Features

One-man war

"One-man war" Continued...

Issue: "Wealth and poverty," March 14, 2009

Ridout says displaced families struggling to find food and clean water for themselves often take in children they find traveling alone. "I met a 22-year-old man and his young wife who found two children alone as they fled their home at the end of last year," said Ridout. "They carried the children through the forest to a camp and now look after them in their banana leaf hut."

For children without caregivers, groups like World Vision offer food, water, health care, and protection. Ridout says World Vision also provides child-friendly spaces in refugee camps for children to play sports, learn skills, and retreat from the chaos of camp life.

But any retreat from chaos is short-lived. Dozens more refugees arrive daily and LRA attacks on nearby villages continue. Ridout and other World Vision staffers worry that the military offense against the LRA will continue to worsen a miserable humanitarian situation as the LRA retaliates. Still, Holmes of the UN says Uganda, South Sudan, and Congo should finish the operation to destabilize the rebel force: "I don't know how long that will take, but I think there is no point in putting a premature end to it."

In the meantime, Kony remains free, and some local leaders believe the rebel leader intends to drag out the war as long as possible. Joseph Ngere, deputy governor of the South Sudanese state of Western Equatoria, served on a South Sudanese team that attempted to negotiate with Kony for the last two years. Ngere told the BBC that Kony has a "destabilized" mind, and that the rebel embraces violence as a negotiation tactic: "Kony thinks that the strategy of killing civilians will put pressure on the government of South Sudan to reopen the peace talks."

Never-ending peace talks may be just what Kony wants, according to Ngere: "He has much to gain from this strategy. During the talks Kony gets free food and money. His wives and children are transported from Uganda to come and see him. He gets recognition. That is what he wants."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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