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Joseph Kony

Joseph Kony
Born August 1961 (age 53)[1]
Odek, Uganda[2][3]
Nationality Ugandan
Ethnicity Acholi
Known for Leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)
Height 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)[4]
Weight 82 kg (180 lb)
Religion Holy Spirit Movement (Protestant Christianity)
Spouse(s) 88 wives as of 2007[5]
Children 42 children as of 2006[6]

Joseph Kony (pronounced IPA: ;[7] born August 1961)[1] is the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a guerrilla group which used to operate in Uganda. While initially purporting to fight against government suppression, the LRA allegedly turned against Kony's own supporters, supposedly to "purify" the Acholi people and turn Uganda into a theocracy.[2] Kony proclaims himself the spokesperson of God and a spirit medium and claims he is visited by a multinational host of 13 spirits, including a Chinese phantom.[2] He is considered by some as a cult of personality. Ideologically, the group is a syncretic mix of mysticism, Acholi nationalism, and Christian fundamentalism, and claims to be establishing a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments and local Acholi tradition.[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19]

Kony has been accused by government entities of ordering the abduction of children to become sex slaves and child soldiers.[20] 66,000 children became soldiers. 2 million people were displaced internally from 1986 to 2009.[21]

Kony was indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2005 but has evaded capture.[22] Kony has been subject to an Interpol Red Notice at the request of the ICC since 2006.[4] Since the Juba peace talks in 2006, the LRA no longer operate in Uganda. Sources claim that they are in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Central African Republic or South Sudan.[23] In 2013 Kony was reported to be in poor health and Michel Djotodia, president of the Central African Republic, claimed he was negotiating with Kony to surrender.[24]


  • Biography 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Rebel leader 1.2
    • Lord's Resistance Army 1.3
    • Indictment 1.4
  • Religious beliefs 2
  • Action against Kony 3
    • Uganda 3.1
    • United States 3.2
    • African Union 3.3
    • Kony 2012 3.4
    • The "Arrow Boys" Militia 3.5
    • Surrender of Ongwen and other recent events 3.6
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • External links 7


Early life

Kony was born in August 1961[1] in Odek, a village east of Gulu in northern Uganda,[2][25] to farmers Luizi and Nora Obol.[26] He is a member of the Acholi people.[2][27] Kony enjoyed a good relationship with his siblings, but was quick to retaliate in a dispute and when confronted he would often resort to physical violence.[28] His father was a lay catechist of the Catholic Church and his mother was an Anglican. His older sister, Gabriela Lakot, still lives in Odek.[29]

Kony was an altar boy for church until 1976.[28] and also dropped out of school.[2]

Rebel leader

In 1995, Kony came to prominence in Acholiland after the Holy Spirit Movement of Alice Auma (also known as Lakwena and to whom Kony is thought to be related).[2] The overthrow of Acholi President Tito Okello by Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army (NRA) during the Ugandan Bush War (1981–1986), had culmunated into mass looting of livestock, rapes, burning of homes, genocide, and murder by Museveni's army.[30]

The atrocities committed by the Museveni's National Resistance Army now known as Uganda People's Defence Force led to the creation of LRA or Joseph Kony. The insurgencies also gave rise to concentration camps in Northern Uganda where over 2 million people lived. The government burned people's properties using helicopter gunships killing many of them. There were forceful displacements in the northern region. However, international campaigns called for all camps to be dismantled, and for the people to return to their former villages. In 2006 in the course of Juba peace talks with the LRA rebels, the Museveni's government gave permission for the local people to return to their villages. This marked the beginning of rehabilitation of homes, roads and so on.[31]

Lord's Resistance Army

Kony has been implicated in abduction and recruitment of child soldiers. While there is no doubt that Kony recruited children, the government of Uganda has equally been accused of abducting and recruiting children into the army. In June 2006, the UN's representative found more than 5,000 children in the Ugandan army.[32]

The LRA have had battle confrontations with the government's National Resistance Army or UPDF within Uganda and in South Sudan for ten years. However, in 2008 the Ugandan army invaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo in search for the LRA in Operation Lightning Thunder.,[33] in November 2013, Kony was reported to be in poor health in the East CAR town of Nzoka[34] Despite rumors about Kony's own physical health and safety, he appeared to be alive and functioning on through to the present day.

