The man who put the infant into Infantry, and was once possibly the world’s most notorious celebrity. But how did Joseph Kony become so infamous, sparking not only the Invisible Children movement, but the associated movie and the Kony 2012 awareness campaign almost exactly a year ago?
Clearly, Kony has strong religious sensibility, although his actions are hardly the work of a saintly man. Currently, he is wanted on more than 33 charges, 12 of which are for crimes against humanity and others are for mental and physical torture, rape, abduction, mutilations and war crimes. Much of the initiative behind the Invisible Children and last year’s viral Kony 2012 movements was aimed at making the world at large aware of these and other crimes.
Joseph Kony is believed to be in his early 50s and was born in a village called Odek in Northern Uganda, which is situated to East of Gulu. Like many young African boys, he played football, danced, studied the Bible and believed in a mixture of Christian belief suffused with certain tenets of Islam. Coupled to this more formal religious thinking is a belief in ancestral worship. Considering the high death rate of the young and the short life expectancy of the old, there really are not that many ancestors to worship, but the practice is common amongst rural communities throughout Africa.
Unlike many young African children, Kony was not a studious pupil and dropped out of school when his elder witch-doctor brother died. Assuming the mantle of local witch-doctor, Kony was known to become aggressive when matters did not go his way. At the same time that this adolescent rage was brewing, Kony became involved in the “Holy Spirit Movement” headed by a spirit medium called Alice Auma. In October 1987, channeling a local god called Lakwena, Alice Auma led her Holy Spirit Army south to attempt to overthrow the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government of the Yoweri Museveni.
The Holy Spirit Army was typical of other guerrilla war campaigns which originated in northern Uganda and when Joseph Kony funded his own movement in 1987, he called it “the Lord’s resistance Movement” (LRM). Like his spirit-medium predecessor, Kony wanted to purify Uganda and make it a theocracy ruled by the Ten Commandments. He appears to have interpreted one of the commandments to his own advantage and prevented himself from thinking sinful thoughts of other women by marrying 88 wives and fathering over 40 children.
The origins of these movements can be traced to the sense of exclusion felt by many in the north. After the northern leader Milton Obote was overthrown in a military coup and replaced by the incumbent president Yoweri Museveni in 1986, the northern region of Uganda has been a hot bed of rebellion.
The Lord’s People Army (renamed from the original movement) currently terrorizes large sections of the Central African Republic, the DRC and South Sudan.
Yet, he is still involved in Uganda and he’s now the target of an international manhunt to capture him and try him before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
During our H.E.A.T. courses we discuss various factors that create Hostile Environments throughout Africa. Kony’s LRA organisation has certainly plundered large areas of Africa and abducted thousands of children who have been forced to kill their parents and their neighbours. Over a hundred special forces personnel have been seconded to the Ugandan army to help capture Joseph Kony. Yet we have been reliably informed by local intelligence that Kony often travels to the Ato Hills, north east of the Kabarega National Park, to commune with his Holy Spirit. Whilst communing with this Spirit he covers himself with red termites and anoints his body with oil from the yao plant, a nutritious food and a medicinal herb, used to strengthen the spleen, lung and kidneys. Perhaps, whilst covered in red termites and eating a root-based diet, Special Forces could pin him down and arrest him.