- By J. Dana StusterJ. Dana Stuster is an assistant editor at Foreign Policy. He has studied at the American University of Beirut and graduated in 2010 with degrees in English and International Relations from the University of California, Davis. Before coming to FP, his work appeared in the Atlantic and the National Interest, among other publications.
If Michel Djotodia, the Central African Republic’s rebel leader turned interim president, is to be believed, Joseph Kony, the head of the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army, is about to emerge from the jungle and surrender. "It’s true, Joseph Kony wants to come out of the bush," Djotodia told the Guardian. "We are negotiating with him." Reports suggest that Kony is sheltering near the town of Nzako and asking intermediaries for food and supplies.
Let’s just say that analysts tracking Kony are, well, skeptical about that claim. What’s more likely, they say, is that the government is talking to a group of LRA fighters, possibly defectors, who may have no affiliation with Kony.
Experts on the LRA say the reports seem to in reality be about the government’s communications with a group of LRA fighters near Nzako. Paul Ronan, policy director for The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative, laid out what seems to have really happened on his organization’s blog: In August, an LRA emissary delivered two letters to town leaders in Nzako that expressed an interest in surrendering. The CAR government responded by opening communications with representatives of the rebel group, who travelled to Nzako from rebel camps. Over the course of the next two months, the government’s representatives encouraged defections from the group — but also plied the its representatives with food and medicine, which was taken back to the LRA camp. Ledio Cakaj, an independent researcher focusing on the LRA, noted that the group is also receiving supplies from a local NGO operating out of Nzako. Ronan writes that, after two months of frontier diplomacy, he does not know of any members of the rebel group surrendering and that CAR representatives in Nzako still do not know for certain to whom the LRA delegation reports. In fact, Cakaj points out, the LRA members in Nzako said they worked for the "big boss" who is missing an eye. Needless to say, Kony is not missing an eye. "Are they messing with us?" Cakaj asked rhetorically on Twitter. Answer: "VERY LIKELY."
The whole thing is a "non-story," Michael Poffenberger, executive director of The Resolve, said on Twitter. The U.S. State Department was similarly skeptical. "At this time, we have little reason to believe that Joseph Kony is part of this group," a State Department official told the Associated Press. More likely, it’s Djotodia trying to drum up support for an engagement policy that hopes to strip away LRA militiamen and sideline the force as a rival armed group in a region rife with powerful militias. That policy has provided material support to the LRA but with no indication that the effort is actually bringing the group closer to surrendering.
So, don’t get too optimistic about Joseph Kony being brought in anytime soon. You can keep working on your KONY2014 videos or whatever else you think will help track down the warlord.