- January 4, 2011
- News & Analysis
Joseph Kony is a notoriously difficult person to understand. Often portrayed simply as a crazy or evil person, few outside the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have had an opportunity to paint a more complex, accurate picture of a man who has led one of Africa’s most violent armed groups for over twenty years. A post this past weekend on the New York Times’ At War blog attempts to chip away Kony’s mysterious aura and examine how he maintains control of the LRA.
The author of the post, C.J. Chivers, wrote about papers he photographed in 2007 when he was in Uganda doing research for a book.
While he was interviewing some of the children who had been abducted and forced into the LRA before escaping and making their way home, Chivers encountered a man who had been a senior member of the LRA. This man held “a wad of soiled, crumbled papers. The papers contained a brief but lush insiders’ view of one of the world’s most elusive — and bizarre — wanted men.”
The papers discuss the different spirits that Joseph Kony claims possess him and the ways in which those spirits talk to and through him. For example, the papers quote members of Kony’s inner circle who claimed Kony:
…started having possession episodes in 1987. In the beginning he was possessed sometimes two or three times a day. Over time frequency of possession declined. Prophesized by Juma Oris in Kony in 1995 that there will come a time that the spirit would no longer visit. Kony would always be alerted by “Who Are You” that a spirit would come at a certain time to speak for a certain time (for example at 1400 hours for three or four minutes). Kony’s secretary (Chief to Lakwena) would make the preparations, and Kony would dress in a white robe. A glass of water, a bible, and a rosary were placed on a table. To start the possession Kony would dip his fingers into a clear glass of water. Multiple spirits would pass through Kony in a single session. On average at least three spirits would talk in a session. Junior spirits always talked first. After the session the LRA Army Commander would address the crowd. No one corrected what the spirits said, nor did people dare question the spirits.
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