Tag Archives: conflict minerals

State of the DR Congo: Part Two

14 Jan

JB Pres

Joseph Kabila, Current President ot the DR Congo ASCN Press.com

The Lusaka Peace Accord, the document that officially ended the Second War in the Congo, was signed by representatives of the warring countries on July 10, 1999. In reality, fighting among respective militias and rebel groups would continue on for years and many claim that this war has never ended and continues on into the Twenty-first century. The first country to sign the agreement was the DR Congo, the aggrieved victim in this invasion by Uganda and Rwanda. Then Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe who had helped Laurent Kabila oust the previous dictator Mobutu and rise to the Presidency of the DR Congo. Lastly, Rwanda and Uganda signed, both of whom were the aggressors in this war with help from Burundi but that country had not been required to sign the document.

It took longer for the rebel militias to make it to the table because of the number of signers (around 50 for the RCD) and the internal disputes that had to be resolved among the different factions prior to their arrival in Lusaka, Zambia. Finally the Uganda -supported rebel militia, the MLC (Movement de Liberation) signed the accord on August 1, 2009 and the Rwanda-sponsored RCD (Rally for Congolese Democracy) was the last to sign but did so, on August 31, 2009. Terms of the Accord stipulated that all military operations related to the war cease immediately, that all prisoners of war be returned to their respective armies and militias unharmed, and that a UN peacekeeping force would be assigned to the Northeastern region of the DR Congo to assure that the terms of this agreement were carried out in a timely and efficient manner.

There were other agreements that the rebels swore had been approved in the document but these would not be implemented and  would be some of the grievances raised by the M23 rebels in their recent April 2012 rebellion in Kivu District.

A year later by August of 2000, President Laurent Kabila would publically state that he had no intention of honoring the terms of the Peace Accord because he felt that the DR Congo had not been treated as a sovereign nation in the peace talks and should have been the only nation involved in negotiating with Uganda and Rwanda. Furthermore, he had gone on to implement a transitional parliament without any input from other political parties around the country causing more unrest and disenchantment with his presidency among his citizens.

 Laurent Kabila had had to mortgage his country’s resources to pay for the military and financial assistance he had received during the First and the Second War in the Congo.  As a result of their support, he had signed over licenses for copper/cobalt and diamonds in the DR Congo to Namibia and Zimbabwe and Angola was allowed to create a subsidiary oil company, Sonangol-Congo there as well. Angola’s military was also allowed to enter the DR Congo to search out and destroy UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) the rebel group that continuously threatened the current Angolan administration with revolution.

But Kabila had played both sides of the fence when using Angola. Apparently he was also receiving large sums of money from the UNITA rebels and had been doing so since his ‘March to Kinshasa’. Once he had established himself in power he charged UNITA exorbitant fees to operate a $200 million dollar (US) a year diamond exchange managed in the local markets by a family of Lebanese diamond merchants. Little did he know that his tenure as president of the DR Congo had almost come to an end.

By the evening of January 16, 2001 Laurent Desire Kabila was dead, assassinated in his presidential office by one of his personal guards – himself a child soldier who had fought with Kabila during the revolution to liberate the DR Congo. According to the official transcript, the president was speaking with his economic adviser when his bodyguard Rashidi Kasereka entered his office and bent down seemingly to talk to the president. Instead Kasereka  took out his pistol and fired several shots into Kabila’s head.  Then he tried to escape but was shot and killed dead outside of the office by either the head of palace security or another bodyguard.

A long, tedious legal trial ensued and hundreds of soldiers, administrators and women related to the supposed assassins either received the death penalty or were sentenced to life in prison. The official version read at the trial identified Kasereka as one member of a plot by kadogo (child soldiers) to assassinate Kabila because he had had their leader, Anselme Masasu executed but many other theories circulated around Kinshasa as well. Eddy Kapendi swore that Kasereka at the time of his death was carrying a card from the US embassy on him signed by the military attaché in residence there and the words: “Should there be a problem, call this number” written on the back. The presence of this card on Kasereka’s body was also confirmed by the Minister of Justice. Few people in the DR Congo believed that the men and women convicted as a result of the trial were guilty but all official attempts to have their sentences commuted have fallen on deaf ears and the late President’s son has refused to rescind any the prisoners’ harsh sentences.

Even before the funeral began several respected Congolese politicians and reporters openly accused Rwanda of masterminding the plot in which Laurent Kabila was assassinated.  The driver of the get-away car, an admitted participant in the plot, managed to escape during the night of Kabila’s death along with a Lebanese businessman. They both immediately fled to Rwanda. Once there, they were given asylum, protected by armed guards, and allowed to settle there. Eventually both of them were offered positions in politics and business arranged by officials in the Rwandan government.

And new testimonies accusing Paul Kagame have also surfaced since then.  In March 2012, in a meeting of Rwandan  political organizations in Brussels, Theogene Rudasingwa, the former Rwandan Chief of Staff for Paul Kagame, stated that Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda«  was the primary instigator of the death of Laurent Desire Kabila, President of the DR Congo. »

A month after that, Gerard Gahima, the former Prosecutor General of Rwanda andone of the  founding members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), without directly accusing Paul Kagame said, « the strongman of Rwanda wanted at any price to get rid of Kabila, a President he had put in power a year earlier. »

A young Joseph Kabila was named President of The DR Congo on January 26, 2001- one day after the murder of his father, Laurent-Désiré Kabila. At thirty years of age, he  was an inexperienced leader yet it was his responsibility to negotiate a peace agreement with the same rebel groups that had helped his father overthrow the dictator in Kinshasa three years earlier. On April 19, 2002 some of the participants in the Second War in the Congo signed the final Peace Agreement at Sun City, South Africa.  Under the terms of the agreement Joseph Kabila was to remain President and head of state of the DR Congo during his 18 month interim administration but four vice presidents would help him lead the country. Two of those vice presidents would be selected from each of the country’s largest rebel militias ( Jean- Pierre Bemba from the MLC and Azarias Ruberwa from the RCD) and two other vice-presidents would represent the civilian opposition and the present government. Former members of the MLC and RCD would be assimilated into positions within the government ministries, the Congolese Army, and the police force.

The document also provided a chronology that would be used to ensure that the DR Congo established a constitution, a multi-party government, and a time schedule for conducting free elections around the country. Although the peace agreement was successful in reducing the size of the conflicts- it did not end them.

 While an elected parliament continued to revamp the constitution, the real power remained with Joseph Kabila as president of the country. The constitutional amendments describing the conditions and the calendar for presidential elections as well the decentralization of the government’s power into 27 separate administrative provinces has yet to be fullyrealized in the manner in which these were originally stipulated in the document.

