorists", a designation that carries financial and other penalties.
In November 2008, U.S. President George W. Bush personally signed the directive to the United States Africa Command to provide financial and logistical assistance to the Ugandan government during the unsuccessful 2008–2009 Garamba offensive, code-named Operation Lightning Thunder. No U.S. troops were directly involved, but 17 U.S. advisers and analysts provided intelligence, equipment, and fuel to Ugandan military counterparts. The offensive pushed Kony from his jungle camp, but he was not captured. One hundred children were rescued.
In May 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, legislation aimed at stopping Kony and the LRA. The bill passed unanimously in the United States Senate on 11 March. On 12 May 2010, a motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill was agreed to by voice vote (two-thirds being in the affirmative) in the House of Representatives. In November 2010, President Obama delivered a strategy document to Congress, asking for more funding to disarm Kony and the LRA. In October 2011, President Obama authorized the deployment of approximately 100 combat-equipped U.S. troops to central Africa. Their goal is to help regional forces remove Kony and senior LRA leaders from the battlefield. "Although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense," President Obama said in a letter to Congress.
On 23 March 2012 the African Union announced its intentions to "send 5,000 soldiers to join the hunt for rebel leader Joseph Kony" and to "neutralize" him while isolating the scattered LRA groups responsible for 2,600 civilian killings since 2008. This international task force was stated to include soldiers "from Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Congo, countries where Kony’s reign of terror has been felt over the years." Prior this announcement, the hunt for Kony has primarily been carried out by troops from Uganda. The soldiers will begin their search in South Sudan on 24 March 2012 and that the search "will last until Kony is caught".
Kony received a surge of attention in early March 2012 when a 30-minute documentary titled Kony 2012 by film maker Jason Russell for the campaign group Invisible Children Inc was released. The intention of the production is to draw attention to Kony in an effort to increase United States involvement in the issue and have Kony arrested by the end of 2012, A poll suggested that more than half of young adult Americans heard about Kony 2012 in the days following the video's release.
- International Criminal Court investigations
- Lord's Resistance Army insurgency
- The World's 10 Most Wanted
- Child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
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