Meeting Joseph Kony
Former Ugandan Minister for Pacification Betty Bigome is one of the main negotiators between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in the north of the country. She first met LRA leader Joseph Kony in 1994 and then again a decade later. She told the IJT about her encounters with one of Africa’s most brutal warlords.
When you meet somebody who is so brutal, the first thing is: so this is the person, so he actually exists. And all the time you’re trying to say, I wish you could open up his brain and try to understand why he does what he does, and the way he does it.
Here’s a man who has killed many people, that has abducted children, who uses girls [who] haven’t even reached puberty as wives. A man that has maimed, amputated limbs. Obviously, he was brutal. You knew very well that it was very easy to get killed.
But you wanted to meet him?
I wanted to end the war desperately. I wanted to stop the deaths, the suffering of the people. I wanted schools to reopen…for people to have access to medical treatment – that was my passion. But it was worth the risk of going into the jungle.
Being from the same area, and being close to the president of Uganda, he felt I could deliver, that I could ensure his security and would not let him down… It did not take him long to start calling me ‘mother’. To me that’s psychologically important in that a mother would not want to hurt her children.