KONY 20Never

Inside the Mind of Africa’s Most Wanted Man

A Ugandan soldier tracks Lord's Resistance Army fugitives in a forest bordering the Central African Republic, April 2012. Courtesy Reuters

Joseph Kony has been called Africa’s most wanted man, and for good reason: Over the past 27 years, he has led a rebel militia of child soldiers that is responsible for the death of more than 100,000 people and the kidnapping of some 50,000 young boys and girls.

From 1986 to 2006, Kony savaged northern Uganda, terrorizing defenseless villages. But after losing clandestine support from Sudan and refuge in neighboring South Sudan, he took his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to the northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and began peace talks with the Ugandan government.

When the talks fell apart in late 2008, the Ugandan army attacked Kony’s camp in the DRC’s Garamba National Park, scattering his forces throughout the geographical heart of Africa, a remote and lawless land of humid jungles and sprawling savannahs where several of the world’s weakest countries -- the Central African Republic (CAR), the DRC, South Sudan, and Sudan -- meet. Kony's men have been rampaging through the region ever since.

A small African Union force recently joined the Ugandan army, which has been pursuing Kony for decades. Yet he has always managed to elude capture by sticking to a relatively simple strategy: He divides his militia into independent bands that are constantly on the move and uses decidedly low-tech communication techniques (sending messages with runners, for example) to remain in contact with them.

Late last year, CAR’s transitional president, Michel Djotodia, reported that Kony was ill and his depleted forces were ready to surrender. Djotodia said that he had communicated with elements of Kony’s army and had sent them sacks of food. But such claims mean little. Kony is many things -- a megalomaniac, a self-proclaimed prophet, a savior of his ethnic Acholi people, a witch doctor, a spiritual medium, and a ruthless and paranoid commander who demands complete obedience from his subservient followers. But above all, he is a survivor.


I began tracking Kony in 2005, when the International Criminal Court (ICC) in

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