The fragile government of Joseph Kabila continued to be challenged. On March 28, 2003, the army was required to subdue angry mobs in Kinshasa organized by followers of the dictator and former President of DR Congo Sese Seko Mobutu. And on June 11, 2004, a group of soldiers, supporters of the dead Mobutu’s policies and led by Major Eric Lenge, attempted a military coup and takeover of the government in Kinshasa but were defeated by regulars in the Congolese Army.

In December 2005, amendments to the new constitution were ratified and by June 2006 Joseph Kabila was required to run for re-election as stipulated in the new constitution. In March 2006, Joseph Kabila registered as a candidate for President of the DR Congo. Although Kabila registered as an independent, he was one of the founding members of the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy ( PPRD) which chose him as their candidate for this election. Although the new constitution stipulated that a debate must be held between the two remaining candidates these debates never took place causing some constituents to declare that the 2006 election was unconstitutional

 Elections that included multi-party candidates took place on July 30, 2006. They were the first free elections in DR Congo since 1960. The field of presidential hopefuls was enormous, over 33 individual candidates ran on the ticket. In the first election Joseph Kabila received 44.8 % of the vote while Jean- Pierre Bemba, Leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) the very same rebel leader who fought against Kabila in the Second War in the Congo came in second place receiving 20%  of the vote. After the second election was held between the two candidates with the largest totals on October 9, 2006 Kabila received 58% and Bemba 42% of the vote. Bemba immediatelyclaimed that many votes for Kabila had been fraudulently cast and pledged that he would contest the results. Bemba was responsible for instigating several violent riots in Kinshasa and in the northeast region of the country after the post-election results had been approved by the electoral commission but Joseph Kabila had finally been officially elected President of the DR Congo. More will follow.

Kat Nickerson             Kingston.  RI                   USA



The Grand Experiment: A Gentler Form of Enslavement

7 May

The savage only ever respects force, power, boldness, and decision.” Stanley, Henry M. (1988). Through the Dark Continent. Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-25667-7

In 1908 the Belgian government officially agreed to manage Leopold’s Free State in central Africa and immediately changed the name of the Kongo and Katanga territories to the Belgian Congo. But not before it paid King Leopold II 50 million francs in compensation for the forfeiture of his authorized claim. Yet, other than renaming the colony not much else changed in way of administrative policies once the paperwork had been signed and sealed. Belgian officials saw to it that their governance policies continued to be supervised by Baron Wahis, previous Governor General of The Congo Free State under Leopold and they did not remove the colonial administrators selected by Leopold but reassigned them to their previous postings. In time Belgian officials would share their administrative power with three of the largest mining corporations in Katanga district, and the Catholic Church. But the Belgian parliament, although far more civilized in its approach than Leopold, did not differ in its utilization of the colony by much. It continued to view its new colony and the people within its borders as possessions that could be rearranged at will- all for the benefit of Father Belgium. And its sole purpose in developing the infrastructure within the colony was to gain better access to the vast stores of minerals and agricultural products such as palm oil, coffee, and lumber and in doing so increase its export production. There was never any mention of  a plan to systematically improve the quality of the people’s lives in any way. In the fifty-two years Belgium managed the Congo in an official capacity there was never any formal course of action taken to provide the Congolese people with the opportunity to develop the administrative, political, military, or business skills needed to govern themselves. Congolese students would not be allowed to study for advanced degrees at their own colleges or universities until the year 1954.

There was a marked shift in marketable Congolese exports even before Leopold surrendered his authority; ivory, then rubber extract, and finally raw minerals became the number export products. The Congo was rich in gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt, tantalite, columbite, cassiterite, uranium, and tin. The first mining endeavors concentrated on the extraction of copper and then on the quest for diamonds. Diamond mines were first opened in 1907 and were so successsful that by 1927 the Congo’s export quota was second only to that of South Africa. Another crucial concern was the need to transport these products out to the coast. During the first few years the Belgians made the creation of a dependable infrastructure a top priority in their Colonial Development Plan so they could more easily move their exports through the country then out for shipment to Europe. The two major modes of transportation they depended on were: 1.  by steamship on the Congo River and 2.) by railroad car. In 1911 The Société Colonial de Construction was established in order to build the first railway from Elisabethville to Bukama. That done, it went on to build a system of railway connections and depots within the colony.

The much unloved Leopold II, King of Belgium died in 1909 leaving a very reluctant King Albert I to take his place. Albert was the second son and as such had been always considered “next in line” to the throne until his older brother Baudoin unexpectedly died of pneumonia making Albert I the next king of Belgium.  The new King was a self-proclaimed socialist who looked for opportunities to implement his favorite  Marxist doctorines. One of his closest friends and advisors was Emile Waxweiler, engineer and noted sociologist who convinced Albert to let him implement his innovative labor theories through ths use of a community model that would be used to build and maintain an exclusive workforce of laborers in the Congo.  These “socially engineered” workers would ultimately employ their superior skills in a such a way that they would boost production and ensure greater revenues for the companies and the government.  After listening to Waxweiler’s compeling predictions about immense profits, Albert was only too willing to grant his request and Emile W. began his “Grand Experiment” in the Congo with the King’s blessing.

In 1906, the Union Minière du Haut Kanga( UMHK), was granted a permit by Leopold to develop its mining operation in its quest for copper. Soon after two more mining companies were formed in the same region: Forminière Société Internationale Forestière et Minière du Congo (FMC) and the Compagnie du Chemin de Fer du Bas-Congo au Katanga (BCK). But Leopold’s avarice and brutality had taken its toll. In his ten year rule of the Congo 10-13 million people had died of causes directly related to his corvee system and harsh punishments. By1908 only10 million people were left and many inland areas were very sparsely populated including Katanga District. Once the mine shafts had been secured and the passageways opened companies like UMHK (located in present-dayLubumbashi) needed hundreds of miners to remove the copper ore. In the beginning mining companies like UMHK attracted men from more distant tribes to work in their mines by offering a them a  range of lucrative incentives but they had failed to retain the numbers needed to adequately man the tunnels. But then Emile W. arrived on the scene and proposed that the executives implement his  “population management policies” in order to ensure a sufficient workforce.

UMHK was the first company to agree to implement his policies and a new “age of enslavement” commenced. All candidates were examined by European doctors and only the healthiest and strongest were hired. In the beginning all of the single men resided in barrack-like dormitories and had all of basic their needs looked after by the company. They were fed  a high protein diet, clothed in materials that would keep them warm and dry when down in the mines, and were expected to keep themselves clean. They had to obey every rule and observe the posted curfews or they were dismissed on the spot.  What’s more, they could not leave the mining compound unless they had received formal permission first. The camps were kept clean and comfortable but that did not prevent them from operating like prisons. Once a man agreed to work for the UMHK he relinquished all of his personal rights and freedoms except for what the companydecided to grant him.

