Author’s note: The aid group Invisible Children, whose work is featured in this 2011 post, has launched a very effective viral video and Twitter campaign (#Kony2012) aimed at mustering support for the international military campaign to hunt and capture or kill Joseph Kony, the leader of the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group hiding out in Congo and Central African Republic. I will discuss the wisdom of Invisible Children’s campaign in coming days.
An old woman had died. Before burying the her, the residents of the village of Obo — in southern Central African Republic, just north of the Congolese border — gathered around a campfire to eat, drink, cry and sing in celebration of the woman’s long life. It was a night in March 2008, just another beat in the slow rhythm of existence in this farming community of 13,000 people.
Then the dreadlocked fighters from the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group — tongo-tongo, the villagers call them — rose from their hiding places in the shadows and advanced toward the fire. Others blocked the paths leading from town. The rebels killed anyone who resisted, kidnapped 100 others and robbed everyone in sight. The LRA forced the captured men and women to carry stolen goods into the jungle before releasing them. Boys and girls, they kept. The boys would be brainwashed, trained as fighters and forced to kill. The girls would be given to LRA officers as trophies, raped and made to bear children who would represent the next generation of LRA foot soldiers.
It was a familiar tragedy, repeated countless times across Central Africa since firebrand Christian cultist Joseph Kony created the LRA in the mid-1980s, aiming to establish a sort of voodoo theocracy in northern Uganda. Defeated in its home country, in 2005 the LRA fled westward across Sudan, Congo and Central African Republic, looting, raping, killing and mutilating as it went.
Obo was just one of hundreds of communities terrorized by the LRA. Many simply wither and die afterwards.
But Obo didn’t.