Photo by Thomas Holder

"My Talk With Joseph Kony"

by Richard Stupart Mar 20, 2012
Rich Stupart, Saskia Kuiper, and Thomas Holder talk to Nelson Onono, one of a small number of people who have met LRA leader Joseph Kony.

Did you get the impression that, with the LRA, if Kony died, it would fall apart and end?

“I think it would. It would immediately.”

~ Nelson Onono

OUTDOOR INTERVIEWS IN GULU, Northern Uganda can be frustrating. Evening ones even more so, as crickets and children compete with ambient conversations for space on the sound recorder.

“I was given to preach for two minutes in the bush [to Kony’s troops]. And I liked the sermon. And I did preach — for about two, three minutes…”

Talking into the sunset, we asked the former bishop of the Gulu diocese about the mato oput reconciliation ceremonies that are meant to reintegrate LRA fighters who have returned. About the efforts of communities to rebuild and the consequences of NGOs disengaging from Northern Uganda in the years ahead. He was candid in telling us that the people in Gulu have not even begun to have the conversations that they need to in the wake of the psychological damage that Kony’s LRA has inflicted.

It was late 2010, and #kony2012 hadn’t happened yet.

“…I didn’t know the man even laughed. And we laughed with him.”

Looking back now, many of the questions were lucky strikes on what would become issues. What should become issues if the world could get over pillorying Invisible Children long enough to realise that there is still something to be concerned about.

Like the challenges in getting foreign NGOs to really collaborate. Questions about Kony. About meeting him and preaching to his men. About the end of the Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps in which the Ugandan government corralled its own people in terrible conditions, and the lives they have tried to rebuild in a post-LRA world.

“…He knew that there were children. He knew.”

And about the terrifying memories that the LRA left behind on their departure to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The full interview is right at the bottom. It’s worth an hour of your time, if you really want to know.

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