Fugitive Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony has used his two sons to maintain his grip on the rebel group and successfully exploits civil conflict and state rivalries to evade death or capture, a new report reveals.
The report, released this month by two organisations, LRA Crisis Tracker and Invisible Children, consequently concludes that the end of the indicted rebel leader is difficult to predict.
Titled, quotTracking Joseph Kony: a rebel leader’s nine-year odysseyquot, the report also documents and analyses why the LRA leader could regroup and become g in case the international manhunt wanes.
quotHis movements reveal a complex leader who is extremely isolated yet well-informed about regional political dynamics and skilled at exploiting civil conflict and state rivalries to evade his pursuers,quot it says.
Since late 2012, Kony has operated primarily in the Kafia Kingi enclave at the South Sudan-Central African Republic (CAR) border, where he has received periodic support from elements of the Sudanese military.
Michael Mubangizi, the regional public relations and aocacy officer in charge of East and Central Africa at Invisible Children, said in addition to giving updates about LRA activities, the report is meant to highlight that the LRA remains a real challenge that needs to be dealt with.
quotConstructively, the report calls for more local and international action against Kony and his LRA rebels,quot he argued.
According to the report, Kony has succeeded in maintaining a firm grip on the LRA’s command structure, ruthlessly dispatching potential rivals and rewarding those most loyal to him, including his sons.
quotKony’s track record of survival against long odds makes it difficult to predict his future,quot the report notes. quotHe may try to outlast waning international attention on the LRA while slowly rebuilding his force by abducting children, promoting his sons and other loyalists within the LRA, and continuing to traffic illicit ivory and other natural resources.quot
AU deadline looms
The African Union (AU) mandate for Ugandan troops and their American aisors to hunt down the LRA in the jungles of CAR is meant to end in mid- 2015.
quotIf they withdraw without catching Kony, the group will have free reign to rebuild,quot the report notes.
However, the UPDF spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, told The Observer that though the mandate is meant to expire next year, it is renewable.
quotThe good cause for peace and stability in the region can’t be hindered by a limited mandate so, we are hopeful that it will be renewed since the LRA threat is still real,quot he said.
The report also notes that Kony may also seek to deepen the LRA’s ties with the Sudanese military whose Kafia Kingi-based troops have given the rebel outfit a safe haven and periodic supplies in recent years.
Over the past nine years Kony has walked thousands of miles across four countries, successfully circumventing an ICC arrest warrant and evading some of the finest troops within the Ugandan and US military. His ability to continue doing so will depend on his ability to adapt to internal and external threats, the report notes.
For now, he beats the system by marginalising older LRA commanders whose allegiance is in question. He often replaces them with younger, more loyal fighters who were abducted young and have earned his trust by serving as his bodyguards. When necessary, Kony will discipline and even execute LRA fighters who anger him. For instance, the report reveals as many as 10 combatants have been executed at his command over the past two years.
The report adds that Kony is also grooming his sons Ali and Salim, born and raised in the LRA’s alternate universe, for leadership roles. Ali is increasingly involved in operational planning and is seen as a gateway to Kony, while Kony has entrusted Salim with managing the LRA’s financial and logistical networks.
Externally, Kony’s chances for survival have been given a boost over the past year as both the CAR and South Sudan have spiralled into civil war, removing international attention from LRA atrocities and giving the group additional ungoverned space in which to operate.
DR Congo, where a majority of LRA attacks and abductions have occurred in recent years, is marginally more stable than the CAR and South Sudan, but remains a safe haven for the LRA in part because it does not allow Ugandan counter-LRA troops into its territory.
Even so, Kony, now in his early 50s, will not be leaving a healthy organisation to whoever tries to succeed him. The report says his frequent reshuffling of officer ranks and marginalisation of popular LRA officers has created an organisation that is heavily dependent on him and unlikely to survive long after his eventual demise.
Ugandan troops have killed two of the LRA’s most capable senior commanders, Okot Odhiambo and Binany Okumu, over the past two years. During that same period, 28 combatants have defected from the LRA, reflecting widespread dissatisfaction within the lower and middle ranks of the group.
Kony has long since cemented his legacy as one of the most adaptable and indomitable rebel leaders in modern African history. Whether he is brought to justice in the coming months or is allowed to defy his ICC arrest warrant far into the future is impossible to predict with any certainty.
Source : The Observer