Uganda’s faltering peace process received a boost yesterday when one of Africa’s most fearsome rebel commanders sat down with United Nations officials in a clearing deep in the southern Sudanese jungle.
For 20 years, Joseph Kony has built a shadowy reputation as the madman at the heart of the cult-like Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which butchered, murdered and raped its way across much of northern Uganda. Victims could expect to have their lips cut from their faces by child soldiers forced to fight with the LRA.
Yesterday, he strolled out of the rainforest near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo to meet Jan Egeland, the UN’s humanitarian co-ordinator.
Ad: Vacation? City Trip? Weekend Break? Book Skip-the-line tickets
A platoon of dreadlocked rebels took up defensive positions as Kony shook hands with the Norwegian official. They spent about 20 minutes meeting in a simple tent set up at Ri-Kwangba, a muddy clearing where rebels are congregating as part of a ceasefire agreement.
Afterwards, Mr Egeland said: “For me, it was a successful meeting because I have now brought to the highest levels of the LRA the need to do more to protect the civilian population and to return the people they have abducted. They have not promised much more than coming back before the end of the month on possibilities for that to happen.”
The meeting took place at the rebel leader’s request, but for two hours, Mr Egeland was forced to wait for him as Kony’s senior commanders relayed requests, demands and concessions over satellite telephones.
After the meeting, Kony insisted his force had not abducted young people to fight. “We don’t have any children in our movement; there’s only combatants,” he said, his wild eyes rolling as he faced questions from the small number of journalists who had managed to reach the assembly point. His summary of the meeting was similarly concise: “We talked about peace talks taking place in [the southern Sudanese capital] Juba.”
The LRA has waged one of Africa’s most brutal and bizarre civil wars since it appeared in 1987. Tens of thousands of people have died and almost two million have been forced to live in the squalor of aid camps since Kony took up arms against a government accused of neglecting the interests of northerners.
He claimed to have been instructed by the Holy Spirit , and once said he wanted to govern northern Uganda according to the Ten Commandments.
Kony and four commanders have been charged with war crimes including killing civilians, rape, and abducting children. Their troops routinely sliced off the lips and ears of civilians suspected of being government informers.
Kony also issued a stream of increasingly bizarre orders to his followers. He ordered that anyone caught riding a bike should have their feet cut off, that all white chickens should be killed and that no farming should be done on Fridays.
A brutal butcher
The LRA has waged one of Africa’s most brutal and bizarre civil wars since it appeared in 1987.
Tens of thousands of people have died and almost two million have been forced to live in the squalor of aid camps since Kony took up arms in Uganda against a government accused of neglecting the interests of northerners. He claimed to have been instructed by the Holy Spirit.
Kony and four commanders have been charged with war crimes including killing civilians, rape, and abducting children. Peace talks have repeatedly stalled on this issue as rebel negotiators demand an amnesty to let Kony leave hiding.
Book skip-the-line tickets to the worlds major religious sites — or to any other place in the world.
We appreciate your support
One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at Amazon.com.
Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission — at no additional cost to you — for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this service free of charge.