The Real Rebels of Congo: Searching for Joseph Kony and M23 (Full Documentary)

The Real Rebels of Congo: Searching for Joseph Kony and M23 (Full Documentary)

January 13, 2020 100 By Kailee Schamberger


THOMAS MORTON: You notice the
soil here is super dark, and that is because in addition to
being surrounded by rebel groups, Goma also sits at the
base of an active volcano. Even from the land up, this
area is just in a constant state of That woman’s shirt says
Vagina Warrior. Goma’s the capitol city of the
North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo,
and is situation in one of the world’s worst geopolitical
neighborhoods. To the southeast, there’s the
Rwandan border, which largely consists of mountain jungles
through which scores of Hutu militants passed in the wake of
the 1994 Rwandan genocide, fleeing the revenge of President
Paul Kagame’s newly elected Tutsi government for
their role in the massacre. This armed migration directly
contributed to the escalation of the First and Second Congo
Wars, in which an estimated 5 million people lost
their lives. It was also through this
transportation corridor that the Lord’s Resistance Army,
led by the infamous Joseph Kony, crossed the border from
Uganda and drove deep into the heart of the Congo. While “Kony 2012” drew a lot
of criticism for being less than diligent when it came to
framing the quote unquote “facts” the documentary cited,
what it did reveal is that the best way to reach jungle-bound
dissidents wasn’t through social media, but through
good, old fashioned psychological operations– mostly in the tried and true
forms of leaflet drops and radio broadcasts. -We don’t benefit anything
if we lie to you. We want to make sure
you see the facts. And I’m sure you’re going to
decide to enter the DDR process voluntarily. THOMAS MORTON: So when the
United Nations extended an invitation to embed with their
operation in several locations across the country, our
team gladly accepted. IAN ROWE: DDR is the
Desarmement, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reinsertion, and
Reintegration Program. The focus of the program is on
foreign commands that are operating in the Congo. There’s national reintegration
programs which take over and facilitate their reinsertion
into their communities of origin. The main approach that DDRRR
has for trying to convince voluntary surrenders for
subsequent repatriation is by radio sensitization. This involves using radio
messages over FM networks. THOMAS MORTON: FM
Uruguay 106.7. Siempre presente
only the hits. All rock, no talk. -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] IAN ROWE: There’s messages
calling for them to lay down their weapons and return home. It lets them know that it is
still possible to go home. THOMAS MORTON: Um-hm. IAN ROWE: Hope is not lost. Their families will be waiting
for them and there’s programs that will help them reinsert
into their society. -This is one of our camps,
the transit camp. And in this camp, we feed
them three times a day. We provide them lodging, not
this best one that you may think about, because we want
to keep that temporarily so that they can go back
to their country. We also give them access to
telephone so that they can call their friends, relatives,
and loved ones. -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -Now, I will like to invite
Mr. [INAUDIBLE] to address the ceremony. THOMAS MORTON: Oh,
that’s cool. I guess it’s supposed to
represent peace of some sort, but it kind of looks like one
of those evil war birds from Pink Floyd’s The Wall. So we’re out on MONUSCO Base,
the far eastern side, right on the border with Rwanda
and Uganda. There’s a whole bunch of rebel
groups that kind of mix and merge and cross borders and
take over this place. It’s a real mess. The one most people know about,
the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, are kind of the
most notorious for their tactics, for using child
soldiers, for abducting people, for setting
entire churches full of folks on fire. There’s another group called
the M23, and are actually officially about 20 or 40
kilometers outside the city center, but we’ve heard
closer to 10. These wars have been going on
since the ’90s in different little spurts. It’s basically a permanent
state of war for the Congolese people. It just varies, who they’re
fighting, at any one given time of the day. And so we’re going to go with a
little patrol, hopefully not get shot at. -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: We got into
Goma this morning. We just hooked up with a troop
of Uruguay and UN soldiers who are going to give us a little
tour of the city– see what a town that’s basically
spent 20 years at siege of rebel warfare
looks like Besides the fragmented Lord’s
Resistance Army, the Democratic Republic of Congo
is also home to militant groups such as the Mai-Mai, the
Raia Mutomboki, and the Democratic Forces for the
Liberation of Rwanda. But the greatest threat to
regional stability could very well be a group known as M23. Led by Bosco Ntaganda,
