The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has released several news items over the last 48 hours stating that Joseph Kony is in negotiations with the Central African Republic (CAR) to turn himself over to the government and face trial for war crimes. However, the U.S. State Department suggests that the impending surrender of Joseph Kony may have been misreported.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) quotes a United Nations official by the name of Abou Moussa in saying that Michael Djotodia, the president of the CAR, had admitted sending food to the embattled warlord. Moussa reports that Djotodia explained to him that Joseph Kony had called the leader personally and asked for supplies and the creation of a safe zone for him and his men. The BBC spoke independently with a representative of the CAR government who confirmed the exchange, as well as Kony’s continuing involvement.
It is known to the U.S. State Department that a small contingent of LRA troops has been conducting talks with CAR officials. However, an unidentified spokesman has informed the BBC today that Kony may, in fact, not be among the supplicants negotiating for safe passage. Based on available intelligence, he says, the United States has “little reason” to believe the reports coming from the AFP and the BBC.
Joseph Kony experienced worldwide infamy as a result of the “Kony 2012” campaign. A short YouTube documentary produced by advocacy group Invisible Children chronicled his rise to power within the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and detailed atrocities committed by him and by men under his direct command. It was revealed to 98 million viewers that Kony has pillaged and plundered his way across the East and Central regions of the African continent since 1987 with little impediment. The eagerness of the world to see Joseph Kony brought to justice for these crimes may have led the CAR to jump the gun and retail news of his surrender to the BBC, which then reported the assumption as fact.
This incident is not the first time that hope for justice has been dangled before CAR officials. Joseph Kony made overtures of contrition in 2008 and very nearly agreed to peace. The talks derailed when the International Criminal Court refused his demand to drop the existing charges against him.
It is altogether possible that false reports have been perpetuated by certain LRA members or others as they seek to claim the bounty of five million dollars offered by the United States for the capture of Joseph Kony. Another plausible scenario is that Kony has circulated these rumors himself in order to relieve the pressure brought by the 3000 government soldiers tasked with his pursuit. The State Department official reminded the BBC that Kony has been known to use “any and every pretext”, including offers of surrender, as a strategy to refresh his army before resuming his tactics of terror.
This is not to say that there is no chance of truth behind the reports. Credible rumors of the LRA leader’s extremely poor health have reached the ears of the U.N., and it may be that Kony wishes to receive the proper medical treatment that is unavailable to him while he is on the run. It is also possible that he may wish to leverage his only bargaining chip – himself – to secure some degree of consideration before being found – and likely killed – by the forces that are currently hunting him down.
The information that streams in over the coming days will verify whether the surrender of Joseph Kony has been misreported. The official line of the CAR is one of optimism for now, but the U.S. remains doubtful.
By Daniel Annear