Michael Gerson

WASHINGTON -- A friend, the head of a major aid organization, tells of how his workers in eastern Congo a few years ago chanced upon a group of shell-shocked women and children in the bush. A militia had kidnapped a number of families and forced the women to kill their husbands with machetes, under the threat that their sons and daughters would be murdered if they refused. Afterward the women were raped by more than 100 soldiers; the children were spectators at their own, private genocide.

This is ultimately the work and trademark of a single man: Joseph Kony, the most carnivorous killer since Idi Amin. As the military and spiritual leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Kony is a combination of serial murderer and cult leader. He raises armies of captured boys, who are often forced to kill their neighbors and engage in cannibalism to sever all their ties of community and conscience. Girls are kidnapped into sexual and domestic slavery. Kony has a messiah complex -- all must prostrate themselves in his presence -- but he is a messiah in reverse, who sheds his humanity instead of assuming it.

After a decade-long campaign of intimidation in northern Uganda that displaced more than 1.5 million people into camps, Kony finally seemed to be cornered and running out of options. Chased into the Garamba National Park of northeastern Congo, Kony's emissaries entered peace talks two years ago and promised demobilization.

A peace agreement ceremony was set for April 10 in the Sudanese town of Ri-Kwangba near the Congo border. Hundreds of delegates, journalists and observers arrived. But after a series of confused excuses -- too many people, not enough security -- it became clear that Kony had no intention of showing up or giving up. "The people speaking for Kony, it turned out, weren't speaking for Kony at all," says a frustrated U.S. official.

In fact, Kony has used the peace-negotiation lull to rebuild his power. He has issued orders to abduct 1,000 new "recruits" from Congo, the Central African Republic and south Sudan. Since late February, he has begun training between 200 and 300 kidnapped children at a camp in northeastern Congo. Agents of the LRA in the region have supplied satellite phones, tents, generators and uniforms. LRA forces have dug up weapons caches, attacked barracks in south Sudan to obtain weapons, and established at least six new bases along the Sudanese border.

Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on issues that include politics, global health, development, religion and foreign policy. Michael Gerson is the author of the book "Heroic Conservatism" and a contributor to Newsweek magazine.
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