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The Wizard of the Nile, Matthew Green, Portobello books, 2008.The hunt for Africa’s most wanted man

Apr 1, 2016, 12:21 PM

Once again this week Uganda is in the news for the wrong reasons; this time, the terrorist attack on two night spots by alleged Somali cut throats with Islamist tendencies. Uganda in fact, for a long time, has remained in the news headlines for the brutality of its first President Milton Obote, the madness of Idi Amin in the 1970s, the unending wars of rebels in the 1980s and from early 1990s onwards, the messianic killings of Joseph Kony, the bloodthirsty leader of the mal appropriately named rag tag Lord’s Resistance Army or LRA.

Kony has masterminded the slaughter of thousands of his compatriots, and since 2006 when the Uganda Army drove him out of the forest in Northern Uganda, has targeted civilians in DRC, Sudan and Central African Republic. He is the first trans-border African rebel leader. No surprise that the International Criminal Court in the Hague under the leadership of the feisty Moreno Ocampo has indicted him and his accomplices in the LRA for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In this book Journalist Matthew Green seeks to deconstruct the psyche of Kony, and also tries to see the reasons why he took up arms in the first place in 1989 against the Ugandan government, why he seems unstoppable in his deadly quest and the role of the international community in the bloody parcours of Kony.

Early in the book the author, a former Reuters reporter based in Nairobi, and who now works for the Financial Times in Kabul, introduces us to the Acholi culture and milieu in which Joseph Kony grew up in Uganda (p.36). He seems to assert a link between the marginalization of this ethnic group by successive governments in Kampala with their penchant to resist, using religo-political reasons. The author also describes with poignancy the terrible penchant of the LRA to abduct children and young girls as fighters and sex slaves in their bush camps. Thousands of innocent children have been abducted from school dorms or villages huts to become recruits for Kony and his murderous gangs , p.24. This is perhaps one of the sorriest episodes of this bloody war of Kony. Entire generations of children in four African countries where he operates have lost their innocence and turned into killing and rape machines. It is largely for this recruitment of children that the ICC has indicted Kony.

The author also charts the paths to peace by the Uganda government, NGOs, neighbouring states like Southern Sudan, church personalities and individuals like the inimitable peace campaigner Betty Bugombe to seal a peace between Kampala and the Kony rebels. Sadly, so far no peace deal has stuck and the people of that region still have to contend with the bloody escapades of the LRA.

Kony comes out in this book as a bloody buffoon. He believes that he can rule Uganda under the Ten Commandments, but this convinces no one, as he seems more interested in killing and abducting than saving his people. Reading this book, one cannot feel sad for the people of Uganda who it seems have to contend with a bloody buffoon each generation starting with Amin, then Alice Lakwenya and now Kony. And this for a country once hailed as the Pearl of Africa.

This book gives a penetrating insight into this brutal rebel leader whose hands are awash with blood. He should definitely have his day at the ICC in the Hague to answer for his gross crimes.

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