Waxweiler went on to perfect his methods based on data from his Institut de Sociologie. One of his studies identified the best discipline techniques to use in order to produce the fastest and long-lasting results. Another strove to identify a range of local food products that could be used to make the most nutritious and the cheapest meals. Every policy Waxweiler introduced helped guarantee that the laborers would work as efficiently as possible in order to extract the optimum amount of copper from the tunnels each day. Unbeknownst to the Congolese workmen his designs ensured optimum productivity levels and the highest percentage of profits.

Eventually researchers at the Institut de Sociologie determined that married men were: less volatile, happier, healthier, and lived longer than single men. These findings caused the Board of Directors to issue an order requiring  “all black miners to marry” in order to keep their jobs with the company. Mining executives combed the region visiting native families in search of eligible brides. The company established a marriage brokering service and even bought the goats and cows needed for the marriage dowry exchanges. Medical doctors thoroughly examined all potential brides and approved only the healthiest ones who they determined would make “the best wives and breeders” and who would ultimately supply the mines with the next generation of workers. If a man was already married his wife still had to undergo a physical exam and if she was not accepted the man was dismissed. The mine enforced all of its policies and would not tolerate tribal customs such as keeping more than one wife, supporting a concubine, or what the Catholic authorities defined as any “adulterous behavior” within the compound.

If a family passed their examinations they were admitted into the domestic section of the compound. They lived in identical houses equipped with a small garden on pleasant tree-lined streets along with their neighbors. The company provided the food used to prepare each meal but the wife/ mother’s food rations were docked if any infractions of the rules occurred within the household. The husband’s food rations were never touched because he needed to be kept in optimum physical shape in order to work in the mines each day. All children were required to attend school from kindergarten to the end of primary school and all families had to comply with this expectation. Boys were trained to become efficient workers and girls were trained in the skills used by good wives and mothers. Education beyond primary school was not provided because the company had already determined there was no call for advanced education in a population of miners and mothers- the last thing company administrators wanted, was to create a workforce capable of thinking for themselves or challenging the company’s policies.

Females had been identified by the sociologists at the Institut as the most rebellious members of the family group so their lives were structured most carefully. The overseers made sure that every woman complied with the rules or suffered the consequences. Women were not allowed to leave the compound unless they applied for and were granted a pass. Logs were kept on the number of outside excursions per woman and the gatekeepers denied petitions from any female who had made too many outside visits regardless of the reason. Breastfeeding was also discouraged because the company administrators wanted to keep the women pregnant and thought that while breast feeding women would not conceive as easily. Women who chose to breastfeed after their child was a year old were punished by having their food rations lessened. Mining companies trained an exceptional corps of midwives/ nurses who helped deliver the miners’ babies and the infant mortality rates in these compounds decreased significantly. The mining corporations also established exceptional medical infirmaries equipped with European doctors who provided some of the best medical care and treatment in all of East Africa. These improvements were only made in order to meet specific objectives listed in Waxweiler’s productivity plan.

Over the years the social engineering experiments escalated until at last Belgian sociologists sought to create their own special  race of Congolese laborer. They did this  in response to the age-old feuds and constant tensions that played out in the mines each day among workers from different tribes who were forced to toil together in exceptionally close quarters.  Belgian scientists reported that this new race had been named “Tshanga- Tshanga” by the Congolese people. Tshanga- Tshanga really means “Neutral or Inbetween” but I believe that the word Tshanga meant “The Unaffiliated” to the Congolese people of that time because they recognized that these “neutral” individuals would never be part of a real tribe and it was only by being affiliated with the Kongo tribes that a person could develop his/her sense of self. According to the Belgians, who could not have had the word homestly translated for them, Tshanga- Tshanga meant “The Great Equalizer”. I believe it had to have been hopeful thinking on the Belgian’s part because no East African would have interpreted the word “Tshanga” as meaning “The Great Equalizer” or would have even understood the context in which the phrase had been used. No Congolese man or woman would have approved of the Belgian’s attempt to create a new race either.

 Before they had finished with the Tshanga- Tshanga Plan,  Belgian researchers in the Congo had deliberately coerced  hundreds of young men and women into mating with one another in hopes that they would eventually produce the perfect worker for the copper mines. According to Dr. Van Nitzen, a well-known racial constructivist of the time, their objective was to “create a strong, healthy, disciplined workforce of devoted laborers.”

What they actually created was a group of social outcasts resented by the rest of the  tribes, who were only accepted in the artificial environments established in the mining camps around Katanga and Kasai. Eventually in spite of how well they had been cared for the native miners rebelled and a series of violent labor strikes occurred which only infuriated the mining authorities and the colonial administrators that much more. Eventually the colonial Governor had no choice but to capitulate and grant the workers’ demands. Actually the native miners received only slightly higher wages and a few more rights but for the first time Congolese workers had established themselves as “men capable of self-government”. The Tshanga – Tshanga experiments eventually ceased, Emile Waxmeiler was mysteriously hit by a car while crossing a London street in 1916, and“ The Grand Experiment” was abandoned once and for all.

In statements made to the world press by certain members of the Belgian Parliment  in the 1920’s it was clear that Belgium’s  primary responsibility was to “tend” to the people of the Congo and to make decisions for them like a father does for his children. The Belgian officials bristled when European journalists challenged their use of specific colonial policies especially social experimentation and criticized them for managing their workers as if they were mere “sheep or cattle”. The politicos regrouped and reassured skeptical members of the press that they had only ever worked in the best interest of the Congolese people. By the time the 1920’s ended the Colonial Governor had never once stated in any documentation that a plan existed to help the native population assume control of their own country one day. By the 1950’s members of the Belgian parliment were outraged when their ungrateful colonists began to riot and demanded the right to rule themselves and the official powers in  Belgium swiftly removed all Belgians from the Congo leaving their colonists ” high and dry” when their authority was ultimately challenged in 1960.

Kat Nickerson   Kingston   RI      USA

There Are No Good Guys Here: Bosco Ntaganda

8 Apr

When I told you in my previous post that Kony’s tactics although vicious were not unusual I meant it. On March 14, 2012 Thomas Lubangu Dyilo, leader of rebel militia, the Union of Congolese Patriots ( UPC) during the Second War in the Congo, was convicted by a three- judge panel at the International Criminal Court, in the Hague, Netherlands for war crimes against children during the years 2002-2003. The charges levied against him were: 1.) abducting children against their will. 2.) enlisting children to serve as soldiers in a rebel militia. and  3.) requiring children to fight in combat. Lubangu was arrested and sent to the Hague in 2005 and if given 30 years, the maximimu sentence, could spend the rest of  his life behind bars. This is the first trial ever conducted by the ICC although it has served as an established court for ten years.

