Joseph Kony (born c. 1961) is a Ugandan guerrilla group leader, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a group engaged in a violent campaign to establish theocratic government based on the Ten Commandments throughout Uganda.The LRA is a militant group with a syncreticChristian extreme religious ideology. They are known for the extreme atrocities they commit against civilians, including murder, mutilations, rape, and in some accounts even cannibalism.
Directed by Kony, the LRA has earned a reputation for its actions against the people of several countries, including northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Sudan. It has abducted and forced an estimated 66,000 children to fight for them, and has forced the internal displacement of over 2,000,000 people since its rebellion began in 1986.In 2005 Kony was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, but has evaded capture.
Joseph Kony was born c. 1961 in Odek, a village east of Gulu in northern Uganda. A member of the Acholi people, Kony is the son of farmers. He 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. Kony was an altar boy for several years, but he stopped attending church around the age of 15. As a teenager Kony apprenticed as the village witch doctor under his older brother, Jamie Brow, and when his older brother died, Kony took over the position. He did not graduate from high school. Kony first came to prominence in January 1986 as the leader of one of the many premillennialist groups that sprang up in Acholiland in the wake of the wildly popular Holy Spirit Movement of Alice Auma (also known as Lakwena), to whom Kony is thought to be related.Their relative loss of influence after the overthrow of Acholi President Tito Okello by Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army (NRA) during the Ugandan Bush War (1981–1986) spurred resentment among the Acholi, which boosted Joseph Kony’s popularity.
Originally, Kony’s group was called the United Holy Salvation Army (UHSA) and was not perceived as a threat by the NRA. By 1988, it had became a major player in Ugandan affairs: an agreement between the NRA and the Uganda People’s Democratic Army left members of the latter group unsatisfied, and many joined the United Holy Salvation Army as a form of rebellion. One such person was Commander Odong Latek, who convinced Kony to use standard military tactics instead of attacking in cross-shaped formations and sprinkling holy water. The new tactics proved successful, and the UHSA delivered several small but stinging defeats against the NRA. After these victories, the NRA responded by significantly weakening Kony’s group through political actions and a military campaign named Operation North. The operation was devastating to what would become the Lord’s Resistance Army, and with their numbers reduced from thousands to hundreds, they engaged in retaliatory attacks on civilians and NRA collaborators. The LRA say that spirits have been sent to communicate this mission directly to Kony.
The bulk of Kony’s foot soldiers were children.Whilst estimates of the number of children conscripted since 1986 vary, some put the figure as high as 104,000. When abducting the children, Kony and his army often killed their family and neighbors, thus leaving the children with little choice but to fight for him.
By 1992 Kony had renamed the group the United Democratic Christian Army and it was at this time that they kidnapped 44 girls from the Sacred Heart Secondary and St. Mary’s girls schools.
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 the 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.
Kony was thought among followers and detractors alike to have been possessed by spirits; he has been portrayed as either the Messiah or the Devil. He reportedly made annual trips to the Ato Hills in Uganda. He would allegedly ascend to the highest of the hills and lie down in the hot sun for days. He would be covered by a blanket of red termites that bit deeply into his skin. Oil from the Yao plant was spread over his body. Then he would enter a cave and stay in seclusion for weeks. 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. 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.”
The Ugandan military has attempted to kill Kony throughout the insurgency. In Uganda’s latest attempt to track Kony down, former LRA combatants have been to enlisted to search remote areas of the Central African Republic, the Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo where he was last seen.
On October 6, 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 ministerAmama Mbabazi revealed that the warrants include Kony, his deputy Vincent Otti, and LRA commanders Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odiambo, and Dominic Ongwen. According to spokesmen for the military, the Ugandan army killed Lukwiya on August 12, 2006.
On October 13, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo released details on Kony’s indictment. There are 33 charges; 12 counts are crimes against humanity, including murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement, and rape. Another 21 counts of war crimes include murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, pillaging, inducing rape, and forced enlisting of children into the rebel ranks. Ocampo said that “Kony was abducting girls to offer them as rewards to his commanders.”
On July 31, 2006, Kony met with several cultural, political, and religious leaders from northern Uganda at his hideout in the Congolese forests to discuss the war. The following day, he crossed the border into Sudan to speak with Southern Sudan Vice President Riek Machar. Kony later told reporters that he would not be willing to stand trial at the ICC because he had not done anything wrong.
On November 12, 2006, Kony met Jan Egeland, the United Nations Undersecretary-General for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief. Kony told Reuters: “We don’t have any children. We only have combatants.”
U.S. action against Kony
After the September 11th attacks, the United States declared the Lord’s Resistance Army a terrorist group. On August 28, 2008, the United States Treasury Department placed Kony on its list of “Specially Designated Global Terrorists“, a designation that carries financial and other penalties. It is not known whether Kony has any assets that are affected by this designation.
In 2008, the United States military assisted financially and logistically during the unsuccessful Garamba Offensive, code-named Operation Lightning Thunder. No US troops were directly involved, but US advisers and analysts provided intelligence, equipment, and fuel to Ugandan military counterparts. Though the offensive may have pushed Kony from his jungle camp, he was not captured.
