Monday, October 5, 2015

Kony mutiny not the first

As followers of my writing and this blog know, I advocate serious, coordinated, international action against the renegade militia leader Joseph Kony.

The lack of that kind of action,  however, is the source of endless articles, speculation, and discussion. Good writing about the fiasco to find Kony continues to gurgle up from time to time.

Of late is an article in The New Yorker magazine by a young writer named Ledio Cakaj, He's a blogger for the Enough organization. This is his first piece for the magazine. I recommend it.

The article details interviews with a handful of Kony's former soldiers (there are thousands) about a mutiny and attempted assassination of Kony from within his disaffected ranks. The article suggests that the 2013 attempt on Kony may was the first of its kind against the maniacal leader.

It wasn't.

I spent a significant amount of time in 2005 and 2006 tracking Kony's life and actions, which resulted in the award-winning 2009 book First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army.

It's the first serious work on Kony to be published in the United States. It remains the gold standard of source material for anyone who wants to know about Kony, what makes him tick, and why he has not been captured.

For nearly 20 years, Kony's number two man was Vincent Otti. He  was a former shopkeeper who bridged the chasm between Kony's self-delusions and the real world. Otti regularly talked live via satellite phone on Ugandan radio shows. He was quite entertaining.

Otti brokered the extended peace talks with Kony that began in June 2006 in the remote jungles of South Sudan. As followers know, the peace talks finally broke down after two years during which Kony skillfully turned the talks into a three-ring circus.

After Kony's team would negotiate terms of an agreement, a large contingent of negotiators would, at great trouble and expense, decamp to a jungle rendezvous for the signing. Declarations that "peace was at hand" echoed across the skies and the worldwide web. Activists swooned.

But Kony didn't show. Three times.

The last of Kony's no-shows was followed by the abortive airstrike and (delayed) ground attack by the Ugandan army on Kony's camp in the the Congo's Garamba National Park. Kony had been living there since late 2005, having fled northern Uganda.

But Kony was gone. He'd been tipped off. The same thing happened in 2013. A privately funded attack on his camp, also by an elite unit of the Ugandan army, found an empty Kony camp in the corner of South Sudan where multiple reports said he was living. (Is there a connection here???)

Kony lived relatively well during the peace talks, thanks the largess of the international community. He was sent convoys of trucks loaded with food and supplies. The thinking was that this would keep Kony at the bargaining table. Not!

From the beginning of Kony's early days in Garamba, once a prime wildlife reserve, he helped himself to the abundant wildlife there, routinely slaughtering elephants and the rare and nearly extinct white rhinos that once lived there.

Cakaj's article discusses a number of Kony's men whom he sent from his enclave in the recesses of northern South Sudan to Garamba to slaughter remaining elephants. The tusks were carried back to be sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars and sustain Kony and his men.

Back to Otti. After spearheading the peace talks, Otti realized Kony was playing the activist community for fools and would never sign an agreement to surrender.

Otti was 61 at the time. He was tired and sick of war. He wanted to go home. At least a third of Kony's men, all of whom were under Otti's command, felt the same way. They were sick of Kony and of living on the run, not to mention his endless slaughter of innocent men, women, children, and wildlife.

They were going to leave, a move that would cripple Kony's army.

Kony got wind of the mutiny. Fearing an assassination attempt, he summoned Otti. On October 2, 2007, Kony's personal guards grabbed Otti, forced him to his knees, and as Otti plead for his life,  executed him. His body was never found.

Otti's death was followed by many desertions. Some of these soldiers gave themselves up to the Ugandan army. They provided details of the Otti's death and the failed mutiny. They said that Kony justified the execution of his trusted long-time commander by saying that Otti had tried to kill him.

Kony has survived attempts on his life and massive desertions from his ranks. He will continue to do so until the international community decides they've had enough of this maniac. Kony will survive until those who can take meaningful action.

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