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Three years later, on Christmas Day 2008, Kony led his troops on a vengeful rampage in Congo’s Garamba National Park, clubbing and hacking dozens of civilians to death and burning their villages to the ground. And sometimes the hunt for Kony feels like the hunt for a ghost. Joseph Balikuddembe, the bright-eyed commander of Operation Lightning Thunder, is determined to catch his prey.“He can always hide, but he can’t disappear completely. His days are numbered,” he told me earlier this month when I traveled with his troops for a part of the manhunt.Eventually, however, the warlord’s insurgency lost steam, and Kony turned on his own people, accusing them of sinning against God.As punishment, Kony and his commanders have cut off the lips, noses, and ears of victims; he has forced abducted children to murder their own families to ensure loyalty; and he has killed those who disobeyed orders.
“That’s what I remember.”The most remote American base is a small cluster of mud huts with thatched roofs in an outpost called Jemma, a place Kidega describes as “the front line” against the LRA. They ask him how many tracking squads are on the move and what their coordinates are, and they chart them on a map.
It sparked outrage—and renewed pledges to bring Kony to justice.
Later this month, the African Union will bring another 5,000 troops from the armies of South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Congo to help the Ugandans in their hunt, now in its 25th year.
Keep up with this story and more The hunt for Kony, known as Operation Lightning Thunder, now takes place across four countries and involves several thousand troops, at least 100 of them American.
The warlord got international attention after a 30-minute video on him produced by the American NGO Invisible Children became a viral You Tube phenomenon last month, drawing more than 87.5 million views.
LRA rebels dig up wild yams or eat the berries found inside the hardened shells of the talakijing tree.