Uganda’s Fate Hinges on the Enigmatic Leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army

Northern Ugandans are hoping the rebel Lord's Resistance Army will soon sign a peace agreement with President Yoweri Museveni's government. Their hope is understandable. The LRA's 21-year insurgency and the Ugandan government's response have largely destroyed the region north of the Nile and south of Sudan. But resolving the conflict largely hinges on the enigmatic chairman of the LRA, Joseph Kony.

He is the primary reason why the rebels have long been regarded as the most perplexing in sub-Saharan Africa. Supposedly possessed of supernatural powers at a young age, the Holy Spirit told a 20-something Kony to fight President Yoweri Museveni's government. Followers say he received other spirits, including: Juma Oris, a cabinet minister who served in the late Idi Amin's government; a Sudanese woman named Silli Silindi; an American called King Bruce; and one known as Who Are You? The motivation most commonly attributed to the LRA was to overthrow the Kampala government and establish rule of law according to the Ten Commandments.

Yet the rebels contradict that belief in divine law with their forced recruitment of children to fill their ranks and their reliance on extreme violence. As Matthew Green recounts in his fine book, "The Wizard of the Nile," the Reuters news agency dutifully noted for years that the rebels "are reviled for cutting off their victims' ears and padlocking their lips." No surprise that a major in the Ugandan Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) told this writer in January 2005 that the war in the north should be easily resolved. At the time, the rebels barely mustered a public presence. Many Ugandans had already judged Kony a sociopathic menace and never crossed Karuma Falls bridge, the demarcation point between the south and the north.

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