Written by Joe Wacha
Forget M23. Forget si jui who. These two are the only kids on the block and are rocking the show. And they are as different as they are similar.
Both are addressed as General. Both have led rebel groups. And while one successfully managed to overthrow a government, one has not/yet.
Both have been at the helm of their movements for decades: one leading a National Resistance Movement; and the other a Lord’s Resistance Movement (Army). Never mind that one actually rose to resist the other’s resistance!
One matured in the jungles of Luwero, while the other matured in the jungles of northern Uganda, before crossing the road to roam the vast jungles of DR Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
While one was regarded as part of the ‘new breed of Africa leaders’, the other just recently had a movie based on the atrocities he has committed, go viral on social media.
With all their similarities, there are stark differences. While one is enjoying pursuit of the other, another is an evasive prey – seemingly enjoying being hunted; a few times surviving capture by abandoning his treasured Kaunda suits and cooking pots!
It’s perhaps because of the similar-yet-different attributes that the LRA’s Joseph Kony and NRM’s Yoweri Museveni can lay claim to being the centre of huge interest and awe across the region -an act they balance on an array of strategies.
The latest report by The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative says that Kony has lately been purging his rebel group’s structure of older commanders in favour of younger ones. Accordingly, the new list of the LRA commanders who are believed to be directly in contact with the former altar boy no longer include the much-known names such as Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen, Vincent Otti, etc. Even the International Criminal Court, which previously issued arrest warrants for the top five commanders of the LRA, may soon have to make a new, longer list.
And while many reasons may be advanced for this, it appears to be a strategy that has ensured the LRA rebel group survives serious heavily-funded and intellectually planned campaigns and military operations such as the 2008 Lightening Thunder. It is perhaps one of the strategies that have led to Kony being seen as a man of intellectual sophistication, to survive decades of military campaigns, including some led by US commandos.
But the strategies, it appears, are not just an LRA affair, for it can be traced right back home to the UPDF where Museveni has over the years purged the force of older faces too to an extent it has forced some in the old guard to raise alarm or jump ship. Some have gone on to start new ‘careers’ as letter writers.
But while the new or older guards enjoy their new positions and the comfort that comes with proximity to the bosses, the two appear to remain the only old kids on the block and subjects of debate and analysis across the great lakes region.
Already, according to the report by The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative, the Joseph Kony-led Lord’s Resistance Army are believed to have lost many fighters mostly due to defection, and the squad reportedly currently stands at about 500. Similar defections were recently reported in the Yoweri Museveni-led NRA-turned-UPDF, with the figures claimed to be in thousands.
Whichever way, Museveni and Kony remain the kids on the block to watch; one in pursuit of and, the ever elusive. One could be forgiven to say each of the two is hoping to outlast the other. Indeed, it appears that a decisive defeat of the LRA is one of the to-do things that motivate Museveni to linger on.