Thursday, August 20, 2009

Joseph Kony

I realized recently most of my entries in this blog have been falling more into the "Life" and "Happiness" categories than "Liberty," which is bad because when I started this I intended it to be a balance between the three, since liberty and freedom (or the lack thereof) around the world is really important to me. So that being said, here's a long over due post on a man named Joseph Kony and the horrific things he's putting the youth of Uganda through.

When you Google "Joseph Kony," a lot comes up. Wikipedia comes up first of course, informing you that he was born in Uganda circa 1962-5, and is head of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). At first glance, this seems okay. I mean, take the name "Lord's Resistance Army." Okay, that doesn't sound too bad; kind of sounds reminiscint of the Crusades or something, right? Like he's trying to be some ultra-good Chrisitan guy spreading the Word right?

Yeah, not so much. The LRA is a guerilla group that is responsible for one of African's longest running conflicts; it began it's violent rebellion in Uganda back in 1987. Since then, the LRA has commited horrific crimes against humanity (International Criminal Court's phrasing, not mine, though it's valid) including violent attacks on the people of Northern Uganda and abducting some 30,000 children and forcing them to fight in his army. It's been reported that he tells these children that he abducts that if the draw crosses on their chests made of oil, they will be protected from bullets when they fight. The kids are forced to abduct, rape, and kill anyone and everyone, sometimes their own friends and families. Despite the fact that Kony allegedly stopped attending church at the age of 15, he does think he's doing the good Christian thing -- in letters regarding peace talks, he mentions that he needs to consult the Holy Spirit before making decisions. The LRA also claims to be guided by the Ten Commandments and Scripture and during peace talks, Kony would be preceeded into the room by men in robes sprinkling holy water. “Yes, we are fighting for Ten Commandments,” “Is it bad? It is not against human rights. And that commandment was not given by Joseph. It was not given by LRA. No, that commandment was given by God.”

I'm not even going to try to conceal my disgust at that comment -- that doesn't sound like the God I know. I don't think there's a mainstream religion that has God saying "hey, go massacre hundreds, kidnap kids, abuse them, then force them to do the same thing to other kids, potentially kids they know." As for fighting for the Ten Commandments? I'm pretty sure (though, please, correct me if I'm wrong) the Ten Commandments don't command people to form armies and rape/massacre thousands. In fact, I'm pretty sure they say something along these lines:
  • Exodus 20:13: You shall not murder. Hmm, justify that one for me, Kony.
  • Exodus 20:15: You shall not steal. I'm pretty sure other people's children fall into that category.

In October of 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced arrest warrants for five members of the LRA -- Kony, his deputy Vincent Otti, and three generals of the army. Kony's indictment included three 33 charges: "12 counts are crimes against humanity, which include murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement and rape. There are another 21 counts of war crimes which include murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, pillaging, inducing rape, and forced enlisting of children into the rebel ranks." ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Ocampo was quoted saying that "Kony was abducting girls to offer them as rewards to his commanders." The US declared Kony a terrorist after 9/11/01, and in 2008 put him on a list of "specially designated global terrorists," which carries some financial penalties. December 24, '08: The UN reported that members of the LRA massacred 189 people and abducted 20 children from a celebration sponsored by a Catholic Church (ironic much?).

So far, he's eluded arrest. But now, a group called The Rescue, part of Invisible Children, is lobbying to get Kony arrested and the thousands of children he has enslaved freed. If you have a Twitter, and have for more than six months, you probably remember the trending topic, #therescue. That's the group I'm talking about -- they did a symbolic "rescue" of cities across the US in April then lobbied in D.C. back in June and were noticed. I'm honestly not sure what they're doing now, if anything, since D.C. was titled "How It Ends" but the fight definitely isn't over -- Kony is still out there, still abducting and killing children. For more on it, go watch the video that started The Rescue and see the kids for yourself.

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