Charles Onyango Obbo
Kony has survived for 25 years by stealing Museveni’s secrets
Posted Wednesday, May 23 2012 at 00:00
The recent capture of a Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Caesar Acellam by the UPDF in the Central African Republic, has raised the possibility that the Horror Chief Joseph Kony himself, might soon be nabbed.
That might well be the case, but the question needs to be asked; “why has Kony survived so long?”
There are many old arguments around, but I am more attracted to something else about Kony and the LRA. They are similar to the NRM in their longevity.
Kony came on the scene in the last days of Alice Lakwena’s Holy Spirit Movement in late 1987. Kony, therefore, has been in the rebellion and terrorism business for 25 years. The last Ugandan who was a rebel in the bush for a long period is (now) President Yoweri Museveni. If you add the seven of Museveni’s anti-Amin days as leader of the Front for National Salvation (Fronasa) from 1972 to 1979, and the five from 1981 to 1986 when he took power, he was a guerrilla man for 12 years.
At 25 years, Kony has been a rebel leader twice as long as Museveni was.
Museveni, meanwhile, has been president for 26 years, one year longer than Kony has been a rebel.
However, at 26 years, Museveni has been president longer than all the previous seven presidents/presidencies combined: Kabaka Freddie Mutesa, Milton Obote, Field Marshall Idi Amin, Prof. Yusuf Lule, Godfrey Binaisa, Paulo Muwanga and Oyite Ojok for the Military Commission (we count them as one), Obote I, the Okello and Okello generals (we also count them as one).
So what are Kony’s and Museveni’s secrets? It is easy to say that the two men deal firmly with opposition to their leadership. However, even Amin did the same and he didn’t survive as long as Museveni. And, it hasn’t helped Kony much. He is forced to operate out of Uganda, and he never achieved his goal of ousting Museveni from power. Museveni, on the other hand, reached his goal of being Uganda president.
However, Museveni himself likes to boast of the territorial reach of his and Fronasa/NRA-NRM’s activities—in Tanzania, in the Mozambique liberation war, having cells in Kenya, links to (late) Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, passages through Burundi, and so on.
It would seem that when a political organisation has to operate through many countries and situations, it becomes highly adaptable.
Kony and the LRA too have been all over: South Sudan, (North) Sudan, DR Congo, Central African Republic and Chad. Kony, it would seem, has been a better student of Museveni and Fronasa/NRA-NRM than we had realised so far.
Even some of the debates about LRA, if Kony were captured or killed, mirror the debates about the NRM when Museveni retires or is retired. There are those who believe that the LRA is finished, and it is the tricks of Kony that are keeping it alive. That if he were to be killed, the LRA would be finished. No, others disagree, someone else will arise and take his place.
Likewise, there are many people who think Museveni is NRM, and NRM is Museveni, and that when he is off the scene the party, corrupted by the comforts of being a military-state organisation, would die off. No, say others (especially NRMs), the party is solid, and it will rule for another 50 or 60 years at minimum, because it has many cadres who can fill Museveni’s boots.
It would seem, also, that the wider social and political factors that helped NRM when it took power, also benefitted the LRA– in reverse.
Uganda was broken, bloodied by war, poor, and its citizens exhausted by marauding military goons when Museveni took power. They were willing to support NRM as long as it didn’t take the country back to the nightmarish past. And they were willing to be forgiving of any crime that was not as worse as Amin’s or Obote II’s.
Kony arose when, it seemed, rebellion was no longer paying—and looked unlikely to succeed in unseating the government in Kampala. People who joined LRA’s ranks (we are not counting the abducted ones) probably didn’t expect regime change. The LRA, probably attracted the people who were too angry with Museveni and the NRM, they were willing to support anything against them.