Reaction to his sentence the next day was subdued around his District of Ituri, located in the northeast section of the DRC especially among his Hema supporters. Most consider him a hero, who saved them from the wrath of the Lendu. The villagers did not believe that there would be a conviction, so are still trying to make sense of the news after hearing it on a local radio broadcast yesterday. Many residents insist that he will not spend time in jail adding that if he were sentenced to prison then other  militia leaders known for their abuse of children should be arrested and made to stand trial too.  Still others think that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has no jurisdiction over events in the DR Congo and should leave them alone. A few feel betrayed even angry about the verdict claiming – “He didn’t do anything worse than other rebel commanders had done.”  No riots or violent outbreaks have erupted around the district as of yet, but a general sense of uneasiness and caution permeates the local  markets and cafes.

And Lubangu was not the only one who had war-related warrants issued against him by the ICC. Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui are Lendu commanders who have been charged with crimes against children, mass murder, rape, and sexual enslavement, outrages upon personal dignity, intentional attack against the Hema population, pillaging, and destruction of property in the village of Bogoro, Ituri district in the eastern DRC from January to March 2003.  Katanga is the proclaimed leader of the Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI) and Ngudjolo is the leader of the National Integrationist Front (FNI) at the time of the charges although as part of the peace agreement at the end of the Second Congo War both were integrated into the National Army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (NADRC) and held the rank  of general in this army until the time of their arrest.

 Katanga was arrested by DCR troops, surrendered to United Nations officials, then sent to the ICC in October of 2007. Ngudjolo was also surrendered by DRC officials and sent to the Hague a year later. In March 2008 the court decided to join the Katanga and the Ngudjolo Chui cases together because the two defendants would be prosecuted for the same crimes.

In 2008 the court accepted all but three of the charges against Germain Katanga and Matthieu Ngudjolo Chui both Generals in the Army of the DR Congo ( FARDC). They listed seven counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity. They found that there was insufficient evidence to try Katanga and Ngudjolo for inhuman treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and inhumane acts.

On March 25, 2012 Jerome Kakwavu, another militia leader was indicted by the DRC military court accused of raping two women, the youngest of whom was thirteen years old at the time.. From 1998 until 2006 during the Second Congo War Kakwavu led the rebel militia group known as the UDC/FAPC.  He was also absorbed into the Army of the DR Congo ( FARDC)  at the end of this conflict and was serving as a general in this army at the time of his arrest. 

And now that leaves Bosco Ntaganda, an infamous figure in Central African politics who by all accounts is one of the most powerful people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and as far as my sources can tell is undoubtedly the wealthiest. General Ntaganda was also indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2006 for enlistment and use of child soldiers in the 2002-2003 Ituri conflict, in north-eastern DR Congo but has not, as of yet, been arrested and turned over to the United Nations Authorities in Kinshasa like his former compatriots. President Kabila has made no move to arrest Ntaganda and although he has cooperated with ICC in the past by arresting and packing off Generals Lubanga, Ngudjolo, and Katanga everyone on the ground in the DRC  understands that Ntaganda may be too closely connected to the Rwandan government for President Kabila to detain him without jeopardizing his presidency or possibly causing a military coup in which Ntaganda will surely challenge him for the leadership of the DRC.

 In a most tactful response President Joseph Kabila alluded to this possibility during a news conference in October of 2011 when under criticism from several International Human Rights groups for not going after Ntaganda, he answerd, “peace outweighs all other considerations.”

In a state visit to the DRC last week, the Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Didieu Reyenders warned President Kabila that his creditability was being called into question by members of the international community because of his failure to arrest General Ntaganda. This warning was particularly insensitive and outrageously hypocritical considering it came from a country that refused to censure its own king, Leopold for the atrocious crimes he committed against the Congolese people of the DRC when he personally owned this country in the late 1900’s.  

Bosco Ntaganda is a 39 year old Rwandan, who has alligned himself with the Hema in the East Congo conflicts.  He ia a Rwandan Tutsi, and former member of the Rwandan Patriotic Army who fought for the overthrow of the Hutu government in Rwanda in 1994. He is something of a flamboyant character, always impeccably dressed, and known to enjoy the finer things in life such as haute cuisine eaten in the finest hotels. It is commonly known that he was first invited into the DR Congo to hunt down and kill the remaining Hutu who had fled into the DRC and taken refuge there after the Rwandan War ended. Eventually he joined the Union of Congolese patriots (UPC) –  Lubangu’s boys, and became its chief of military operations. It is common knowledge in Ituri that he distinguished himself by engaging in several massacres of Lendu civilians and by developing training programs for child recruits

He has very close ties to officials in the present Rwandan government and has continued to reside in Goma, near enough to the Rwandan border to cross whenever he chooses. He visits Rwanda  frequently and has been allowed to pass back and forth even though the United Nations Security Council declared him “a sanctioned individual” subject to a travel ban and to having all of his  assets frozen. Obviously this international censure has not affected his movements nor his wallet. 

By 2005 he had left the UPC and joined the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP)  where he served as its chief of staff. He  fought throughout the Second Congo War in this position. When the war ended in 2006 he was inducted into the DR Congolese army as a  general even though he was already wanted by the ICC. And now my story will morph into something more like a cheap “B” movie rather than a serious post about human rights violations

 About a year ago Ntaganda’s story became outrageously fantastical and would not have been believable except that the entire account was officially recorded in a report issued by a United Nations investigation team. A retired NBA basketball player, born in the DR Congo, persuaded an American oil executive and a few other investors to hand over 10 million dollars to gold traders in Kenya and DR Congo in order to purchase 4.5 tons of pure gold ingots that would be worth 30 million US dollars if sold on the world market. Several Americans representing the oil executive’s interests would eventually hand over 5 million dollars to two bogus gold traders in Nairobi who would then con them into leasing a jet in order to fly to Kinshasa where they would be forced to hand over another 3 million dollars US  to – wait for it- none other than General Bosco Ntaganda.

 And the story gets even better. As soon as the plane landed it was met by soldiers in the Congoloese Army who took the Americans’ passports and confiscated the plane. The Americans were brought to a hotel to meet Ntaganda where he told one of them to return to the plane and bring 3 million US dollars back with him. Once the money’s had been brought back and handed to Ntaganda it suddenly disappeared. Everyone in the airport was in on this scam except for one lowly customs agent who demanded that the passengers who had just disembarked from the plane  open up their luggage for inspection. Imagine his dismay when he caught sight of the remaining two million dollars in cash that had been left on the plane. For a man who will probably earn less than $300 US dollars for the entire year it must have been a incomprehensible sight.

