International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Kony “Seeking Forgiveness”

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A recent article published in Uganda’s (privately owned) Daily Monitor newspaper reports of a letter from Joseph Kony to Ugandans claiming a desire to resume peace talks:

“We are willing and ready to forgive and seek forgiveness, and continue to seek peaceful means to end this war which has cut across a swathe of Africa for the people of the Great Lakes and the Nile-Congo Basin to find peace.”

Not surprisingly, Kony also seeks to share blame for war crimes  and deaths that have occurred over the course of the rebellion with the government, and even claims that his actions were committed out of self defense while some atrocities, such as the massacres in northern Uganda, were also committed by the UPDF to “spoil” his name. Let’s pretend for a moment that Kony is sincere about making peace; are successful peace talks and an apology from the LRA really enough to foster reconciliation? Furthermore, even if peace is reached between the LRA and the Ugandan government the ICC will still maintain its outstanding warrant against Joseph Kony for the crimes he committed in the past.

Strangely enough, in Kony’s letter he additionally appeals to the ICC, the institution he has publicly denounced and evaded for years, to investigate crimes committed by President Museveni and General Sejusa. This is especially surprising considering the fact that the 2008 government-LRA peace talks hosted in South Sudan primarily collapsed due to Kony’s insistence that the ICC drop its warrant against him. Other than attempting to provide a possible defense for himself if convicted, what could Kony possibly hope to achieve by making these claims against the government with whom he “hopes” to reconcile?

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One response to “Kony “Seeking Forgiveness”

  1. tjojojojo February 2, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    In reading this, I can’t help but wonder if Kony is surrendering because of how dire his situation is. As Karadzic’s case shows, the life of a fugitive can be quite a rough one. From the way in which Kony reached out to the Ugandans (a letter and his decision to remain in hiding), I get the sense that he’s also trying to “test the waters.” That is, he may want to know the general feeling from both Ugandans and the international community. If there’s a chance for Kony to get away with a light sentence or acquittal, it may be in his interest to surrender immediately. And in his mind, this may be the best way to get it. While Kony apologizes and asks for forgiveness, he is also blatantly attempting to divert blame and responsibility from him to the UPDF, and this is what disturbs me the most.

    The tone of the letter also doesn’t strike me as very genuine—“We are willing and ready to forgive and seek forgiveness.” In fact, I find it somewhat repulsive: like the rest of the letter, he refuses to take full or at least most responsibility, and suggests that he and his followers have also been wronged. Kony argues that he acted in self-defense and that the UPDF perpetrated massacres, but I wonder if he ever talks in the letter about the many victims who suffered at his and his followers’ hands, or the massacres that he not the UPDF supposedly perpetrated. I think it’s a smart move to divert attention to other groups and people (the UPDF, Museveni, Sejusa), but this makes the letter seem like a strategic move, and in no way a sincere attempt at reconciliation. Kony states that he will “continue to seek peaceful means to end this war,” which I find troubling because he suggests that for a while now he has been doing the right thing and seeking peace, again trying to distance himself from the role of a perpetrator of atrocities. It’s quite possible that those fighting Kony committed atrocities themselves, but Kony should never be able to use this as an excuse to escape punishment for his own crimes. And as long as he refuses to genuinely take responsibility for his actions as a perpetrator, I find it hard to believe that peaceful reconciliation will happen.

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