TIME central african republic

One of Joseph Kony’s Top Commanders Just Surrendered to U.S./African Union

The leader of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army rebels Joseph Kony (seated C), surrounded by his officers, addresses his first news conference in 20 years of rebellion in Nabanga, Sudan, on Aug. 1, 2006.
Adam Pletts—Reuters The leader of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army rebels Joseph Kony (seated C), surrounded by his officers, addresses his first news conference in 20 years of rebellion in Nabanga, Sudan, on Aug. 1, 2006.

Dominic Ongwen could have information about the movements of Joseph Kony

At 10 he was forced to become a child soldier and he rose to become a commander of child soldiers. Now Dominic Ongwen, a senior commander in Joseph Kony’s Lords Resistance Army [LRA], a cult-like rebel group that started in Uganda, has surrendered to members of a joint military task force run by the United States and the African Union.

According to U. S. State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, U.S. officials have yet to confirm that Ongwen, who declared his defection from the group in the Central African Republic on Tuesday, is who he says he is, but Ugandan army spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda trumpeted a rare success in the region-wide hunt for the group best known for amputating the limbs of detractors and turning young children into soldiers and sex slaves. “This is great news,” says Kasper Agger, the Uganda-based field researcher for the Enough Project, a Washington D.C.- based human rights advocacy organization that has been tracking the Lords Resistance Army across Uganda, South Sudan, Congo and the Central African Republic. But whether or not Ongwen’s defection will lead to the eventual capture of Kony “is the million dollar question,” says Agger. “We can hope that he has vital information to share, but nailing down Kony at a specific time and place is still very difficult.”

According to Psaki, the defection of Ongwen, 35, would “represent a historic blow to the LRA’s command structure.” Ongwen, who was abducted by the LRA on his way to school according to Agger of the Enough Project, quickly made his way up the ranks to become a brigade commander, collecting multiple charges of grievous human rights abuses along the way. In 2005 the International Criminal Court in The Hague indicted Ongwen for seven counts of crimes against humanity including murder, pillaging and enslavement.

Ongwen’s defection, says Agger, may be a sign of weakening leadership within the organization, but it is also possible that the commander may have had a falling out with Kony and was in fact fleeing for his life. “We do know that he had been increasingly marginalized over the past few years,” says Agger, but Kony also has a tendency to pull commanders back into the fold as younger, less experienced soldiers die off. “So he could still have some useful information.” Ongwen’s defection may be a “victory along the road” says Agger, but it is no reason to rest in the hunt for Kony. “If anything, it’s an encouragement to keep up the pressure, to make sure that we see this through to the end, and that the Lords Resistance Army is truly finished.”

TIME Uganda

The Group Behind Kony 2012 Is Shutting Down Most Operations

This picture made available 24 May 2006
STRINGER—AFP/Getty Images This picture, made available 24 May 2006 by the Monitor media group in Kampala, Uganda, shows one of the world's most wanted rebel chiefs, Joseph Kony of the Lord Resistance Movement.

"Despite making incredible progress toward our mission, it’s been difficult to fund the breadth of our work, especially over the last two years"

The non-profit that helped mobilize the international community against a brutal African warlord–or misrepresented and oversimplified a complex issue, depending on your point of view–says it’s packing up.

Invisible Children, founded in 2004 to raise awareness about Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa, announced on Monday that it is winding down its U.S. operations and will cut most of its 21-person staff.

In a statement posted to its website, Invisible Children cited a drop in Kony’s influence–though he still leads several hundred fighters–but also indicated it was having trouble fundraising.

“Despite making incredible progress toward our mission, it’s been difficult to fund the breadth of our work, especially over the last two years,” the group said.

In 2012, Invisible Children released an emotional film about Kony that catapulted the organization onto the international stage thanks to the film’s viral effectiveness–and the subsequent criticism of its portrayal of the conflict and the resulting “hashtag activism.”

The film, Kony 2012, was viewed more than 100 million times in less than a week and was called at the time the most viral video in history. It was credited with helping to prompt the U.S. to back an African Union military force charged with hunting down Kony.

But it also faced widespread criticism for its simplistic tone and for exaggerating the threat posed by the LRA, at the expense of other health and social issues. While the LRA had forced thousands of children to become child soldiers over the previous two decades, by the the time the film was released, Kony had been expelled from Uganda and led only a few hundred followers.

The film’s backlash appeared to have hurt the NGO’s fundraising efforts: while Invisible Children raised $26.5 million in 2012, nearly as much as it had raised in the previous three years combined, it collected $4.9 million in 2013, according to its financial reports.

TIME TIME 100 Gala

Sister Rosemary Asks: ‘Where Are the Lost Girls?’

Challenging the world's "most influential" to help heal shattered lives

At the Saint Monica Girls’ Tailoring Center she runs in Gulu, Uganda, Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe looks after women and girls who have seen much of the worst of what the world can dish out, offering a measure of shelter and security in a society riven by civil war.

At the TIME 100 Gala in New York City, she shared her good humor, infectious energy and deep compassion; but she also challenged her fellow “influentials” to join in the effort to heal the lives of women and children traumatized by brutality and fear.

 

TIME Joseph Kony

The Hunt for Ugandan Warlord Joseph Kony Just Got a Lot More Intense

Joseph Kony
Stuart Price—AFP/Getty Images Joseph Kony of the Lord's Resistance Army answers journalists' questions in Ri-Kwamba, Sudan, on Nov. 12, 2006

President Obama is adding about 150 special-operations personnel and four aircraft to the years-long pursuit of the Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, who has avoided detection as his ranks have ravaged large swaths of Central Africa

Military aircraft are for the first time to join an enlarged U.S. special-operations force in Uganda as President Barack Obama ramps up efforts to hunt down notorious warlord Joseph Kony.

CV-22 Osprey aircraft will arrive by midweek, along with refueling aircraft and some 150 Air Force special-operations personnel, according to the Washington Post. A total of 300 U.S. troops will now be stationed in the restive Central African state.

Kony, whose brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has spent years plundering villages, mutilating civilians and kidnapping children across large swaths of Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court.

LRA atrocities publicized on the Internet have sparked waves of revulsion around the world.

[Washington Post]

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