left biblioblography: Allegories Gone Wild: The Ugandan Warlord

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Allegories Gone Wild: The Ugandan Warlord

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis
konyinfantryNo doubt many of you are familiar with the Kony 2012 campaign on Youtube. Joseph Kony is a Ugandan warlord who is guilty of horrendous crimes against humanity. Likelihood is good that the source of this campaign (who was scarring his own child teaching him about Kony) is somewhat out of his mind. Uganda is understandably upset about this bad press, and has released a counter-video claiming that Kony is no longer in the country, and that they are making every effort to apprehend this monster.

Regardless of the political upheaval, the background noise of finger-pointing, and any of the other obligatory nonsenses, the fact remains: Kony is a crazy-ass fairy beggar armed with a machete that he’s willing to use freely.

One of the more irritating subterfuges (as I see it), is how everyone seems to be downplaying his religious inclinations. From the Wiki link:

Joseph Kony (pronounced IPA: [ko…≤]; born c. 1961) is the head of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan guerrilla group. While initially enjoying strong public support, the LRA turned on its own supporters, supposedly to "purify" the Acholi people and turn Uganda into a theocracy. Kony proclaims himself the spokesperson of God and a spirit medium, primarily of the Holy Spirit, which the group believes can represent itself in many manifestations. Ideologically, the group is a syncretic mix of of mysticism, Acholi nationalism, and Christian fundamentalism, and claims to be establishing a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments and local Acholi tradition.

A nutshell version of this as follows: he’s batshit crazy.

How did the madness develop? Like most nutcases, he started early:

Kony was born in 1961 in Odek, a village east of Gulu in northern Uganda, to father Luizi Obol and mother Nora, both farmers. He is a member of the Acholi people. Kony enjoyed a good relationship with his siblings, but was quick to retaliate in a dispute and when confronted he would often resort to physical violence. His father was a lay catechist of the Catholic Church and his mother was an Anglican. Kony was an altar boy for several years but stopped attending church around the age of 15 and also dropped out of school.

As a teenager, Kony was apprenticed as the village witch doctor under Jamie Brow, his older brother, and when Jamie died, Kony took over the position.

So superstition and crazy ran in the family? No surprise there. Let’s skip to the meat of the entry:

Kony's group was originally called the United Holy Salvation Army (UHSA), and was not perceived as a threat by the NRA. By 1988 it had become a major player in Ugandan affairs: an agreement between the NRA and the Uganda People's Democratic Army (UPDA) left members of the UPDA unsatisfied, and many joined the UHSA as a form of rebellion. One such person was Commander Odong Latek, who convinced Kony to use standard military tactics instead of attacking in cross-shaped formations and sprinkling holy water. The new tactics proved successful, and the UHSA completed several small victories against the NRA.

WOW. He was so religious, he attacked in cross-shaped formations? Misted people with ineffectual water? The crazy is strong with this one.

The NRA responded by significantly weakening Kony's group through political actions and a military campaign named Operation North. The operation was devastating to the UHSA and, with their numbers reduced from thousands to hundreds, they engaged in retaliatory attacks on civilians and NRA collaborators. The LRA say that spirits were sent to communicate this mission directly to Kony.

Since there’s no such thing as ‘spirits’, it was the voices in his head.

The bulk of Kony's foot soldiers were children. While estimates of the number of children conscripted since 1986 vary, some put the figure as high as 104,000. When abducting the children, Kony and his army often killed their family and neighbors, thus leaving the children with little choice but to fight for him. In 1992 Kony renamed the group the United Democratic Christian Army, and it was at this time that they kidnapped 139 girls from the Sacred Heart Secondary and St. Mary's girls schools.

It is strange, is it not, that for an allegedly peaceful religion, bloodthirsty ogres seem to surge forth from it on a consistent basis?

Let’s plumb the depths of this crazy a little more:

Betty Bigombe remembered that the first time she met Kony, his followers used oil to ward off bullets and evil spirits. In a letter regarding future talks, Kony stated that he must consult his self-styled holy spirit. When the talks did occur, they insisted on the participation of religious leaders and opened the proceedings with prayers, led by LRA's Director of Religious Affairs Jenaro Bongomi. During the 1994 peace talks, Kony was preceded by men in robes sprinkling holy water.

Kony was thought among followers and detractors alike to have been possessed by spirits; he has been portrayed as either the Messiah or the Devil. He reportedly made annual trips to the Ato Hills in Uganda. He would allegedly ascend to the highest of the hills and lie down in the hot sun for days. He would be covered by a blanket of red termites that bit deeply into his skin. Oil from the Yao plant was spread over his body. Then he would enter a cave and stay in seclusion for weeks. Kony believes in the literal protection provided by a cross symbol and tells his child soldiers a cross on their chest drawn in oil will protect them from bullets.

Kony believes in polygamy, and as of 2007 he was thought to have 88 wives, along with 42 children.

Kony insists that he and the Lord's Resistance Army are fighting for the Ten Commandments. He defends his actions: "Is it bad? It is not against human rights. And that commandment was not given by Joseph. It was not given by LRA. No, those commandments were given by God."

The mind boggles. Centuries ago this behavior would be considered holy. Now, it is symptomatic of severe mental illness. I would say that insane is too kind a word.

Did religion cause this profound disconnect with reality? Hard to say. Obviously his environment had a severe impact on his psyche. To the point somewhere along the line he thought he was justified in lopping the limbs off people, and stealing their children.

Every day, the evidence against keeping religion just gets another story deeper. Expanding on that metaphor, there should be enough skyscrapers to blot out the sun.

Till the next post, then.

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