affectionately known by his troops as the Terminator, M23
mostly consists of Congolese Tutsis who defected from the
army last April after alleging that the government in Kinshasa
had violated peace accords signed on March 23,
2009, in which members of the now defunct CNDP were be
absorbed into the country’s regular army, the FRDC. The battle between M23 and
government troops has raged so wildly that the United Nations
has been forced to divert troops and resources sorely
needed elsewhere in the country in order to get the
government in Kinshasa a fighting chance. This, in turn, has created a
security vacuum in which many of the armed groups in the area
have rushed in to fill while reigniting the cycle of
old tribal conflicts that were never really stamped out
in the first place. These ethnic and geopolitical
tensions are, in turn, exacerbating an already raging
fight between local militias to control the illicit mining
of cassiterite, wolframite, and coltan, minerals essential
to the manufacturing of everything from smartphones
to jet engines to airbags. Complicating matters further, it
is widely believed that M23 is receiving aid from
the governments of Rwanda and Uganda. And it has been reported that
the FDRC has approached the Hutu Mai-Mai for aid in fighting
the largely Tutsi M23, background information
largely omitted when President Obama ordered 100 US Special
Forces to support regional powers in their search for our
favorite madman of Facebook. BARACK OBAMA: And when the
Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, continued its
atrocities in Central Africa, I ordered a small number of
American advisers to help Uganda and its neighbors
pursue the LRA. THOMAS MORTON: So I’m not a big
fan of the UN, in general. The track record has
been spotty for all the 65, 67 years. They’re famous for bringing
the sex trade. It’s basically anywhere
they set up shop. As our team’s tank patrol
policed the streets of Goma’s poorest neighborhoods, as well
as power plants, airstrips, and crossroads– the kind of places a rebel army
would likely attack– it became clear the UN troops
were not preparing for a jungle assault, but for a
potential attack by M23 on Goma itself. So obviously, the UN’s here,
on what they describe as a peacekeeping mission. They’re supposed to mediate
between all the different rebel groups and end the
factions of army. There’s different sections. The Congolese army, the Rwandan
army, and the Ugandan armies do come in here. So it’s supposed to be,
basically, the babysitter, the grown-ups here. At the time, you’re in a tank
and they’re soldiers. Little boy’s like it, but it
makes it feel kind of a little weird, like you’re in
an occupying army. I can’t help but notice we’ve
only really been in town. And it’s kind of weird just
to do a city patrol. It’s almost more like you’re
policing the local population than on the lookout
for rebel groups. Maybe there’s something to be
said for trying to convince locals not to go take
up arms with M23. In the weeks that followed our
initial visit to Goma, skirmishes between M23,
Congolese troops, and the UN increased with regularity
at strategic locations surrounding the city, with
rebels even beginning to attack food, fuel, and supply
convoys into town. Later, the UN invited our team
to visit a camp in Goma set up to house rebel combatants who
had recent surrendered to both the UN and FDRC. IAN ROWE: When escapees do come
out, they’re typically, at the moment, received by a
community member that they perhaps cross in the road, or in
the jungle, on their route, or something like that, and
brought to the FRDC or to our military camp, where they’ll
be kept in our transit camp for maximum a week, within
in which time they’ll be processed in terms of getting
their information, details, start doing the tracing
for their families. We make contact with the Amnesty
Commission in Uganda. And our counterparts in
Entebbe-Kampala will meet us at the airport and we’ll do a
hand-over, after which they’ll be reintegrated via whatever
systems Uganda has in place. -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] IAN ROWE: From the women that
have been abducted and kept as bush wives, oftentimes the
reason that they’re released is because they’ve been slowing
down the LRA group that they’re associated with. And so the fighters in the group
made the decision that, for the purposes of allowing
them to be more rapid moving, they would release these
women and children. THOMAS MORTON: Now, when you
say bush wives, that’s a polite way of saying, like,
sex slave, basically. IAN ROWE: Yes. These are women that have been
abducted and used for sex as porters, all these most negative
kind of uses that you could enumerate. THOMAS MORTON: Built on the
ruins of a home previously belonging to deposed Congolese
dictator Joseph Mobutu, the camp was split along ethnic and
administrative lines with only a chain-link fence
separating Hutu and Tutsi fighters, who out in the bush
had been spilling each other’s blood by the bucket
for decades. The camp in Goma’s indicative
