To Stop a Warlord | Shannon Sedgwick Davis

Summary of: To Stop a Warlord: My Story of Justice, Grace, and the Fight for Peace
By: Shannon Sedgwick Davis


Embark on an enthralling journey through the pages of ‘To Stop a Warlord: My Story of Justice, Grace, and the Fight for Peace’ and discover the tale of Shannon Sedgwick Davis, a human-rights activist determined to capture Joseph Kony and put an end to a brutal war in Uganda. This summary chronicles her efforts alongside collaborator Laren Poole to apprehend Kony and dismantle his guerrilla movement, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Explore the complexities of war, their innovative strategies for undermining Kony’s power, and their relentless pursuit of justice and peace.

Hunting Joseph Kony

A tale of two Americans’ campaign to capture a notorious Ugandan war criminal
In this book, the reader follows the journey of two Americans, Shannon Sedgwick Davis and Laren Poole, in their quest to capture Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan guerilla movement. Davis and Poole strongly believe that capturing Kony is the key to ending a brutal war that broke out in the 1980s. To understand the conflict, the book takes us back to the 1890s, when British colonizers created a series of states, including “Uganda,” named after the Baganda, the powerful southern ethnic group. The Acholi, a pastoral northern minority, were left with exploitative labor and army service. Tensions between the two groups culminated in a guerilla war that pitted northern rebels against the government, with Kony, an Acholi Christian, rising through the ranks of the Holy Spirit Movement (HSM). The HSM aimed to “purify” the Acholi people, and Kony became a trusted general until the movement was defeated in 1987. Kony went on to create the LRA, which waged a war of terror in northern Uganda for over a decade by abducting civilians, including children, to fill their ranks. The conflict spilled over into neighboring countries, with LRA’s atrocities mounting, including forcibly recruiting 300,000 children as soldiers and sex slaves, killing hundreds of thousands and displacing two million civilians. With this background, the reader can understand the stakes involved in Davis and Poole’s hunt for Kony. The book is a gripping account of the intricacies of conflict, the power of belief, and the human cost of war.

The LRA’s Resilience

In 2006, the Ugandan army forced the LRA out of Uganda and brought Joseph Kony to the negotiating table. However, the negotiations took two years and failed to reach a resolution. In the meantime, Kony regrouped, and the LRA resumed its activities, wreaking havoc in Sudan, Congo, and the Central African Republic. In 2008, Ugandan troops joined forces with other countries to launch a strike against Kony’s compound, but the mission failed as Kony had already fled, and the LRA splintered into small and untrackable units. The LRA retaliated by killing 620 civilians and abducting 160 children during the “Christmas Massacres,” leaving the UN helpless. The news of the LRA’s atrocities caught the attention of human rights activist Davis, who realized that Africa’s longest-running conflict needed immediate action.

The Elusive Kony and The LRA Fighters

Dealing with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) may seem simple on paper, but in reality, it is far from easy. Even with an indictment on crimes against humanity, bringing Joseph Kony to trial proved challenging, as the International Criminal Court lacked arresting powers. Furthermore, tracking the LRA was virtually impossible because they operated in ultra-remote regions. Despite UN forces being in the right place at the right time, they still refrained from engaging the fighters due to the LRA’s lethality. The Congolese army, although cash-strapped, was stretched to its breaking point. The situation calls for a different approach.

Saving Lives Through Early Warning Networks

Instead of relying on international peacekeepers, Bridgeway, a non-governmental organization (NGO), took direct action by backing a project proposed by Father Abbé Benoît Kinalegu, a Catholic priest and president of the Congolese Commission for Justice and Peace. The project involved creating “Early Warning Networks” that would allow villages in Congo to share information about the movement of LRA units and evade or prevent attacks on their communities. The HF radios were solar-powered, portable, and easy to hide, making them perfect for the project. Bridgeway teamed up with Invisible Children to raise the funds needed and bought five radios worth $35,000. By October, all five units had been installed in selected villages. The project’s primary purpose was to save lives, but it also had a secondary purpose in helping the victims of LRA violence document its atrocities. The success of this project would make it harder for the international community to ignore the crimes committed by the LRA.

The Birth of a Military Campaign

Davis and Poole opt for a military campaign to stop Kony’s killings and strike a deal with General Aronda to train a special unit to capture him.

The early warning system was effective in collecting data, but it was not enough to stop the attacks of Kony’s soldiers in north-eastern Congo. Davis and Poole wanted to halt the killings and began considering the option of supporting a military campaign. It was uncharted territory for philanthropy, but they had to act fast.

After gaining approval from Bridgeway’s legal department, they met with Colonel Ochora, an expert on the conflict, who introduced them to General Aronda. Davis and Poole explained that the biggest obstacle in stopping Kony was a lack of specialized training and suggested that a special unit be created and trained with the help of Bridgeway’s partner.

Aronda agreed, but pointed out that his forces needed equipment, which Bridgeway pledged to provide. They reached a deal, and the special unit’s mission was to capture Kony. With the wheels now in motion, the only thing left to do was to find the right man to set up and lead the new force.

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