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Uganda Rising

Scene from Uganda Rising

By Adam Thomas

Sunday October 15, 2006

Resisting the Lord’s Resistance Army

As the brutal leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)­, a Ugandan guerilla army comprised of abducted children, Joseph Kony kidnaps, kills, rapes and tortures children (or orders others do it) in an attempt to disrupt and terrorise both the government and the population. Since 1986, the LRA have abducted over 25,000 Acholi (North Ugandan) children. A couple of local filmmakers have just made a documentary on the subject called Uganda Rising that played at the film festival. The film offers important geo-political context that places this seriously fucked up situation within a tangible historical framework. I met with one of the directors, Pete McCormack, to talk about the LRA and the state of the world.

ONLY: How did a mad man like Joseph Kony, who was just 17 at the time, come to power?
Pete McCormack: What’s really important to remember with Joseph Kony is that he is not, and was never, popular with the Acholi people. There was another spirit-based rebel group, the Holy Spirit Movement, before him, led by a woman named Alice Lakwena. She had a popular base and had some surprising military victories against the Ugandan government in the mid-to-late ‘80s, but was then crushed. Joseph Kony came after Lakwena, and did not have popular support. That is one of the reasons he began with the abductions: to build a rebel army. You can always tell when a revolution isn’t working; a true popular resistance movement doesn’t kidnap kids. People join the movement because they believe rebellion to be worth the risk.
ONLY: I would imagine that Kony’s actions would have had an immediate backlash.
PM: Many people were obviously not happy with the situation. But because historically those in northern Uganda had been marginalised in terms of economics and education by the South, and a brutal civil war had just ended, and President Museveni was a Southern president and his army was also committing atrocities against the Acholi people, the people were caught, and have been now for twenty years.
ONLY: Kony’s desire to create a government based on the Ten Commandments is so vague.
PM: There is really no clear political objective. For his own purposes, Kony uses the most militant form of Christian theory mixed with animistic religion, and we see a bastardisation of both. [It’s] the long-term fallout of the colonial legacy, dictatorships, and the resulting decimation of cultures. Kony is the extreme perversion of this.
ONLY: You make the point in the film that due to widespread rape of Ugandan girls there is now a legacy of paternity between Kony and the Acholi people. How do you think this is going to unfold?
PM: That’s really difficult to say. It looks like the peace talks are collapsing right now. This is a world-wide problem… I guess the question of legacy will be this: Will people be able to come together despite the violence, and will outside support help them by listening to the culture’s needs? Same with us. Until the moderates of the world – that is to say the majority, virtually everybody – stop falling for the big lies and begin building the spiritual muscle required to start coming together across pointless ideological differences that keep us apart, clearly we’re going to remain struggling.