Friday, June 30, 2006

Kony is Crazy, So Why Does Riek Love Him? - Just how crazy is Joseph Kony?

Note Ethan's blog entry - Just how crazy is Joseph Kony? - June 29, 2006 and his postscript:
I have to admit - Farvar's story on Kony makes me a little uneasy. I understand the value of an interview with a critical figure in Africa, and understand that there's no way Farvar would have gotten the interview if he was able to lead the authorities back to Kony camp ... but what are the ethics on giving a platform for someone like Kony to explain his motives and beliefs? And does Farvar have an obligation to assist those people trying to arrest Kony now that he's met with him and conducted this interview? How does this parallel situations like interviews journalists have conducted with Bin Ladn?
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A comment at Ethan's post provides a link to the following report from, copied here in full:

Uganda: Kony is Crazy, So Why Does Riek Love Him?
The Monitor (Kampala) June 27, 2006
Charles Onyango-Obbo/Ear to The Ground

The LRA leader, Joseph Kony, has become a subject of renewed international interest and diplomatic activity at a point when he's launching the least attacks in Uganda, and seems to be at his weakest. No?

Last year Kony seemed to be on the ropes. In October the International Criminal Court indicted him and put out a warrant for his arrest, and that of his other senior commanders like Vincent Otti.

The new Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) offered to help destroy the LRA and arrest Kony; and then it was reported that rebels were on the run and had crossed into DR Congo.

However, while Kony seemed to be in disarray, his rebels were at the same time staging deadly attacks inside Sudan. If this seemed puzzling, what followed was even more intriguing.

Then a few weeks ago, the picture changed dramatically. At celebrations to mark the founding of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army on May 16, Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir announced that the GOSS had persuaded the LRA to start peace talks with Uganda, and that his Vice-President Riek Machar had met Kony.

Kiir also said that President Museveni had watched a videotape of the meeting. He said Museveni had given a green light to the contacts, and had dropped his objections giving Kony amnesty for the LRA's atrocities.

Riek was also showed giving Kony $20,000 (Shs 37m) to keep his troops and family fed, so that they stop their attacks.

Hell broke loose. The sight of Riek giving Kony money outraged many. And the ICC objected strongly to any amnesty for Kony, and insisted he be handed over to The Hague. Museveni also seemed to change his position, threatening that the UPDF would go back into the DRC if Kinshasa and the UN did not firmly deal with the threat of Kony.

In reality, by October last year the politics around the LRA had changed dramatically.

For already two LRAs had emerged. One was known as "LRA Uganda" and the other "LRA Sudan." Most of the LRA who were carrying out raids in the western banks of the Nile were non-Ugandans - "LRA Sudan" or "New LRA." The "LRA Sudan" is commanded by southern Sudanese based in Juba, some of them known members of the National Congress (NC) Party of President El-Bashir.

This move was critical for "LRA Uganda" because it freed Kony from the pressure to protect his bases and supply lines in southern Sudan. In that sense, then, Kony can be said to have crossed into the DRC mainly to expand the nature of the conflict, not in defeat. Indeed in January the Kony forces ambushed a UN unit comprising elite Guatemalan forces in the DRC, killed eight of them and, in true Kony fashion, cut their heads off and impaled them on stakes.

More crucially, Khartoum is suspected to be backing the "LRA Sudan" option because it's not committed to upholding the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the war in the south, particularly now that it's very likely that southern Sudan will vote for secession when a referendum is held in five years' time.

These developments found the GOSS vulnerable. After the death of long-term SPLM/A leader John Garang in President Museveni's official helicopter that was carrying him back to his southern Sudan base last August, the organisation was nearly plunged into a crisis. Though President Kiir is less authoritarian and more consultative than Garang, he lacks the latter's authority or charisma.

Before Garang died, discord was already rife, and he was travelling to a meeting aimed at quelling a revolt by leaders of SPLM/A. Indeed Kiir had at around that point returned to Nairobi to cool off. The Luo Nuer militia loyal to Machar were making fresh threatening voices.

Garang's death, and the ascendance to power of the mild-mannered Kiir postponed, but did not prevent, the power struggle in the south becoming full blown.

Southern Sudan is a tough place, in which mostly brass-knuckled men like Garang seem to thrive. Kiir's manner and the fact that his administration is viewed as incompetent have therefore encouraged his authority to be challenged.

For the GOSS in general, in these conditions the most important thing is to consolidate, rather than divert attention into chasing bandit armies. Kiir is known to favour the removal of Kony and his forces, but right now his faction doesn't seem to be in a position or to have the will to pursue such a campaign on its own.

This situation has favoured Riek. He doesn't have any problems with Kony. His connections to Kony go back to the mid 1990s, when they were both fighting Garang's SPLA on behalf of the Khartoum regime.

If the "LRA" remains an important player in Khartoum's schemes in the south, and also is crucial for political actors like Riek who see it as a potentially useful force in the clamour for supremacy that might well come before long, then Kony's macabre currency has risen.

Add to that the fact that for President Museveni's government it would be better if Kony remained free roaming the jungles of the DR Congo or dead, rather than in The Hague and it becomes clear that the dreadful rebel is benefiting from surviving long enough for events to play in his favour. To this high drama, we shall return next Wednesday.


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