As everyone is jumping on this fabulous Kony 2012 bandwagon (I’ve still not seen the video) I feel it is my turn to hop on board the express train. I will concede that the Invisible Children group, does have some merit to their campaign to remove Kony. However, I am more inclined to agree with the critics that note that this particular approach, simplifies the complicated nature of the bush war that has been waged in Uganda for nearing three decades now. I am also inclined to agree with the assessment that the nature of this campaign certainly has some elements of, “white man swooping into the troubled region of Africa to solve the problems of the brutal savages” feel to it. And finally that there does not appear to be much participation by the Ugandan people or even the Acholi people themselves in this whole campaign effort to remove Joseph Kony.
Having said that though, I would like to draw folks attention to the fact that this was a matter Christopher Hitchens addressed in his book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. In that book, Mr Hitchens points out what could possibly the be underlying religious and spiritual motivations for the actions of Mr Kony and his “Lords Resistance Army”. A fascinating read, written with the same razor-sharp insight, typical of Hitchens. I have quoted the section on Kony and the LRA below.
In northern Uganda in late 2005,1 sat in a center for the rehabilitation of kidnapped and enslaved children in the land of the Acholi people who live on the northern side of the Nile. The listless, vacant, hardened little boys (and some girls) were all around me. Their stories were distressingly similar. They had been seized, at the age of anything from eight to thirteen, from their schools or homes by a stonefaced militia that was itself originally made up of abducted children. Marched into the bush, they were “initiated” into the force by one (or two) of two methods. They either had to take part in a murder themselves, in order to feel “dirtied up” and implicated, or they had to submit to a prolonged and savage whipping, often of up to three hundred strokes. (“Children who have felt cruelty,” said one of the elders of the Acholi people, “know very well how to inflict it.”) The misery inflicted bythis army of wretches turned zombies was almost beyond computation. It had razed villages, created a vast refugee population, committed hideous crimes such as mutilation and disemboweling, and (in a special touch of evil) had continued to kidnap children so that the Acholi were wary of taking strong countermeasures lest they kill or injure one of their “own.”
The name of the militia was the “Lord’s Resistance Army” (LRA), and it was led by a man named Joseph Kony, a passionate former altar boy who wanted to subject the area to the rule of the Ten Commandments. He baptized by oil and water, held fierce ceremonies of punishment and purification, and insured his followers against death. His was a fanatical preachment of Christianity. As it happened, the rehabilitation center in which I was sitting was also run by a fundamentalist Christian organization. Having been out into the bush and seen the work of the LRA, I fell to talking with the man who tried to repair the damage. How did he know, I asked him, which of them was the truest believer? Any secular or state-run outfit could be doing what he was doing—fitting prosthetic limbs and providing shelter and “counseling”—but in order to be Joseph Kony one had to have real faith.
To my surprise, he did not dismiss my question. It was true, he said, that Kony’s authority arose in part from his background in a priestly Christian family. It was also true that people were apt to believe he could work miracles, by appealing to the spirit world and promising his acolytes that they were death-proof. Even some of those who had run away would still swear that they had seen wonders performed by the man. All that a missionary could do was to try and show people a different face of Christianity.
I was impressed by this man’s frankness. There were some other defenses that he might have offered. Joseph Kony is obviously far away from the Christian “mainstream.” For one thing, his paymasters and armorers are the cynical Muslims of the Sudanese regime, who use him to make trouble for the government of Uganda, which has in turn supported rebel groups in Sudan. In an apparent reward for this support, Kony at one stage began denouncing the keeping and eating of pigs, which, unless he has become a fundamentalist Jew in his old age, suggests a payoff to his bosses. These Sudanese murderers, in their turn, have for years been conducting a war of extermination not just against the Christians and animists of southern Sudan, but against the non-Arab Muslims of Darfur province. Islam may officially make no distinction between races and nations, but the slaughterers in Darfur are Arab Muslims and their victims are African Muslims. The “Lord’s Resistance Army” is nothing but a Christian Khmer Rouge sideshow in this more general horror.