of the DRC’s confusing geopolitical turmoil. Combatants staying at the campus
must first surrender and hand over their weapons to
UN or government troops, after which they are processed
and held for 72 hours. A portion of the residents are
from Rwanda, from which they fled to the DRC, joined a
militia, became hired guns, and now want to return home. Other campers are Congolese who
fought with local Hutu and Tutsi militias before
surrendering. But there is also a contingent
of Rwandan farmers who pose as ex-rebels in order to hitch a
free ride with the UN back across the boarder. To determine their status and
surmise their identities and countries of origin, they’re
quizzed on local facts and subjected to fingerprinting
and retinal scans. The camp is an element of a UN
program designed to transform rebels into civilians,
reintegrating them back into society, or what’s left of it. As the camp’s public information
officer, Sam Howard, gave us a walking tour
of the side of the camp where some M23 fighters were housed,
it became apparent that no one from the UN wanted to talk to
our team about the confusing three-way battle raging between
the M23 mutineers, the UN, and the FDRC. They were, however, more than
happy to discuss other arm groups that are now less active,
such as Joseph Kony and his LRA fighters– just not the real rebels
standing next to us. The crumbling security situation
in North Kivu has forced the hand of the UN and
sparked a massive reallocation of UN assets to Goma
from places like Dungu, Duru, and Bangadi. In the Orientale Province,
places where the LRA were, and to some degree, still
are active. THOMAS MORTON: The village of
Dungu sits beside the quiet Uele River. The ruin of a Belgian Colonial
castle faces become Kabali Hydroelectric Power Plant, which
has been defunct for nearly three decades now. Beginning in September, 2008,
the Lord’s Resistance Army launched a series of brutal
attacks in Dungu, kidnapping dozens, killing hundreds,
and displacing an estimated 87,000 people. In an unusual display of
brutality, the LRA fighters put aside their usual AK-47s
and RPGs in favor of the machete and club. This brutality is still being
felt in the damage to the area’s already fragile
infrastructure. And with no standing power grid
or mobile phone network, the only reliable method of mass
communication are the FM radio transmitters
made available by the UN’s DDRRR program. -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Our team first
saw examples of the UN PSYOPS flyers with Sam Howard back at
the transit camp in Goma. Each contain instructions in
several languages directing LRA and other rebel combatants
on the correction procedure for safely surrendering
for repatriation. First, if you find a flyer,
look for the correction FM radio station to tune into
for instructions of where you can surrender. Next, when the LRA goes to bed,
make your escape under the cover of darkness. Third, surrender to the UN,
FDRC, or another approved African Union Force. And finally, you will be
reunited with your strangely Asian-looking family. THOMAS MORTON: It’s all
just LRA, right? That’s the dominant group. THOMAS MORTON: Would just
leave the woods. THOMAS MORTON: Right. CAESAR ACELLEM:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] CHEIF MARC:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] CHEIF MARC:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: The question
just was have their communities been affected
by the LRA before working with DDR? Just how have the
been affected? -Of course they’re
been affected. -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] IAN ROWE: The escapees that come
out, they’re obviously very tentative when
they come out. THOMAS MORTON: M-hm. IAN ROWE: Because in the past,
the reaction from the community, the affected
communities, the ones that they’ve attacked or terrorized
in the past, their first reaction is to kill them. THOMAS MORTON: The next morning,
our team awoke before dawn to take a 30-minute
helicopter flight to Bangadi, an area where the LRA has been
and, to some degree, are still very active. -So how long are you
going to stay? THOMAS MORTON: I think we talked
about being picked up at 13:20. -You must know the
timing, also. THOMAS MORTON: OK. -So I will be arriving
here at 13:20. THOMAS MORTON: Yeah, OK. -Before that, I’ll expect that
you finish your job and come back here by 1:20. -Yeah, as soon as we finish
the [INAUDIBLE]. -OK? Because you should not be like
that, because I’m coming, waiting, and you’re not there. OK? -I know, of course. -Because time is calculated
like that. And we follow the datas. -Thanks. THOMAS MORTON: Our team made our
way into Bangadi Center, where Tahir, our DDR man in
Orientale, had arranged for us to meet with community leaders
and get a better sense of the current situation
on the ground. -We have to go over
there, yeah? -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] JEAN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] Welcome, welcome. THOMAS MORTON: Thank you. JEAN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] BARACK OBAMA: Finally,