Looking back at the LRA's campaign of violence, The Guardian stated in 2015 that Kony's forces had been responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 people and the kidnapping of at least 60,000 children. Various atrocities committed include raping young girls and abducting them for use as sex slaves. The actual number of LRA milita members has waxed and waned over the years, being no more than a few hundred as of 2015.[35]


In October 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that arrest warrants had been issued for five members of the Lord's Resistance Army for crimes against humanity following a sealed indictment. On the next day Ugandan defense minister Amama Mbabazi revealed that the warrants include Kony, his deputy Vincent Otti, and LRA commanders Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen. According to spokesmen for the military, the Ugandan army killed Lukwiya on 12 August 2006.[22] The BBC received information that Otti had been killed on 2 October 2007, at Kony's home.[36]

In November 2006, Kony met Jan Egeland, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.[37] Journeyman Pictures released a 2006 interview with Kony in which he proclaims, "I am a freedom fighter not a terrorist."[38] He told Reuters: "We don't have any children. We only have combatants."[39]

Religious beliefs

Kony was thought among followers and detractors alike to have been possessed by spirits; he has been portrayed as an elusive leader. Kony believes in the literal protection provided by a cross symbol and tells his child soldiers a cross on their chest drawn in oil will protect them from bullets.[28] He also believes in polygamy. He is thought to have had many wives—some of whom were killed during the insurgency—and there are claims that he has 42 children.[5][6] Kony insists that he and the Lord's Resistance Army are fighting for the Ten Commandments. He defends his actions: "Is it bad? It is not against human rights. And that commandment was not given by Joseph. It was not given by LRA. No, those commandments were given by God."[40]

Ugandan political leader Betty Bigombe remembered that the first time she met Kony, his followers used oil to ward off bullets and evil spirits.[41] In a letter regarding future talks, Kony stated that he must consult his self-styled holy spirit. When the talks did occur, Kony and his followers insisted on the participation of religious leaders and opened the proceedings with prayers, led by LRA's Director of Religious Affairs Jenaro Bongomi. During the 1994 peace talks, Kony was preceded by men in robes sprinkling holy water.[25] According to Francis Ongom, a former LRA officer who defected, Kony "has found Bible justifications for killing witches, for killing [those who farm or eat] pigs because of the story of the Gadarene swine, and for killing [other] people because God did the same with Noah's flood and Sodom and Gomorrah."[42]

Action against Kony


The Ugandan military has attempted to kill Kony throughout the insurgency. In Uganda's attempt to track Kony down, former LRA combatants have been enlisted to search remote areas of the Central African Republic, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo where he was last seen.[43]

United States

After the September 11 attacks, the United States declared the Lord's Resistance Army a terrorist group.[44] On 28 August 2008, the United States Treasury Department placed Kony on its list of "Specially Designated Global Terrorists", a designation that carries financial and other penalties.[45]

In November 2008, U.S. President United States Africa Command to provide financial and logistical assistance to the Ugandan government during the unsuccessful 2008–2009 Garamba offensive, code-named Operation Lightning Thunder. No U.S. troops were directly involved, but 17 U.S. advisers and analysts provided intelligence, equipment, and fuel to Ugandan military counterparts. The offensive pushed Kony from his jungle camp, but he was not captured. One hundred children were rescued.[46]

In May 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act,[47] legislation aimed at stopping Kony and the LRA. The bill passed unanimously in the United States Senate on 11 March. On 12 May 2010, a motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill was agreed to by voice vote (two-thirds being in the affirmative) in the House of Representatives.[48] In November 2010, President Obama delivered a strategy document to Congress, asking for more funding to disarm Kony and the LRA.[49] In October 2011, President Obama authorized the deployment of approximately 100 combat-equipped U.S. troops to central Africa.[50] Their goal is to help regional forces remove Kony and senior LRA leaders from the battlefield. "Although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense," President Obama said in a letter to Congress.[51][52]

On 3 April 2013, the Obama administration offered rewards of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest, transfer or conviction of Kony, Ongwen and Odhiambo.[53][54][55][56]

On 24 March 2014 the United States announced they would deploy at least four CV-22 Ospreys and refuelling planes, and 150 Air Force special forces personnel to assist in the capture of Kony.[57]