The next day the Congolese government seized the plane, arrested all passengers and crew, and removed the two million dollars US.  Then in a dramatic about-face the Congolese government dropped all criminal charges against the Americans. When the United Nations team interviewed Ntaganda he informed them that he had been working with Kabila’s government all along to bring these criminals to justice and that he was the one who had uncovered this gold smuggling operation. He reminded them that he was only doing his civic duty to his country. When asked to produce the 3 million dollars US that he had requested be brought to him he handed over a large satchel with 3 million dollars of poorly counterfeited bills  inside.

Word on the streets of Kinshasa confirmed that Ntaganda was now the proud owner of 3 million dollars US and that he had masterminded the entire deal.  It was also common knowledge that he had been given the lion’s share of the other five million US dollars turned over to the bogus gold traders in Nairobi. Everyone was aware that Ntaganda was several million dollars richer in a country where anyone can have another person murdered for a five dollar bill. So now Ntaganda had a lot more money to add to his war funds. Everyone knows that no deals take place in the eastern Congo unless Ntaganda is given his fair share.

Will Ntaganda finance his own rebellion now or has he already made a deal with the Kabila government by funneling the two million US dollars their way to overlook the arrest warrants issued on him by the ICC? If you’re looking for good guys in this story, there aren’t any -accept for the customs agent- maybe. The opportunity to amass personal fortunes worth millions of dollars seems too overpowering a motive  for men to continue to act morally or decently especially in a country where the average person make less than $2.00 US a day.

I had started this post on Ntaganda on Monday of last week but by Thursday, April 6th there was more interesting news. For some reason Ntaganda left Kinshasa and headed back to Goma where he barricaded himself away in the ex-CNDP Head Quarters in Runyoni and Mushaki taking one month’s worth of pay destined for the FARDC regiment in Lubero with him.  

Then several commanders in the Congolese army (FRDC) defected and around 300 of his most loyal troops about 35% of the troops formerly militia under his CNDP command went with him taking their guns and ammunition with them.. They have regrouped in  Mushaki,  Runyoni, in the Virunga National Park, Bunagana/Rutshuru  near the Ugandan border; and Katale. They have set up roadblocks where they continue to extort money from vehicles using the local roads. Ntaganda has reason to be nervous especially after he heard that his former boss Thomas Lubanga had been convicted by the ICC on March 14.  It has been estimated that about 2,000 soldiers currently serving in the DAR Congo Army (FRDC) could follow him having already served under him in the powerful Rwandan –supported rebel militia named the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) during the Second War in the Congo. According to current reports, more CNDP rebels have left their current FRDC units.

More Congolese troops situated in the northeast might join him just because they have gone for months now without being paid fair wages by the Kabila government or because have been reassigned to new regiments without confirmation of their previous ranks. They know from word on the street that Ntaganda has a lot of money and they know from experience that he has the organizational skills to effectively lead them. Kabila’s government in a move to stop the rebel skirmishes in the northeast and end the conflict for good in 2009 integrated the former rebels into the main Congolese army including Ntaganda. Some say that this was a very foolish move on Kabila’s part that will eventually lead to Ntaganda taking control of the entire army then the government much like the dictator Idi Amin did in Uganda.

This situation will get very interesting in the next few weeks and may ultimately decide the fate of the Congolese people. Ntaganda must have heard something  that troubled him or he wouldn’t have left his current location in such a hurry and if he’s moving to an old militia headquarters he may be looking for a fight. Will Rwanda continue to stand by Ntaganda or will they silence him in order to avoid being exposed for their dealings in “conflict minerals”? If the International Criminal Court tries him, he might just tell all that he knows about the intrusive and corrupt business practices conducted by the other countries that border the Congo. I can see this ending one of four  ways: 1.) Ntaganda will make his move ( with the support of Rwanda) and stage a military coup in which Ituri and the rest of the Northeast region will secede from the DRC. 2.) Ntaganda will suddenly disappear because Rwanda will see to it that Ntaganda never makes it to The Hague to stand trial.  3.) Kabila will give in to the commanders’ demands and continue to protect Ntaganda from the ICC and the United Nations.  or 4.) The ICC will get its way because Kabila will follow through and Ntaganda will be removed from the Democractic Republic of the Congo once and for all. Whatever happens I have a feeling it will all end in one very dramatic conclusion!

A dear friend once compared the current situation in the northeast Congo, one of the most violent places on Earth right now, to the famous “bar” scene in the movie “Stars Wars™”.  He cautioned, “”You know that someone is about to  make a move  but you’re just not sure which killer will strike first.”       Heads-up Ntaganda!

Kat Nickerson   Kingston        RI     USA

 For those of you who want to read the entire story about the NBA basketball player and Congolese gold I have included the link.


Kony’s War: Part Three

1 Apr

                                                                                                                                                                                   http://save the children.org

If you listen carefully to the barely audible voices engaged in nervous conversations throughout Limayi, Haut-U`ele district in the northeast region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) these days, you are bound to hear the words, “les spiritueaux gris” whispered in the Congolese French spoken by the citizens of the DRC. “Ou sont les spiritueaux gris?” is a question bantered back and forth among villagers which roughly translated means, “Where are the grey spirits?” But there is far more to this question than the simplicity of the request implies. This is the special name given to the soldiers in Kony’s Lords Liberation Army. The villagers use this euphemism when referring to Kony and his troops rather than say his name or the name of his army out loud because they fear if they do, Kony will hear them even from afar and curse them causing their luck to “turn bad.” The people of the eastern Congo have been so traumatized by Kony’s relentless attacks and abductions that they have become obsessed with news of his whereabouts and rightly so. For several years once the heavy rains stopped and the land became somewhat passable Kony’s men have headed down from their larger camps in the Central African Republic ( CAR)  and Southern Sudan to the Haut-U`ele district to pillage and plunder the local villages for food, household goods, and clothing for their women and children. Then they abduct villagers as porters and young boys and girls as new recruits for their army. In December 2007 the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) officially reported that the LRA had killed around 2,000 people and abducted another 2,600 more just in the Democratic Republic of the Congo ( DRC) alone.

The villagers in this area have aptly chosen the name grey “spirit” or “ghost” to refer to these rebels based on their ability to rise up out of the morning mist without any observable movement or sound. The threat of never knowing when or if they will come torments the villagers most of all. Men and women who  have managed to escape from the LRA remark on how the soldiers suddenly appeared out of nowhere and describe how quickly they were moved along sometimes only feet away from armed Congolese or UN troops stationed in the immediate area. The choice of the term “spirit” is also a subtle reference to Kony’s skills as a juju man or witch doctor and confirms their belief in the power of East African voodoo. Most of the villagers will proudly relay stories about how Kony cast spells on his men so that they cannot be killed by bullets and about how each soldier can make himself invisible at will.. He is still regarded as a man/god by many especially by those he has harmed or abducted even though they are no longer with him. As evidence of his power people smugly attest to the fact that in over twenty –five years Kony has avoided being captured and that in the past decade he, himself  has not been sighted, not once, even though he has been hunted by larger and better equipped troops. In their minds, how else could one man and his small army evade the clutches of such superior forces including those from the great United States of America?

