Joseph Kony (born c. 1961) is a Ugandan guerrilla group leader, head of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a group engaged in a violent campaign to establish theocratic government based on the Ten Commandments throughout Uganda. The LRA is a militant group with a syncretic Christian extreme religious ideology. They are known for the extreme atrocities they commit against civilians, including murder, mutilations, rape, and in some accounts even cannibalism.
Directed by Kony, the LRA has earned a reputation for its actions against the people of several countries, including northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Sudan. It has abducted and forced an estimated 66,000 children to fight for them, and has forced the internal displacement of over 2 million people since its rebellion began in 1986. In 2005 Kony was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, but has evaded capture.
Originally, Kony's group was called the United Holy Salvation Army (UHSA) and was not perceived as a threat by the NRA. By 1988, it had became a major player in Ugandan affairs: an agreement between the NRA and the Uganda People's Democratic Army left members of the latter group unsatisfied, and many joined the United Holy Salvation Army as a form of rebellion. One such person was Commander Odong Latek, who convinced Kony to use standard military tactics instead of attacking in cross-shaped formations and sprinkling holy water. The new tactics proved successful, and the UHSA delivered several small but stinging defeats against the NRA. After these victories, the NRA responded by significantly weakening Kony's group through political actions and a military campaign named Operation North. The operation was devastating to what would become the Lord's Resistance Army, and with their numbers reduced from thousands to hundreds, they engaged in retaliatory attacks on civilians and NRA collaborators. The LRA say that spirits have been sent to communicate this mission directly to Kony.
The bulk of Kony's foot soldiers were children. Whilst estimates of the number of children conscripted since 1986 vary, some put the figure as high as 104,000. When abducting the children, Kony and his army often killed their family and neighbors, thus leaving the children with little choice but to fight for him.
By 1992 Kony had renamed the group the United Democratic Christian Army and it was at this time that they kidnapped 44 girls from the Sacred Heart Secondary and St. Mary's girls schools.
For a decade starting in the mid-1990s, the LRA was strengthened by military support from the government of Sudan, which was retaliating against Ugandan government support for rebels in what would become South Sudan. Sudan withdrew its support for the LRA shortly after the ICC issued a warrant for Kony's arrest, however.
Kony received a surge of attention in early March 2012 when a thirty-minute documentary titled "Kony 2012" by film maker Jason Russell for the campaign group Invisible Children Inc was released. The intention of the production is to draw attention to Kony in an effort to increase United States involvement in the issue. Michael Geheren, blogger for The Huffington Post, commented: "The 27-minute video was posted on Vimeo and YouTube by Invisible Children and became a worldwide trending topic on the Internet. Personally, I have never seen an outpour of support from people on my Facebook news feed like this."