Who Is Joseph Kony?

Joseph Kony (image taken from the Kony 2012 film produced by Invisible Children)

Joseph Kony, accused killing civilians and kidnapping thousands of children and forcing them to become soldiers in northern Uganda and neighboring countries for years, has been wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2005. Yet until an internet video produced by filmmaker Jason Russell for Invisible Children went viral last month, most Americans had never heard of the Ugandan rebel militia leader.

Kony’s rebellion against the Ugandan government of Yoweri Museveni dates back to the late 1980s. His militia, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), enjoyed some early popular support until it began to plunder the local population.

Using prophecies that he supposedly received from spirits that appeared to him in dreams as justification, Kony ordered the LRA to attack villages in a campaign that displaced approximately two million people. The LRA’s tactics of intimidation include murder of civilians, rape, and the abduction of children, who were then turned into soldiers or slaves. The ICC’s warrant for Kony’s arrest accuses him of human rights violations including 10,000 murders and the enslavement of at least 24,000 children.

In 2006, Kony began the process of peace negotiations, but after an agreement was finalized two years later the Ugandan rebel refused to appear to sign the document unless the ICC suspended the warrants against him and other LRA leaders. During this time, Kony’s group had largely left Uganda for the neighboring countries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan.

Under the Bush administration, a team of 17 U.S. military advisors and analysts offered support and supplies to Ugandan forces engaged in a counterterrorism operation against the LRA, though they did not participate in combat. However, the operation failed to capture Kony and further scattered the LRA, which continued to kill, rape and kidnap its way through village after village.

Last October, President Obama authorized the deployment of approximately 100 U.S. troops to central Africa to assist in efforts to track down Kony and put an end to the threat of the LRA.

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