African Union

On 23 March 2012 the African Union announced its intentions to "send 5,000 soldiers to join the hunt for rebel leader Joseph Kony" and to "neutralize" him while isolating the scattered LRA groups responsible for 2,600 civilian killings since 2008. This international task force was stated to include soldiers "from Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Congo, countries where Kony’s reign of terror has been felt over the years." Prior this announcement, the hunt for Kony has primarily been carried out by troops from Uganda. The soldiers will begin their search in South Sudan on 24 March 2012 and that the search "will last until Kony is caught".[58]

Kony 2012

Kony received a surge of attention in early March 2012 when a 30-minute documentary titled Kony 2012 by film maker Jason Russell for the campaign group Invisible Children Inc was released.[59] The intention of the production is to draw attention to Kony in an effort to increase United States involvement in the issue and have Kony arrested by the end of 2012,[60] A poll suggested that more than half of young adult Americans heard about Kony 2012 in the days following the video's release.[61][62] Kony 2012 has been widely criticized for largely ignoring the fact that Joseph Kony was already pushed out of Uganda long before the film was made, for using funds largely for themselves, and for hypocrisy by ignoring human rights abuses by the Ugandan military.[63]

The "Arrow Boys" Militia

The Arrow Boys militia was founded in Teso in Eastern Uganda. The name comes from the fact that they use primitive weapons such as bows and arrows or clubs against the superiorly armed LRA child soldiers. Between 2003 and 2005 they waged a counter insurgency campaign that forced the LRA out of that region. [64] Militia in Southern Sudan who have fought against the LRA since it fled there from Uganda have adopted the same name. They have had success in driving off small groups of LRA rebels.[65]

Surrender of Ongwen and other recent events

kidnapped as a child, he graduated from being a mere soldier into various places in the hierarchy, being responsible for many war crimes. Ongwen gave himself up to representatives of the Central African Republic in January 2015, which was a major blow against Kony's group. Ugandan army spokesman Paddy Ankunda stated that the event "puts the LRA in the most vulnerable position" and that it "is only Kony left standing." An article by The Guardian reported that since only Kony remained at large of the five LRA commanders charged by the international criminal court years ago, the only few hundred fighters or so left to defend him would likely not be enough for him to evade capture much longer.[35]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Craine, Anthony. "Joseph Kony". Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 7 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Howden, Daniel (8 November 2008). "The deadly cult of Joseph Kony".  
  3. ^ "Joseph Kony". Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Wanted Persons - Kony, Joseph". Interpol. 2006. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  5. ^ a b  
  6. ^ a b Beatrice Debut Gulu (10 February 2006). "Portrait of Uganda's rebel prophet, painted by wives". Mail & Guardian Online. Retrieved 7 March 2012. 
  7. ^  
  8. ^ The Scars of Death: Children Abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda.  
  9. ^ Ruddy Doom and Koen Vlassenroot (1999). "Kony's message: A new Koine? The Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda". African Affairs (Oxford Journals / Royal African Society) 98 (390): 5–36. 
  10. ^  
  11. ^ Ten Commandments of God: Mass Suicide in Uganda
  12. ^  
  13. ^  
  14. ^  
  15. ^ Boustany, Nora (19 March 2008). "Ugandan Rebel Reaches Out to International Court".  
  16. ^ Haynes, Jeffrey (2002). Politics in the developing world. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 121.  
  17. ^ McLaughlin, Abraham (31 December 2004). "The End of Uganda's Mystic Rebel?". Christian Science Monitor.  
  18. ^ Muth, Rachel (8 May 2008). "Child Soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army: Factors in the Rehabilitation and Reintegration Process". George Mason University: 23. Retrieved 4 March 2009. 
  19. ^ Martin, Gus (2006). Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues. SAGE. pp. 196–197.  

