As the hunt for Joseph Kony continues, all signs indicate that the notorious leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) won’t be found – at least not where regional East African military forces are currently looking for him. More persuasive evidence has emerged that Kony is hiding in Darfur.
It has long been an open secret that the Khartoum government has been a patron of Kony and the LRA. Over almost two decades, the regime of Omar al-Bashir has both supported the LRA and wielded it as a proxy force against South Sudan. It has been said before, but it is for this reason that so many scholars and observers have reiterated that the LRA situation can only be resolved with a solution that addresses regional governance issues.
Of course, the current constellation of Kony hunters is, in fact, regional in nature. It includes troops from LRA-affected areas: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. It also famously includes a gaggle of US troops providing assistance in tracking down Kony.
What few seem to realize is that this latest mission is only the most recent iteration in a long lineage of apparent attempts to kill or capture Kony. Regional forces have been periodically hunting down Kony for almost a decade. Moreover, the US support is not unprecedented. American troops have provided “non-lethal” support to the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) since the early 2000s.
But one issue which has consistently hindered attempts to capture or kill Kony has been Khartoum’s support for the LRA. And, once again, the regional forces hunting down perhaps the world’s most notorious war criminal do not include Sudan. So what would you do if you were Kony? Move to safe ground and wait out the storm. Translation: head to Sudan, lay low and survive until the hunting party loses interest.
Over the past few months, JiC has covered emerging evidence that supports the belief that the LRA is receiving support and hiding out in Darfur (see also here): I wrote earlier this year that former senior LRA commanders had informed me that Kony was, in fact, living in Darfur. In April, a Sudanese rebel grouped said that Kony and the LRA were moving around Darfur. In May it appeared that a detained LRA rebel had been found with a Sudanese uniform. A few weeks ago, perhaps the most intriguing evidence emerged, as the UN Security Council discussed renewing its mission in Darfur (UNAMID). From the Sudan Tribune:
“The Sudanese diplomat went further to reject the inclusion of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the draft resolution and strongly warned against such development saying it would hamper Sudan’s cooperation with the UNAMID.
He underlined that the UNAMID mandate is limited only to protect civilians and bring peace in Darfur while the LRA is undertaking a rebellion in Uganda, which has no common border with Sudan, he underscored.
“Including this issue is going to be an impediment and cause of refusal, which may affect our cooperation with UNAMID and its actions in Darfur. If we truly wish to establish peace, stability and security then let us discard this issue far away from Darfur and UNAMID,” he further said.
The most obvious reason for the Sudanese government’s recalcitrance is its fear that they would be exposed for supporting the LRA and giving Kony refuge. But there could also be serious repercussions for not widening the scope of the hunt for Kony.
Every time a military intervention has failed to kill or capture Kony, the LRA has retaliated with large-scale attacks and kidnappings. Moreover, with an unstable peace plaguing South Sudan and Khartoum, it seems precariously probable that the LRA could be employed again (if it isn’t already) in renewed hostilities. As the Enough Project has argued,
the LRA could become a larger threat to regional stability. Khartoum could employ the LRA again to fight a proxy war against South Sudan, which just celebrated its first year of independence from Sudan.
The way things are going, it seems a remote possibility that Kony will be found. You can’t find someone in places they’re not hiding. And the regional forces as well as the US know it. Which raises a rather uncomfortable question: are they insane? After all, as Einstein famously mused, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”