never again is a challenge tenacious. It’s a bitter truth. Too often the world has failed
to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale. And we are haunted
by the atrocities that we did not stop. THOMAS MORTON: What was it
like before the camp? Were there UN soldiers? Was there any sort
of presence? -No. No. THOMAS MORTON: Defensive
presence? No. THOMAS MORTON: Mhm. THOMAS MORTON: Even
though it’s Congo? DANIEL: Yes. Yes. THOMAS MORTON: They
were over here. THOMAS MORTON: Further evidence
of LRA movement could be found in trail markers that
the under-equipped rebels have been using to communicate
information between their small groups. JEAN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] JEAN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Mhm. JEAN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Mhm. JEAN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] JOSEPH:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] JEAN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Interested in
hearing a firsthand account of the LRA’s snatch and grab
tactics in the area, our UN handlers arranged for us to meet
Bolobo, a young man who had been abducted by the LRA as
a teenager, at one point, had come face to face with
the elusive Joseph Kony. BOLOBO:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] BOLOBO:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] BOLOBO:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] IAN ROWE: The amnesty law that
used to allow those that came out of the LRA voluntarily
a degree of amnesty has now been removed. And so that’s another issue
which has also been brought to the fore. This has effectively removed the
best incentive we have in trying to encourage LRA
combatants to come out. -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] JEAN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Mhm. So just in the middle
of the road. Did you bury them after that? JEAN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]? JEAN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: For the purposes
of kind of disarming these people and getting them
to surrender, this ain’t helping, you know? European-style colonialism first
made its way into the Congo in 1876, after famed
explorer Henry Stanley, employed by Leopold II of
Belgium, forced tribal chiefs to sign treaties at gunpoint
that essentially granted all of their land rights to
the European monarch. Until 1908, Leopold ran the
Congo as the Congo-Free State, a private corporation
with him as the sole shareholder and as chairman. It soon became clear that the
corporation’s profits were built on a brutal occupation
of the local people and plunder of the Congo’s
natural resources– namely, rubber. In 1965, following a series of
coups that ended the relative stability of the newly
independent nation, Laurent Mobutu seized control of the
state, changed the country’s name to Zaire, and for over 30
years, lead a brutal regime built on Mobutu’s own
cult of personality. By way of example, under Mobutu
in a children’s school, Ronald Reagan would have
been referred to as the American Mobutu. In May, 1997, Laurent Desire
Kabila, father of the DRC’s current executive Joseph
Kabila, ascended to the presidency of Zaire and changed
the country’s name, yet again, to the Democratic
Republic of Congo. Kabila the elder achieved this
regime change through a rebellion backed by Rwanda and
which included a grand march from the Kivus across 1,000
miles of some of the world’s densest jungle– the same feat now threatened
by the rebels of M23. IAN ROWE: There’s a very big
difference from the work that DDR does in the Kivus
to the work that they do in Orientale. Whereas in the Kivus, most of
the combatants that we’re trying to reach are more
easily reachable. There’s a mobile network
system here. There’s the possibility to reach
out and discuss and try to negotiate with people
to come in. That doesn’t exist
in Orientale. Up there, you’re in the
middle of the jungle. There’s no more mobile
network. There’s no contact with anybody
within the LRA. There’s no peace agreement. So much of the work is based
a lot on the belief and the faith that the message is
getting through them. There’s now a new African Union
initiative to implement a strategy towards countering
the LRA problem. We also use our troops
on the ground when they do their patrols. So we make a point of having
only armed elements doing that, whether it’s from
our side or the FRDC. THOMAS MORTON: During the
patrol, we had persuaded the convoy to drop our team off in
Duru, a village hit hard by the LRA’s 2008 Dungu
Offensive. It is also where, according to
local rumors, a small band of fighters have been recently
raiding local farms. There goes our convoy. There’s American J-Op Special
Forces here who are being a little bit cagey about
what they’re doing. They just took off all of their
insignia before crossing into South Sudan, including
their little flag patch, which seems a little intriguing. There was a national policemen
