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I am a freedom fighter, not a terrorist.
~ Kony in a rare interview with Journeyman Pictures.

Joseph Kony (born 1961) is the head of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan guerrilla group. While initially enjoying strong public support, the LRA turned brutally on its own supporters, supposedly to "purify" the Acholi people and turn Uganda into a theocracy.

Kony proclaims himself the spokesperson of God and a spirit medium, primarily of the Holy Spirit, which the group believes can represent itself in many manifestations. Ideologically, the group is a syncretic mix of of mysticism, Acholi nationalism, and Christian fundamentalism, and claims to be establishing a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments and local Acholi tradition.

Biography

Kony was likely born in 1961, in Odek, a village east of Gulu in northern Uganda, to farmers Luizi Obol and Nora Oting. He is a member of the Acholi people. He was either the youngest or second youngest of six children in the family. Kony enjoyed a good relationship with his siblings, but was quick to retaliate in a dispute and when confronted would often resort to physical violence. His father was a lay catechist of the Catholic Church, and his mother was an Anglican. His older sister, Gabriela Lakot, still lives in Odek.

Kony never finished elementary school and was an altar boy until 1976. He dropped out of school at the age of 15.

In 1995, Kony arose to prominence in Acholiland after the Holy Spirit Movement of Alice Auma (also known as Lakwena and to whom Kony is believed to be related). The overthrow of Acholi President Tito Okello by Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army (NRA) during the Ugandan Bush War (1981–1986) had culminated in mass looting of livestock, rape, burning of homes, genocide, and murder by Museveni's army. The atrocities committed by the Museveni's NRA, now known as the Uganda People's Defence Force, led to the creation of LRA by Joseph Kony. The insurgencies also gave rise to concentration camps in northern Uganda where over 2 million people were confined. The government burned people's properties using helicopter gunships, killing many. There were forced displacements in the northern region. However, international campaigns called for all camps to be dismantled, and for the people to return to their former villages. In 2006 in the course of the Juba peace talks with the LRA rebels, Museveni's government gave permission for the local people to return to their villages. This marked the beginning of rehabilitation of homes, roads, and so on.

Kony's followers, as well as some detractors, believe him to have been possessed by spirits. Kony tells his child soldiers that a cross on their chest drawn in oil will protect them from bullets. He is a proponent of polygamy, and is thought to have had 60 wives, and to have fathered 42 children. Kony insists that he and the LRA are fighting for the Ten Commandments, and defended his actions in an interview, saying, "Is it bad? It is not against human rights. And that commandment was not given by Joseph. It was not given by LRA. No, those commandments were given by God."

Ugandan political leader Betty Bigombe recalled that Kony and his followers used oil to ward off bullets and evil spirits. Kony believes himself to be a spirit medium. In 2008, responding to a request by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to engage in peace talks via telephone, he said, "I will communicate with Museveni through the holy spirits and not through the telephone."During peace talks in 1994, Kony was preceded by men in robes sprinkling holy water. According to Francis Ongom, a former LRA officer who defected, Kony "has found Bible justifications for killing witches, for killing [those who farm or eat] pigs because of the story of the Gadarene swine, and for killing [other] people because God did the same with Noah's flood and Sodom and Gomorrah."

He ordered the abduction of children to become child-sex slaves and child soldiers for girls and boys respectively. An estimated 66,000 children became soldiers and two million people have been internally displaced since 1986. In 2005, Kony was indicted for multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, but has evaded capture, and as of 2019 is still at large. Interpol have also issued an international red notice for Kony, which has been in effect since 2006.

Kony himself is believed to be hiding somewhere in the Central African Republic or South Sudan. With their leader in hiding, the LRA's numbers have decreased to just around 100 fighters and no longer have any presence in Uganda. For this reason, Kony and his organization are longer considered a significant threat, and thus both the United States and Uganda have ended their search for him.

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