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Even if Kony turns himself in, he still emerges as the victor

Kony and his LRA cronies have been operating since 1988.

Kony and his LRA cronies have been operating since 1988.

In 1986, after years of terror under the reign of Idi Amin and a resistance that yielded two successful military coups, Yoweri Museveni emerged as the unchallenged leader of Uganda, as his National Resistance Army seized Kampala and installed Museveni as president. That same year, another rebel group took up resistance against the newly formulated government, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Originally called the Holy Spirit Mobile Forces and founded by Alice Lakwena, a Ugandan woman that claimed to be under the order of holy Christian spirits, the LRA arose to combat the Museveni regime and install a form of government based on the Ten Commandments.

In 1988, after working as a Catholic preacher for another rebel group, the Ugandan People’s Democratic Army (UPDA), a young Joseph Kony, allegedly a cousin of Lakwena, took command of the rebel group and changes its name to LRA. He began a campaign of brutality, mutilation, murder, pillaging and kidnapping that stretches almost 30 years and spans most of Central Africa.

Now the Central African Republic (CAR) government claims that it has had preliminary talks with Kony regarding his surrender. The CAR is a country in crisis at the moment as a March coup, that led to the overthrow of former president Francois Bozize, has left the country in shambles. The Seleka rebel group that initiated the civil war has committed acts of atrocity across the country as they attempt to instill a radical Islamic government in a nation with a Christian majority. This has caused animosity and fighting between Muslims and Christians which has the potential to break out into civil war again. This chaotic environment is exactly the type of place that Kony and the LRA thrive in.

After all these years it is possible that Kony is tired of running, tired of living in the bush. Some have claimed that Kony is in poor health and is seeking medical attention. The US is not convinced that the negotiations are directly with Kony, but rather a small group of LRA soldiers that have been seeking to negotiate the terms of their own surrender. Kony has attempted to surrender before, only to renege on his promise and return to brutalizing local villages to ensure his groups minuscule survival. Uganda has fervently stated that they will not agree to any surrender that offers Kony protection from International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecution. Uganda has sent a force of approximately 2,500 men searching for Kony for the last several years and they are supported by 100 US soldiers in an advisory capacity.

Whether it really is Kony or not or if he decides to finally abandon this seemingly infinite game of cat-and-mouse is yet to be seen. What is true is that Kony will have the last laugh. If his health is in decline, it is doubtful that he will be fit to stand trial or live long enough to be punished for his crimes. The ICC maximum sentence is 30 years, or in extreme cases they can put someone away for life. However, if the reports of Kony’s condition are true, he will not last long in prison. Kony would definitely warrant one of those extreme cases to be considered for life, as the court would be hard-pressed to find a person with a longer rap sheet of war crimes and crimes against humanity than the LRA leader. While Kony is only 52 years old, the hard life he has lived in the bush of Central Africa, has most likely left his body in poor shape to live a prolonged life. In addition, he has enjoyed one of the most elongated runs of notoriety ever, terrorizing communities for almost 30 years without even sniffing the inside of a prison.

Kony’s recognition on the international stage was raised exponentially after the release of Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012” video went viral, bringing to light the viciousness of Kony and the LRA’s reign of terror. The reality for Kony is he is a survivor. If he must face charges and imprisonment in The Hague, then his conditions will be improved ten-fold from the general environment in which he is used to. Kony has made a name for himself and the LRA and raised himself to almost mythical proportions with his elusiveness. If he emerges from the bush alive and unscathed by the thousands of people looking for him, than he will raise his status as an arch-criminal even that much more. The most unfortunate scenario would be for Kony to take center stage with his insane antics at the ICC and create a mockery of the system by using the court as his personal forum to improve his infamy. In the end, nothing can be done to declare victory on Kony because he has already claimed victory for almost 30 years. The idea of Kony has well outgrown the man himself and in the end, he will still be the victor in this tragic saga.




Daniel Donovan

Daniel is the Executive Director of a non-profit development organization that focuses on building infrastructure and training in rural Sub-Saharan Africa called the African Community Advancement Initiative ( . He has a Master's degree graduate in International Relations with an emphasis on conflict resolution and development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Coupled with his extensive financial background, Daniel also works as a consultant for Consultancy Africa Intelligence in Pretoria and the Centre for Global Governance and Public Policy in Abu Dhabi. In addition to his work at FPA, he is also a regular contributor to The Continent Observer and International Policy Digest. He currently resides in Denver, CO.