And they have a point.  In January 2006 eight Guatemalan soldiers serving with the United Nations Mission in the Congo were ambushed and killed by LRA troops. In December 2008 The LRA was attacked by the united efforts of the Ugandan, Congolese, and Sudanese forces along with American advisors near their headquarters in  Garamba National Park an area of savannahs and dense tropical forests located near the Sudan border. It was called “Project Lightning Thunder”. The military strike was not a success and no senior officers were captured. The LRA troops immediately retaliated.  They divided into smaller groups then fled into the bush but remained in the area until Christmas Eve when the people of the surrounding villages came together for their annual Christmas Eve celebrations. Reports have confirmed that the LRA believed that the villagers had told the Ugandan troops about the location of their headquarters and wanted to punish the villagers for their actions and terrorize them into keeping quiet about the LRA’s movements in the area. Several LRA groups launched similar surprise attacks on different villages only this time instead of guns they used clubs, machetes, and mallets. They literally hacked people to death and others they burned to death locking them within churches, community centers, and their own homes. It was reported that 800 men and women died as a result of this atrocity and that another 60 children were abducted. The LRA returned again in December of 2009 and committed more brutal murders. This time 300 villagers were killed in these attacks. By December of 2010 the government took measures to protect the residents of the villages in Haut-U`ele district as Christmas approached. This time the LRA moved its assault to the CAR and four days before Christmas near the village of Mboroko they killed 2 people, injured 4 adults, and abducted 50 children. These attacks have come to be known as the “Christmas Massacres.”

Since 2008 there had been a unified effort among United Nations, Congolese, Ugandan, and American forces but this has not been an easy assignment to coordinate.  It is a not a simple “seek and destroy” mission. There are also political complexities that prevent the armies from pursuing Kony as persistently as they are prepared to do. These forces are dealing with a range of problems from their ability to instantaneously cross borders to the protocol required for notification of government officials.. These troops must move between three countries in order to catch the LRA but even though the three countries have been cooperative in the past they still require the troops to formally apply for permission to cross through different borders.

The tentative conditions imposed by the three countries are based on past relationships with one another and the country of Uganda. There is a history of distrust among each of these countries especially between the DRC and Uganda. Uganda and Rwanda invaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1996 and then again in 1998 in order to help themselves to the rich mineral resources there. Nearly six million people in the eastern region of the DRC were killed as a result of this conflict. In 2005 the International Court in The Hague, Netherlands ordered Uganda to compensate the DRC for human rights abuse and for plundering their natural resources. Although a sum of 10 million dollars was quoted by the international press Uganda has yet to hand over any money to the DRC. Many citizens of the Congo are wary of allowing Ugandan troops to settle in their country. They remember a time when Ugandan troops were not thought of as” good” guys but as marauders who killed anyone who opposed them. But most admit that in order to stop Kony the Ugandan troops are their best bet. And the Ugandan troops that have entered the Congo beginning in 2006 have performed their duties with honor and dignity this time around. This is a new, more professional army better equipped and far more organized than the Congolese army. But old memories die hard and in November 2011, the Ugandan troops were asked to leave the DRC by President Joseph Kabila although he subsequently allowed them to return.  

According to US Deputy Secretary for African Affairs Karl Wycoff, the United States has given more than 25 million dollars in logistical supplies and intelligence support to the Uganda army since 2008. The latest tactical supplies will come in the form of spy planes, US C-12 reconnaissance aircraft codenamed Tusker –Sand and high frequency radios. In February 2011 the Ugandan troops assigned to the DRC left their base of operations and returned to the capital city of Uganda, Kampala in order to assist with security during the general elections that were being held there.  They have since returned. Some of the United Nations troops left the DRC as well and were redeployed to the country of Somalia to deal with the excessive violence there caused by the massive drought and the killing of civilians by African Union troops.  But the effort to catch Kony and his army although weakened for a time has been renewed. In March 23, 2012 the African Union announced that it would send 5,000 soldiers to continue the hunt for Kony and his senior officers. This operation will be launched from South Sudan.

By all accounts Kony has a small core group of 100 committed soldiers left out of an army of about 300 but it is that small core group that he relies on the most because they are intensely loyal to him. We may object to his methods, abducting young boys into his army but many of these same boys chose to remain with him and have grown into remarkable guerilla strategists. His army has more than proven that it is superior in employing a diverse range of guerilla tactics so much so that as an entire group, it has avoided capture for many years. Although many of his major officers are dead he has managed to replace them and also leads a fairly large secondary force composed of wives, young children, and camp followers. There have been no mass surrenders among his troops after major battles. Kony has managed to build a highly organized army capable of dispersing and reorganizing while on the move. His bush soldiers have learned to migrate between three different borders, strike fast, and move through a region about the size of California. They have come to know every inch of this terrain intimately and can move purposefully under dire circumstances such as intense heat, the highest humidity, or torrential rain.

Kony’s methods may be vicious and atrocious but they are not exceptional. East African tribal systems are still very much intact although now they have access to twenty-first century technology and tools. Making war, abducting children, taking prisoners as slaves, the dismemberment of body parts, and mutilations are not new occurrences in the history of East or Central African tribes. What is new in the development of tribal warfare though, is the use of automatic weapons and a myriad of electronic devices that have allowed these tribes to war against each other much more effectively and to inflict a greater level of damage than ever before. Kony has added  his own version of emotional cruelty by waging a mental war of terror and submission on the common people living around him in order to steal their food and abduct their children.

During the course of his war Kony has lost many of his initial senior officers and chief advisors. It has been reported that Kony had Vincent Otti assassinated because he feared that Otti, a very popular LRA leader, who was helping to negotiate the Juba Peace Talks, would convince Kony’s soldiers to surrender. Rasha Lukwiya was killed by Ugandan troops in 2006. By 2009 it was reported by  Ugandan troops that one to two mid to senior level LRA commanders were being captured or killed each month. In January 2010 Bok Abudema, a senior commander was killed in a skirmish with local CAR troops.

