Recently I printed this for a friend who worked on the #Lord’sResistanceArmy disarmament and the capture of #JosephKony for 11 years, much of it spent in the middle of nowhere in Central African Republic. I had forgotten about this image, it shows recent L.R.A defector, Michael Onen, 24, who I photographed the day after his defection at the African Union Ugandan Army base at Obo, Central African Republic. Onen defected after spending 16 years in the L.R.A. He was abducted as a child of 8, taken from his home village in the DR Congo in an L.R.A attack that wiped out most of that village. The scars on his back are as a result of beatings he received from his L.R.A captors early after his capture, most kids that are taken don’t survive the first year. The forced marches, the constant beatings, starvation and harassment, these collective abuses are too much. Michael survived; and then they made him a #sociopath. He says that #Kony lives by instilling fear in his #fighters, re-socializing children into killers who do his bidding. How do you judge someone like Michael? He was involved in attacks on civilians once he became part of the L.R.A but he feels he had no choice, forced to fight as a child, after a while it just became normal. He was watched at all times, escaping was very difficult and after a while, the older fighters became a grotesque family for him.⠀
In recent times the L.R.A has turned its focus to Ivory as a means of income. This has had a devastating effect on elephant populations everywhere they operate. Michael Onen was part of the L.R.A ivory poaching team operating in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Profits from the ivory are used by the LRA for arms and resupply. Thankfully @AfricanParks has done a great job turning things around in #Garamba and they have stabilized their #elephant losses and are protecting them against fierce odds. As for Michael, the last I heard he was absorbed into the Ugandan army in a group that pursues the ever-elusive Kony. That's what happens to most of the guys who defect, it's hard to send them home.