from Burkina Faso. He confirmed what we have kind
of been picking up on this whole time. The LRA’s weak and dead
at this point. I think it’s kind
of hype-driven. I think the Kony 2012 Facebook
campaign thing has sort of swayed foreign policy towards
sending troops here instead of somewhere like Goma, where
there’s a huge buildup of M23 troops, which is basically where
we’re kind of needed down here, instead of pursuing
this dead, sort of starving army of 400 people who
only attack, at this point, to get food. We’ll hang out here and see
how people are doing four years after the massacre. CHIEF CLAUDE:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Go talk to them
and see what the LRA’s looking like these days. We’ve heard it isn’t so hot. OYO DIEUDONNE:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MARTIN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] CHIEF PAUL:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MARTIN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] CHIEF PAUL:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MARTIN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] CHIEF PAUL:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MARTIN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] CHIEF PAUL:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MARTIN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] CHIEF PAUL:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MARTIN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] CHIEF PAUL:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Martin circled
the LRA encampment at a safe distance and waited for
the moon to rise. After his first shot rang out
across the night sky, the LRA men, lulled into a false sense
of comfort, laid down their weapons and promptly
went to sleep. After the promised knock against
the tree echoed in the darkness, Martin’s son fled. And the pair made their way
safely back to the village. THOMAS MORTON: Right. THOMAS MORTON: Right. MARTIN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] CHRISTIAN KILUNDU: They
saw a yellow paper. And these guys, they tried
to read that then. They got we through the paper
and they just read it. And then they throw. And then they said– [LAUGHING] THOMAS MORTON: That’s
pretty definitive. Almost everywhere we went, our
team seemed to encounter conflicting opinions regarding
the reallocation of troops and equipment across the country. Regions where the LRA were
still active feared the security vacuum the had been
left in by the UN and FDRC movement of troops in support
of the Kivus. Back in the Kivus, for fear of
showing of their hand to M23, officials chose to focus on
operations in provinces like Orientale while seemingly
ignoring the wolf at their doorstep. It seems that both fears
were well-founded. I just walk back over
every piece. It’s funny. I was expecting to see one in
the dog’s mouth, and the little kid’s. OK. You ready? Morning. We’re out looking for hippos
before our flight. We’re leaving town today. No hippos so far. I think they might still be
in the grass, which is disappointing, but also kind
of an apt metaphor for the LRA up here. One thing that’s sort of
becoming clear, especially seeing all the NGOs here, all
the UN presence, all the different agencies, Invisible
Children are a good organization, despite the fact
that “Kony 2012” is a fucked up piece of shit. And there’s this attitude that
you see with all sorts of NGOs, that they have, you know,
a very narrow focus. They’re focused on one issue in
a region, which is the way you do things. You concentrate, and
you specialize. But in an area as complex
as Eastern Congo, where everything’s connected, you
focus your troops up in the north, where the LRA is. You beat them in a manner of
speaking, but all they’ve really done is, as I keep
saying, atomize the troops. They split off into little
groups of one and three. They hid in the bush. And now taking them down as
a force is going to be impossible. It’s going to take years
and years and years. These guys are going
to stay here, and they’ve reverted to banditry. At the same time, the groups in
the South, like the Mai-Mai and the M23, have taken
advantage of the focus of attention on LRA to build
up their forces. Now, they’re a major threat
to the Lake Kivu area. BOUDOUIN NGARUYE:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] BENJAMIN MBONIMPA:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Day by day, we
can solve one piece at a time. And there’s no real
way to do that. Solutions will come. The situation will improve
eventually. But this is 20 years of war. That shit lingers. People take it in. And it becomes part
of their lives. War and retribution and the
cycles that are continuing to make it worse are a
part of life here. This camp’s going to be
here for a while. These soldiers are all going
to be here for a while. People are going to be fighting
and dying for a long fucking time, no matter
how many people sign a Facebook petition. [TROOPS CHANTING]