     • "Interview with Vincent Otti, LRA second in command" and " A leadership based on claims of divine revelations" in IRIN In Depth, June 2007

  20. ^ "Warrant of Arrest unsealed against five LRA Commanders" (Press release).  
  21. ^ "Read The Bill: H.R. 2478". 19 May 2009. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  22. ^ a b "'"Ugandan army 'kills senior rebel.  
  23. ^ "Four African nations crack down on LRA". BBC News. 16 October 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2012. 
  24. ^ Mark, Monica (21 November 2013). "Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony 'in talks' with Central African Republic". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  25. ^ a b "Profile: Joseph Kony". BBC News. 7 October 2005. Retrieved 7 March 2012. 
  26. ^  
  27. ^  
  28. ^ a b c Jimmie Briggs (2005). Innocents Lost: When Child soldiers Go to war. pp. 105–144. 
  29. ^  
  30. ^ "What is the present government attitude and treatment of members of Acholi tribe". Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  31. ^ "Uganda, need to focus on returnees and remaining IDPs". Retrieved 17 April 2013. 
  32. ^ "Uganda, Interview with Radhika Coomaraswamy". Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  33. ^ Zibwa, Mutai (2 March 2012). "UPDF in Kony hunt accused of rape, looting".  
  34. ^ [Joseph Kony: US doubts LRA rebel leader's surrender]
  35. ^ a b
  36. ^ "'"Otti 'executed by Uganda rebels. BBC News. 21 December 2007. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  37. ^ "UN envoy sees Uganda rebel chief". BBC News. 12 November 2006. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  38. ^ Joseph Kony's defiant interview: the only ever interview with Kony on YouTube
  39. ^ "[AlertNet]".  (subscription required)
  40. ^ Farmar, Sam (28 June 2006). "I will use the Ten Commandments to liberate Uganda". The Times. Retrieved 8 December 2013. (subscription required (help)). 
  41. ^ Boustany, Nora (11 July 2007). "The Woman Behind Uganda's Peace Hopes". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 October 2011. 
  42. ^  
  43. ^  
  44. ^ Philip T. Reeker (6 December 2001). "Statement on the Designation of 39 Organizations on the USA PATRIOT Act's Terrorist Exclusion List". U.S. Department of State. 
  45. ^ Capaccio, Tony (14 October 2011). "Obama Sends Troops Against Uganda Rebels".  
  46. ^ Gettleman, Jeffrey;  
  47. ^ "LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009". Resolve Uganda. 24 May 2010. 
  48. ^ 2010 Congressional Record, Page H3416.
  49. ^ Kavanagh, Michael J. (25 November 2010). "Obama Administration Asks for Funds to Boost Uganda's Fight Against Rebels".  
  50. ^  
  51. ^ Jackson, David (14 October 2011). "Obama dispatches 100 troops to Africa".  
  52. ^  
  53. ^ Levy, Gabrielle (3 April 2013). "$5 million bounty offered for Joseph Kony".  
  54. ^ "Wanted: Joseph Kony".  
  55. ^ "Wanted: Dominic Ongwen". Office of Global Criminal Justice. United States Department of State. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  56. ^ "Wanted: Okot Odhiambo". Office of Global Criminal Justice. United States Department of State. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  57. ^ "Joseph Kony: US military planes to hunt LRA leader". BBC. 24 March 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2014. 
  58. ^ Muhumuza, Rodney (23 March 2012). "Kony 2012: African Union ramps up hunt for Uganda rebel leader in wake of viral video".  
  59. ^ Ngak, Chenda (8 March 2012). "Invisible Children's "Kony 2012" viral video stirs emotion and controversy".  
  60. ^ Myers, Julia (7 March 2012). "A call for justice".  
  61. ^ Kanczula, Antonia (20 April 2012). "Kony 2012 in numbers". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  62. ^ Curtis, Polly; McCarthy, Tom (20 April 2012). "Kony 2012: what happens next?". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  63. ^ Curtis, Polly; MacCarthy, Tom (8 March 2014). "Kony 2012 - What's the story?". The Guardian. 
  64. ^ Seminar - Sharp Arrow. Reconstructing the Arrow Boys Phenomenon in Eastern Uganda""". African Studies Center Leiden. 
  65. ^ ["" ""Fighting back""] . "United Nations Mission in Sudan". 


  • Briggs, Jimmie (2005). The Innocents Lost: When Child soldiers Go to War. Basic Books. 
  • Bussman, Jane (2009). The Worst Date Ever: War Crimes, Hollywood Heart-Throbs and Other Abominations. Macmillan.  

External links

  • Hague Justice Portal: Joseph Kony
  • Joseph Kony on Interpol's wanted list
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