Children sired by Lord’s Resistance Army rebel leader Joseph Kony have formed a WhatsApp group to maintain their family ties.
The children numbering 40, reportedly aged between 14 to 23 were born by 67 different mothers, many of them teenagers who were kidnapped and held in captivity by the LRA. It is widely cited that Kony has anywhere between 50 and 100 wives, all of whom have been abducted and forced into a life of sexual slavery by the LRA leader and his top commanders.
Jackie Atingo, a Research Consultant on Justice security who has been exploring the dynamics of return and reintegration in Acholi sub-region in collaboration with London School of Economics says that the children, many of them scattered within Northern Uganda started the group with a view of keeping the family connection and stay close contact with one another.
Atingo who preferred to keep details of the children confidential for fear of stigma and breach of their privacy said that through the forum, the children discuss matters that relate to them, socialize and trace their other siblings.
Arthur Owor, an official with the Centre for African Research in Gulu argued that many of Kony’s children have already returned from captivity and have been accepted by the Acholi community after denouncing rebellion.
Owor appealed to the public to look at the initiative of children of setting up a social platform positively as they also have rights to freedoms, expression and association like any other Ugandan.
Maj Caesar Olweny, the Uganda People’s Defense Force – UPDF 4th Division Infantry Information Officer explains that the children must enjoy the freedom to associate because they were never part of the atrocities committed by their father during the two decades of war in Northern Uganda.
Olweny warned that such platforms will only attract security concern if it is abused for political mobilization geared towards destabilizing peace, security and stability of Ugandans.
Born in early 1961 into an Acholi peasant family in Odek sub-county, present-day Omoro district, Kony and his LRA group have been accused of committing atrocities which include killing, abducting and displacing communities in northern Uganda. Kony was indicted in 2005 by the International Criminal Court- ICC for 12 counts of crimes against humanity and 21 counts of war crimes.