Evelyn Amony |
Abducted when she was 11 years old, Evelyn Amony spent more than a decade at the brutal LRA leader’s side. In her new book, she recounts her past
Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army abducted Evelyn Amony a few months before she turned 12 years old, in August 1994. Trained as a child soldier by the rebel leader and now indicted war criminal, Amony was raped by Kony at 14, and told that she had become his wife.
Amony spent 11 years with Kony in Uganda as one of his more than 60 wives. She gave birth to three of his daughters while he waged a campaign of destruction against local populations in the country’s north-west.
In the following excerpt from her new book, she recalls how a bushfire took the lives of Kony’s favourite wife, Fatima, and her son, also called Kony. Amony describes how she had to coax the guerrilla leader from the brink of suicide, knowing the remaining wives and children would have little chance of surviving without him.
In 2002, Ladit [a term of respect for Kony] separated his wives and children into different groups. He left our children and me in the Isore Mountains to do farm work.
In December, Kony returned and told us to stop what we were doing because he had learned that the government of Uganda had a new plan to attack us. Kony told us to prepare to return to Rubangatek in Sudan, but as I rushed to do so I fell down, and my knee was dislocated. I could not walk, so Kony decided we would spend one more night where we were.
The following day, it was Dominic Ongwen [one of the commanders presently in the Hague charged with war crimes] who carried me. I begged Kony to leave me behind, but he would not accept my request. We crossed Pajong Road, and we slept again for three nights, hoping that my knee would be OK to walk on.
Strange things started to happen. By Christmas Day we had become lost in the forests. We crossed a river, but before long we had turned around and found ourselves once more at Pajong Road. Suddenly there was fire everywhere, blocking us from moving ahead or tracing our movements behind. Kony radio-called to Fatima [another of his wives] to tell her that we would join them later on as it had become too difficult to pass.
After the call, Kony started speaking strangely. He insisted that I cook for him. As we began to move, he insisted he be the one to carry [our daughter] Bakita. He had never carried Bakita before, yet he put her on his shoulders. He said, “[Evelyn], I have named Bakita after Fatima. Our daughter is the one that will remain, while Fatima will not. Bakita will replace Fatima.”
Kony disappeared with Bakita, insisting we remain behind to cook. After cooking, we began following him slowly. The boys told me stories to distract me, because I was still in a great deal of pain.
As we drew closer to Rubangatek, we heard someone sounding an alarm. At first we thought it was to welcome Kony, but then [we] could smell the smoke. As we moved closer, we saw Kony sitting alone. We did not ask him or any of his escorts what had happened but could see their mood had changed.
One of Kony and Fatima’s eldest sons ran up to me and said, “Mummy, everyone has burned to death!” I asked the child what had happened, and he said that a wildfire had spread so fast it had burned everyone in its path.
A commander came and ordered everyone to sit down in a line. They started counting people, and when they reached me, they told me to pack my bag and go to Kony. When I reached Kony, he told me that his wives and children were badly [burned] and that I should go and see what I could do to save them. He told me to take toothpaste and smear it on their wounds.
When I reached them, the site was shocking. One of Kony’s younger sons was severely burned. He could no longer see, but he could talk. We carried him to a mattress as he cried. As we began to wash his body with water, he died. The sight of his burned body will remain in my mind forever.
Fatima was dead. The boy kept asking, “Who will be my mother? My mother is dead!” He kept crying and shouting. I tried to soothe him, and at the same time I asked him to show me where his mother lay; I thought perhaps she was still alive and he was just in shock.
The boy took me to the body of Fatima. The only part of her body that was recognizable was her fingernails on one hand. She was holding her ear on the side of her head. Her face was not recognisable.
In the morning, we began to bury the dead. In total, three wives, nine children, and an escort had died.
Everyone feared staying near Kony during this time. They thought he would do something bad. Some thought that he would shoot people. Others thought that he would shoot himself. This was the time I was closest to him. Kony did not want me to leave his side. Some people said that Kony might kill me and then commit suicide. I was not afraid of him. I thought that if he wants to kill me, let him kill me.
Even the rebel commanders were scared to go near Kony. His officers removed all the guns from his compound. He would ask for his pistol endlessly. He asked me to search for another pistol. I tried, but not seriously. I told him I could not find one.
One day Kony called me to him and started to talk to me. He told me how he was so sad that his wife Fatima was dead. He said his youngest son named Kony – who was also Fatima’s youngest son – should have been the one to succeed him when he dies. He said he loved his son very much. He said that his son Kony was his most beloved son and he trusted him very much, but God had separated them, so he just wanted to end his life.
Kony said that the only thing that prevented him from doing so was that he knew he had many children he would leave behind and that if he died, there would be no one to take care of them.
He asked how he would care for his children now that Fatima was gone. I told him, “Kony, if you leave us, the future for all these people will be lost. If you are not around, you will never have another child, but if you choose to live, you can have a new child whom you can name Kony.” Ladit said that even if he were to have another son named Kony, he would not love him in the same way he loved his first son.
I then told him, “If you die because of your wife and son, then you may as well kill everyone in the bush. They are here because of you. If you kill yourself, it is as good as killing all of them. No one here is capable of leading us home.”
That day Kony told me to make him tea and juice. Kony said that everything in this world happens for a reason. He told me that he was not going to shoot me; he believed that I loved him and that I was strong. He said it is hard to be a prophet. He said that God had tempted him. We talked a lot. He said that one day we would overthrow the government and live a good life and that I would be the first wife in his home because I did not leave him when he was going through such a difficult time. He said he would try his best to take care of me so that my future would be bright. He said to have hope.
This was the time that I was close to Kony. I told him of my hope to return home to Uganda with the children. The rebels were releasing their wives at this time because the war had become so intense. Kony said that he was going to release all of his wives to return home. He said that he was going to remain in the bush with only men.
I became happy.
I thought he would release us and allow us to return home.
Excerpted from I Am Evelyn Amony: Reclaiming My Life from the Lord’s Resistance Army, edited with an introduction by Erin Baines (University of Wisconsin Press). © 2015 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. Available now