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 March 11. On May 12, 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 Obama delivered a strategy document to Congress, asking for more funding to disarm Kony and the LRA. In October 2011, 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,” Obama said in a letter to Congress.
In the media
Kony received a surge of attention in early March 2012 when a thirty-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. Michael Geheren, blogger for The Huffington Post, commented: “The 27-minute video was posted on Vimeo and YouTube by Invisible Children and became a worldwide trending topic on the Internet. Personally, I have never seen an outpour of support from people on my Facebook news feed like this.”
The Telegraph online pointed out that the film has quickly received attention from celebrities. Elizabeth Flock, writer for the Washington Post, offered more background on the LRA as well as Invisible Children in response to the documentary. Flock and The Toronto Star stated that Invisible Children hoped to raise Kony’s notoriety enough to provoke a massive overnight poster campaign on April 20.
KONY 2012 is an international campaign by Invisible Children, aiming to bring Joseph Kony to justice.
Who is Joseph Kony?
Joseph Kony is the world’s worst war criminal. In 1987 he took over leadership of an existing rebel group and renamed it the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
The LRA has earned a reputation for its cruel and brutal tactics. When Joseph Kony found himself running out of fighters, he started abducting children to be soldiers in his army or “wives” for his officers. The LRA is encouraged to rape, mutilate, and kill civilians–often with blunt weapons.
The LRA is no longer active in northern Uganda (where it originated) but it continues its campaign of violence in Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. In its 26-year history, the LRA has abducted more than 30,000 children and displaced at least 2.1 million people.
KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.
What is the goal of KONY 2012?
Invisible Children has been working for 9 years to end Africa’s longest-running armed conflict. U.S. military advisers are currently deployed in Central Africa on a “time-limited” mission to stop Kony and disarm the LRA. If Kony isn’t captured this year, the window will be gone.
We are taking action to ensure these two things:
1) That Joseph Kony is known as the World’s Worst War Criminal.
2) That the U.S. military advisers support the Ugandan Army until Kony has been captured and the LRA has been completely disarmed. They need to follow through all the way and finish what they have started.
Get the goods
Purchase the Physical Kit with our kony2012 merch.
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Join us and make a contribution to help us bring Kony to justice.
Get out there
Find ways to post KONY 2012 media around your city.
Share a photo of your work by using #KONY2012.
Why are we making Joseph Kony “famous”?
Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 campaign aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice. In this case, notoriety translates to public support. If people know about the crimes that Kony has been committing for 26 years, they will unite to stop him.
Secondly, we want Kony to be famous so that when he is stopped, he will be a visible, concrete example of international justice. Then other war criminals will know that their mass atrocities will not go unnoticed or unpunished.
(source: www.invisiblechildren.com and www.kony2012.com )
What do you believe?
The scam behind Kony 2012
As soon as the mainstream media picked up on this story I knew that it had to be a fraudulant news piece as they never publish truth
I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man. But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign.
KONY 2012 is the product of a group called Invisible Children, a controversial activist group and not-for-profit. They’ve released 11 films, most with an accompanying bracelet colour (KONY 2012 is fittingly red), all of which focus on Joseph Kony. When we buy merch from them, when we link to their video, when we put up posters linking to their website, we support the organization. I don’t think that’s a good thing, and I’mnotalone.
Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 31% went to their charity program (page 6)*. This is far from ideal, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they haven’t had their finances externally audited. But it goes way deeper than that.
The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money funds the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission.
Still, the bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on funding African militias, but on awareness and filmmaking. Which can be great, except that Foreign Affairs has claimed that Invisible Children (among others) “manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.” He’s certainly evil, but exaggeration and manipulation to capture the public eye is unproductive, unprofessional and dishonest.
As Christ Blattman, a political scientist at Yale, writes on the topic of IC’s programming, “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. […] It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming.”
Still, Kony’s a bad guy, and he’s been around a while. Which is why the US has been involved in stopping him for years. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent multiple missions to capture or kill Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response and increased retaliative slaughter. The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children funds this military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention.
Military intervention may or may not be the right idea, but people supporting KONY 2012 probably don’t realize they’re helping fund the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away. If people know this and still support Invisible Children because they feel it’s the best solution based on their knowledge and research, I have no issue with that. But I don’t think most people are in that position, and that’s a problem.
Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on funding ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s something. Something isn’t always better than nothing. Sometimes it’s worse.
If you want to write to your Member of Parliament or your Senator or the President or the Prime Minister, by all means, go ahead. If you want to post about Joseph Kony’s crimes on Facebook, go ahead. But let’s keep it about Joseph Kony, not KONY 2012.
~ Grant Oyston, email@example.com
Grant Oyston is a sociology and political science student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. You can help spread the word about this by linking to his blog at visiblechildren.tumblr.com anywhere you see posts about KONY 2012.
*For context, 31% is bad. By contrast, Direct Relief reports 98.8% of its funding goes to programming. American Red Cross reports 92.1% to programming. UNICEF USA is at 90.3%. Invisible Children reports that 80.5% of their funding goes to programming, while I report 31% based on their FY11 fiscal reports, because other NGOs would count film-making as fundraising expenses, not programming expenses.
(Source: http://standingagainstoppression.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/the-scam-behin-kony-2012/ )