By Abalo Irene Otto
“The ropes the rebels used to cross rivers broke. The other rebels wanted me to drown in the water so they left me to die as the water swelled to swallow me. Immediately, Kony changed his mind, left the rope and swam after me to save my life. He is a very good swimmer,” says former LRA victim Evelyn Amony.
That was in Pagee river and the year was 1994 when Amony was saved from death by the man people know for killing and committing all sorts of atrocities on the people of Northern Uganda during the over two decades of the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency.
Amony was abducted by the rebels on 24th August, 1994 as a 12 year old primary five school girl. Amony was picked from Atiak Sub County in Amuru district. She’s lucky to still be alive, but others were not so lucky.
Amony returned from the bush after 11 years in 2005 at the age of 22 with three children. She was one of the many wives to the LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony, the father of her three children. At the age of 12 years, Amony joined a team of about 60 wives living in one camp as Kony’s conscripted wives.
To the rebels, Amony was a potential wife though she was arrested at a time when the commander had ordered the rebels to stop abducting more people. Every man wanted her for a wife resulting in a shooting that led to the death of one person.
“The people who abducted me were rivalling over me. I couldn’t tell who among them wanted me. Okello Director who comes from Patongo ordered for me to be killed,” she says.
Amony was taken to the firing squad in a nearby bush.
“Where I was taken to be killed, Kony suddenly appeared because he had a visit in that Brigade called stocri, commanded by Rasta Lukwiya. I had already been beaten and my head was swollen. I don’t know what happened after seeing Kony but I woke up to find myself safe in a hut of Otii Lagony. Kony had reprimanded those who hurt me and had me taken away from the firing squad to safety,” narrates Amony.
Amony was later taken to baby sit Kony’s son Ali, a job she took on with a passion to help this vulnerable child whose mother she did not know.
Ten years on since her return from captivity, Amony has vivid memories of Kony. Despite the various atrocities that people know him for, Amony appreciates Kony for saving her life.
“Most times people feel bad when I say that Kony saved my life but he is the reason I am still alive today,” she adds.
In the eleven years that Amony lived in the bush, she was a wife among the over 60 many wives of War Lord Joseph Kony. She appreciates him for teaching him how to be a woman and to love all people.
“He taught me how to be clean as a woman. He does not want filth. He told me he wanted me for a wife because of my neatness” says Amony.
As a wife among the many, Amony narrates that Kony also taught them how to work hard to fend for the family.
“We would all go to the garden together and when washing children’s clothes at the well, you pick for any child, not just your children and all children were taken equally not that this is mine or that is for my co-wife.”
She also remembers Kony beating all his wives for the mistake of one wife to show them that they were all equal before him as a husband in the family.
Though Amony is remarried after coming back from the bush, she recalls how Kony used to love his children just like any other father and had enough time for leisure to chat with both the men and women around him.
One queer thing Amony remembers about Kony is that he used to have a spirit that commands him in his operations. She says the spirits would speak through him while his personal aide wrote them down on paper.
She observed that all orders given by the spirits had to be adhered to else one suffers the consequence. “During the operation Iron Fist, the spirit commanded that the rebels should not have intercourse. All those who defied the order were shot in their private parts!”
Operation Iron Fist
She further says that rebels who defied orders were always killed by the UPDF at battle fronts. In February 2002, in an effort to end once and for all the 15-year conflict in northern Uganda, the Government launched "Operation Iron Fist", a determined military campaign to root out Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) by taking the war into southern Sudan, the LRA's military and logistical base.
Amony escaped from South Sudan and entered a UPDF ambush in Paluda in Palabek in the now Lamwo district.
“I had walked and gotten tired. When I put up my hands, they kept shooting me until a soldier recognized me and signaled them to stop. He knew me from the bush.”
Amony was later rescued by a UPDF chopper commanded by Brig. Otema Awany. She spent some time at Gulu army barracks before her rehabilitation and final resettlement in the community with her two children. She however says her third child Winnie was taken by the soldiers during attacks in the bush and she is still looking for her missing daughter.
Today Amony told our reporter that life in the bush was challenging though they at times had light moments to share family experiences. She remembers her mother in Law (the mother of Kony) telling her about the birth of her ex-husband Joseph Kony. His mother told her that she was equally puzzled how her son became a war lord. She says her mother in law confided in her with personal stories about Kony’s birth.
“My mother in law told me that giving birth to Kony was easier than her experience with her other children. Kony was a very healthy and peaceful child but later, her child would suddenly have a spirit come upon him.” She adds that her mother in law was a loving woman who also wonders what became of her son.
Kony was born in August 1961in Odek, a village east of Gulu in northern Uganda, to farmers Luizi Kony and Nora Obol. Kony enjoyed a good relationship with his siblings, but was quick to retaliate in a dispute and when confronted he would often resort to physical violence. His father was a lay catechist of the Catholic Church, and his mother was an Anglican. His older sister, Gabriela Lakot, still lives in Odek.
Kony was an altar boy of the church until 1976. He also dropped out of school at the age of 15.
In 1995, Kony came to prominence in Acholiland after the Holy Spirit Movement of Alice Auma (also known as Lakwena and to whom Kony is thought to be related).
Kony was indicted in 2005 for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, but he has evaded capture. Kony has been subject to an Interpol Red Notice at the request of the ICC since 2006. Since the Juba peace talks in 2006, the LRA no longer operate in Uganda.
Kony is still at large, thought to be holed up in the border region of Central Africa and Darfur, and his force is reported to have shrunk to a band of just around 100 fighters. Both the United States and Uganda ended the hunt for Kony and the LRA, believing that the LRA no longer pose a significant security risk to Uganda.