Uganda's most wanted rebel leader on stage

March 2008 -

After 22 years of war, peace is looming for northern Uganda. But it isn't good to think the conflict is completely over yet, warns Tonny Muwangala (25). The actor portrayed the notorious rebel leader Joseph Kony in the show Butterflies of Uganda.


Tonny Muwangala as awe-struck Joseph Kony, watching Rambo on television. Photo: Butterflies of Uganda)

A unique theater show took place in February 2008, in the Ugandan capital Kampala. Butterflies of Uganda tells the story of the conflict in northern Uganda. "A lot of people in the capital hardly know what goes on in the north of this country," says Tonny Muwangala. When I heard about the show, I immediately wanted to play the role of Joseph Kony, because he is a fascinating character."

"I looked at him from an artistic point of view. Playing him was special. The man is such an elevated person. He is someone who commands many others." Kony is the absolute ruler in his 'Lord's Resistance Army', which contains mainly child soldiers. Muwangala: "The directors had interviews with former child soldiers, to get to know as much as possible about how he expresses himself. I talked to aid workers who told me about Kony’s ways. They told me about his habit to suddenly change his moods into fury, after pretending he is not listening at all."

The Ugandan press was laudatory about Tonny's portrayal of Uganda's most hated man. But some spectators had difficulties being confronted. "People started cursing at me when I stepped on stage, some of them were yelling. Most of them liked my performance, but others said they did not want to see me for two weeks in order not to be reminded of him", the actor says smiling.

While the show was on stage in Kampala, peace talks about ending the conflict picked up momentum. In Kampala more and more people are counting on a final peace agreement, to be signed in March 2008. "It is not good to say the war is over yet", 'Kony' warns. "He has violated ceasefires before in the past. The man is intelligent and unpredictable." According to the draft peace treaty, Kony would be publicly tried in Uganda. "If that happens, I will definitely take the chance to see him. It would be fascinating to talk to him. Kony has a serious problem, I think he is sick. But that is no reason to set him free after everything he has done."