Then in March of 2011 things dramatically changed- the LRA were on the offensive again. They intensified their attacks in the northeastern region of the Congo. It became evident that Kony had found a way to access large amounts of money once more and had purchased more technologically advanced weapons and supplies from international arms dealers.-the same ones who equipped the Congolese warlords and other rebel groups in the Congo. Abductees who had successfully escaped attested to the fact that his soldiers now carried recoilless rifles, mortars, rocket propelled grenades, VHF radios, and satellite phones. Kony had even purchased new uniforms for his troops which was a sign that Kony had more than an ample supply of funds. Had he found a way to tap into the minerals found in the eastern region and had he found buyers for these materials on the world market? The DRC has a wealth of minerals especially deposits of gold, diamonds, coltan, copper, cobalt, uranium, and tin. The fight for these valuable resources is now known as the “Congo Conflict”.   

During January and February of 2011 the LRA began robbing and killing merchants traveling from DRC to the CAR to sell their wares. Several skirmishes ensued with the Congolese army but only after many merchants had been robbed and killed by the lRA. In March 2011 the LRA attacked Congolese soldiers in Banda near the border of DRC and the CAR. Three Congolese soldiers and five LRA were killed during this battle.

Kony’s troops operate in some of the most difficult mountainous regions imaginable as they climb steep mountain passes and encounter few passable roads during their missions. They sleep and eat in the bush much the same way their Acholi ancestors did. They eat what they can find around them or on what they are able to steal from local villages and fields.. Despite their motivation and brutality Kony’s troops fight well and they fight with conviction.  They are a nimble, ruthless, an elusive bunch. No matter what his power over them he could not make them fight as intensely as they did unless they were personally committed to his cause. The reason these soldiers continue to fight is not known but it must be something intensely meaningful for them to risk life and limb and that of their families as they have done for so long. The Ugandan boys he took into the bush with him are now grown men who could have deserted long ago but enough of them stayed behind that it should make us wonder. Why do they continue on without any modern comforts or medical care? Is there nothing for them back in northern Uganda? Is there no longer any way to live the life of an Acholi warrior in Gulu and the surrounding districts? Understanding the reasons why these young men fight and proposing resolutions that they will accept is the real key to ending Kony’s Acholi war because if we don’t, it will only be a matter of time before another civil war in the north takes its place.

But wait! The ideology behind Kony’s war has changed dramatically in the past six years. He is no longer fighting for freedom for the Acholi people or for the birth of a new Uganda. His die-hard Ugandan soldiers do not seem to be as committed to this new and improved version of “Konyism” and have been defecting at a higher rate than ever before. He currently fills his army with young boys and girls from the DRC, the CAR, and Southern Sudan. What is it he preaches to them now or has he resorted to using the same psychological terror tactics on them that he continues to use on the villagers? What is it that he fights for now? This stopped being a Ugandan Civil War when he left in 2006- he has not attacked a Ugandan village since nor been sighted in the area. Somewhere in his move from Uganda into the DRC he stopped acting like a patriot and morphed into the terrorist many believed he had been all along.  

It is now March, 2012 and the dry season has commenced.  The LRA has consistently carried out strikes on the residents of Lamayi this time of year. The villagers are terrified that the LRA are on their way to the village. Many of the residents refuse to tend the fields located the furthest distance from the village because of this threat. This means that the villagers will have less food to eat during the rest of the year but no one cares about that problem at the moment. Five women and an elderly gentleman come together at the end of a narrow, dirt lane. The tallest of the sisters looks over her shoulder briefly then turns back to face her neighbors once again. Her movements cause the group to huddle closer together prompting the old man to ask in a hushed whisper, “Ou sont les spiritueaux gris?” 

Kat Nickerson,         Kingston,      RI         USA

Joseph Kony: Civil War in Northern Uganda

18 Mar


I was recently informed that a video about Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Liberation Army has gone viral on the internet. My question upon hearing this news was- why now? Haven’t we known for years about the Civil War in Uganda and the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and his rebels?  And why some six years later-after the civil war has finally petered out and the rebels have lost their support have we become interested? Where were we when the war raged on in the north and Kony unleashed unconscionable attacks upon his own people and took their children away to serve in his army as wives and soldiers? Where was the world then?

My next few blog posts will try to help the reader better understand the reason for the Civil War  in Northern Uganda beginning with the overthrow of Obello Lutwa. I assure you that like any war there are issues leading up to the conflict which must be understood first.  This entire event began in shades of opportunistic grey but quickly turned into a struggle between good and evil.

My post has been based on the testimonies of many individuals living in Kampala who were born and spent their formative years in Gulu or Kitgum, cities where the Ugandan Civil War took place. I have also included information divulged by professional drivers who brought journalists into the bush to speak with Kony at pre-arranged sites during the war. Although they shared a diverse range of personal experiences, their descriptions of the war and the actions of Kony were very similar. The picture I have posted along with this article is not one of mine. I have never met Joseph Kony but I have had the opportunity to listen to what many of his victims told me about their individual experiences during the war and how it changed their lives.

According to my files his real name is Joseph Kony and he is the founder and sole leader of the Lord’s Liberation Army, a band of Ugandan rebels who still remain in close contact with other groups of terrorists in the regions of South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Central African Republic ( CAR). He began his civil war in the north to bring down the present Ugandan Government under the leadership of the current president Yoweri Museveni in order to create a new Uganda.

Kony is no longer young although many of the pictures of him on the internet show a much younger man and were probably were taken in the late 1980’s during the peak of the Ugandan Civil War. He is now fifty-one years old and has been living in the bush as a fugitive for a good six years. He was born in a village east of Gulu in 1961 into the Acholi tribe, one of the largest tribes and which is found in Northern Uganda close to the Sudan border and bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Joseph Koni is his real name and no one who knew him as a child described him as anything but ordinary. It is known that his father was a very religious man, a deacon in his local Catholic church and that Kony served as an altar boy. He spent a great deal of his youth inside a church. But he was also exposed to the local practice of voodoo and he and his brother willingly trained to become voodoo shamans. This is not an uncommon practice in East African villages. Although most villagers practice some type of organized religion, the belief in the power of voodoo remains- the first belief has never replaced the second. Voodoo rituals are commonly performed to ensure good luck or to stop something bad from happening to an individual or loved ones.  Spells and curses are cast and lifted by the village shamans and villagers pay them for these services. What was surprising though, was that at some point in Kony’s life as a young adult and no one is sure exactly when, he became convinced that he had been chosen by God and that God had charged him with creating a new Uganda. No one in the villages has ever claimed that this was a self-serving ruse on his part or that he did this only for political power. By all accounts he has never wavered in his belief that he is “the chosen one” and that his mission is to build a new Uganda. At the same time that he built an army of young men he established a new religion for the Acholi based on a combination of the Old Testament, voodoo rituals, mysticism, spiritualism, and the use of physical terror. He also included worship of the Ark of the Covenant which he borrowed from the Coptic Christians living in Ethiopia. Kony was not the only spiritual leader to come forward in the north at this point in time. Many villagers believed that he was deeply influenced by “The Holy Spirit Movement” and incorporated some of their rituals into his own to bind his troops to him.

Kony began to raise his army on the streets of Gulu and Kitgum. Some sources have compared his techniques to that of Adolf Hitler. He had the same ability to say just the right thing by which he endeared himself to his audiences and was very convincing. He was a passionate and eloquent speaker and many times he spoke the truth about Uganda’s troubles but always from his own perspective. People began to take notice of this young man and as he drew larger crowds of men and women to him many of them aligned themselves to his cause. He attracted young men for a multitude of reasons: some because they wanted to help build a new Uganda, others because they desired to live the life of an Acholi warrior, and a third type who just wanted something meaningful to do. Uganda like many East African countries has an astronomically high unemployment rate especially in the rural areas.  Men were expected to continue the age-old occupation of farming small plots of land located near their families’ compounds. Many members of the Acholi tribe continue to this day to live in round huts constructed from a clay-like mud reinforced with sticks and topped with grass-thatched roofs. Strong, vibrant young men stand around in groups all day long with nothing to do; forced to watch others manage their kiosks in the market place or move purposefully through the streets of Gulu.  It is not difficult to understand why so many of these bored young men were drawn to Kony and his cause just because he offered them something meaningful to do each day.

 Soon Kony sent word out to the all of the Acholi villages that he was “the one, true messenger blessed by God and charged with creating and populating a new Uganda.” He began his war in earnest in 1986 because he strongly objected to the overthrow of the Ugandan dictator Obello Lutwa by the general Yoweri Museveni in a military coup. Museveni is the current president of Uganda and the National Liberation Army remains in power to this day.  Kony was not the only one to oppose the new government. The Acholi tribes in general were wary and unsure whether this new government would retaliate against them for the part they played in the previous government. Some of Lutwa’s former officers urged the people to fight back before the army of the south came to kill them all. The deposed President Lutwa was an Acholi and many of the soldiers in his army as well as his personal staff came from the Acholi tribe. Many had fought for Lutwa against the National Liberation Army (NRA) led by Museveni. This left a large number of Acholi convinced that a new Acholi-led government was the only answer. There were already other rebel groups operating in the area. The strongest of these was the Uganda People’s Democratic Army. It is a well known fact that Kony and his troops received their first military training in guerilla tactics from members of the UPDA.

At first the elders of the Acholi tribe agreed with Kony’s vision of a new Uganda and he gained many sympathizers in the Acholi villages. But in time Kony needed supplies to fight his war so he began arriving in the middle of the night to raid Acholi store houses and take what he wanted then used the villagers to transport these supplies back to his camps. Many times these porters never returned back to their families. When criticized for his tactics, his public response was that he was fighting this war for all of the Acohli in order to ensure a better Uganda so the villagers were obligated to support him in this fight. The Acholi complied at first but then began to resent and finally openly oppose his actions. This infuriated Kony who considered them an ungrateful people but he also began to view them as a potential threat to himself and to the success of his mission for the Lord.

It is at this point that he began employing terror tactics to keep the villagers in line. Now when he entered a village the first thing he did was to mutilate one or two adult men or women in front of the rest of the village. He ordered his lieutenants to use their knives to cut off noses, ears, lips, arms, and legs. This so terrified the Acholi people that they instantly complied; believing that if they gave him what he wanted he would go away. But Kony’s aim was not just to punish them for their insolence; he continued to torture them in order to keep them terrified and submissive.

As the war progressed he found that he needed to replenish his army.  As his original troops died off he needed a way to enlist more men to his cause. So he used what was around him- the Acholi people. He could have selected adult males from the various villages but he risked the threat of insurrection if enough of them were armed with weapons and remained to opposed him so he took the young boys instead. He used a brutal form of psychological coercion to convince them to fight for him. He began kidnapping boys to serve in his army as young as 8 years old.  Kony considered these boys soldiers and they were equipped with knives, rifles, and bullets as well as single shot rifles and automatic weapons- “AK forty-sevens” supplied to him by Russian arms dealers. He also provided his child soldiers with invincibility charms that ensured they could not be killed in battle. In order to demonstrate their allegiance to him and his cause they were sometimes required to shoot and kill neighbors, friends, family, even their own mothers and fathers.  In response to his nightly raids, the people of Acholi began walking their children to shelters in the city where they would sleep together under armed guard every night in order to protect them from the rebels. Little by little the child soldiers and wives escaped; some ran all the way back to their village compounds only to find the huts empty and the clans living together in Internal Displacement Camps.

Psychological research has confirmed that young children make very effective killers. They are not able to empathize with their victims so do not hesitate to kill nor are they at the level of moral development to understand the finality of their actions. Many of these boys became dedicated soldiers who believed that Koni had been given special magical powers by God and that he could not be killed.  The young girls he brought to his camp he gave to his troops as wives with the plan that they would give birth to as many children as possible  in order to populate his new Uganda.

It has never been conclusively determined from whom Kony received the money he used to purchase the knives, guns, bullets, and an assortment of tactical gear he used to wage his civil war. It was widely known that Kony and his men operated as terrorists. He stopped and pillaged cars and trucks on the main roads into Gulu, extorted money from wealthy individuals, sold drugs, and fenced items such as precious gems and pieces of jewelry but  these actions alone did not account for the many expensive purchases he made at the beginning of the war. During the middle of the war Kony even had expensive new uniforms made for himself and his officers. Many of my sources still believe that the funds he needed to sustain the war came from the Khartoum Government in the Sudan. Others think that it was Muammar Gaddafi of Libya who supplied Kony with funds in order to disrupt the newly-formed government under Museveni. More still go on to blame the People’s Republic of China for channeling the money through the Sudanese government in order to support Kony’s endeavors to form a separate government in Northern Uganda that would eventually align itself with the government in Khartoum. China and the Sudan established diplomatic relations around the year 1959 and have gone on to become very close trade partners. Whatever the reason, as the war progressed it was evident that whoever had financed Kony’s war endeavors had stopped. Somehow and for some reason he had lost his major backer and by the end of the war Kony, his men, and his camp followers were scraping by on what they could find in the bush or steal from the villages around them. 

The Civil War in Northern Uganda raged on from 1987 until 2006- almost 20 long years. The last attack Kony made on a Ugandan Village occurred in 2006. Shortly after that Kony was forced by the Ugandan’s People Defense Force (UPDF) to leave Northern Uganda for good and has remained on the move between South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo ( DAR) ever since. He is also known to travel through the Central African Republic (CAR) and it was most recently reported that he had camped out in this country during  most of 2011

My next post will explain the second part of Kony’s movements and the attempts to catch him up to the present day. 

Kat Nickerson      Kingston, RI, USA