On October 14, 2011, President Barack Obama announced that 100 U.S. troops, acting as advisors to the Uganda military, will help in military action against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) — a rebel force roaming northwest Uganda, recruiting child soldiers, committing atrocities, and taking hostages (including slave “wives”) for more than fifteen years.
Information on the origin and nature of the appalling Lord’s Resistance Army is provided here at PJ Media by Harvey Glickman, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Haverford College, who also speculates on the reasons for the recent stepped-up US involvement against it in Uganda. (For more on the LRA see our post The Lord’s army of child slave cannibals, June 14, 2011.)
The LRA’s main goal is to live off the terror it creates. Northwest Uganda, northeast Congo, and southeast Sudan (now divided by the new border with South Sudan) have all seen decades of bloody disorder as the LRA traversed international borders to elude Ugandan troops. At times, the LRA has also attacked in Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Republic of Sudan, and Uganda, committing atrocities in those countries.
The LRA emerged as an atrocity-anarchy mechanism in the mid-1980s. It arose among the long-neglected Acholi people in northern Uganda, whose brief period of ascendancy during the brutal Idi Amin regime was overthrown by the National Resistance Army, led by Yoweri Museveni, in 1986. Museveni parlayed his military success into the presidency and remains there today.
Joseph Kony, a member of the Acholi people originally from Gulu in northern Uganda, founded the LRA, and instigated a rebellion against the Ugandan government in 1986. His ostensible purpose was to establish a theocracy based on orders from God communicated to him via spirits. His method to spread the “Word” encompassed unspeakable atrocities and child abduction, eventually displacing two million people in his rampages through northern Uganda, Congo, and Sudan.
After the September 11 attacks on the United States, the Ugandan military reinterpreted its own measures against the LRA rebellion as part of the global war against terrorism. In 2002 the Uganda parliament passed a Suppression of Terrorism Act. The United States rewarded Uganda’s support for the war in Iraq by restarting a military training and assistance program in 2003. The agreement provided for electronic technology and some direct military assistance, but not weapons. Part of the program was to “win the hearts and minds” of the Acholi people, whose territory within Uganda has been most ravaged by LRA depredations.
By 2003 it was estimated the LRA had 3,000 fighters under arms and 2,000 camp followers, many involuntary. In October 2005, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for five leaders of the LRA, including Kony.
Early in 2010, however, the Ugandan military stated that the LRA was at its weakest point in the past fifteen years. More recently, it claims there are only 200 to 400 soldiers still in the field for the LRA.
So why does the U.S. government pick this moment to get involved?
It turns out that the United States has been involved with this issue for some time. As early as 2003, the United States contributed aid to the Uganda defense budget as part of the expanded struggle against global terrorism. And President Obama has disclosed that since 2008 the United States has helped efforts in the region to protect local people by pursuing the LRA.
U.S. Public Law 111-172 — the “Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009” — was passed by the U.S. Congress on May 24, 2010. The bill, combining national security and humanitarian goals, was sponsored by Senators McCain and Feingold to provide financial and material assistance to Uganda’s counterinsurgency efforts.
But U.S. support for the anti-LRA war has not been an unmitigated success. The National Security Council authorized training and financial support for the December 2008 Operation Lightning Thunder, a joint Uganda-Congolese-South Sudan campaign. This resulted, however, in major casualties among Congolese civilians, with 200,000 people displaced and the LRA escaping to fight another day.
Again the US is invoking R2P – the Responsibility to Protect – as its reason for intervention in a foreign war. It was the reason given for US military intervention in Libya. But if the intention really was to protect civilians, that intervention must be counted as a failure. (See our posts The danger of R2P, March 23, 2011; A siren song from hell, April 1, 2011; NATO bombards civilians in Libya, October 5, 2011.)
There were other reasons for the US and NATO to go to war in Libya, among them the need for European NATO member-states to ensure their access to that country’s oil. And there are surely other reasons for the US to go to war in Uganda.
Somewhat puzzling about the new U.S. deployment “to protect civilians” — as stated by the U.S. Embassy in Kampala on October 17, 2011 — is the fact that the Ugandan army announced that the Kony/LRA problem is no longer a threat in Uganda, but a regional problem. So, apparently the UPDF is joining the U.S. in an African regional conflict. Uganda has been a leader in the African Union’s battle against the al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia, and suffered a retaliatory bombing in Kampala by them in July 2010.
So does this new operation mean a wider U.S. regional military action in East Africa in support, however reluctant, of Kenya’s incursion into Somalia against al-Shabaab? Is this part of an expanded role for AFRICOM, the U.S. military command in Africa? …
Among the possible motives that Glickman considers for more military action by the US in the region, one makes more sense than most:
There is one other possible factor inspiring this new U.S. effort. The geographic areas in which the LRA operates are in the middle of recent discoveries of oilfields. The finds are substantial. Three companies have bought the drilling rights. Heritage sold its interests to Tullow, Tullow sold 30% of its interests to Total and CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corporation, which is state-run). …
The Obama administration’s motives are still not clear. Given this list of possibilities, the way the campaign develops should provide some answers.
We think oil is a very good reason to go to war. It would be an added benefit, greatly to be welcomed, if in the course of such a war the Lord’s Resistance Army were to be destroyed.
Recently seceded from the state of Sudan, South Sudan is to become an independent state on July 9, 2011. The majority of its population is Christian. The north is Muslim. Between the two countries is a disputed oil-rich area where the Muslims are attacking the Christians.
According to the following report by Faith J.H.McDonnell, they are also using proxy forces, notably the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), to attack the western region of South Sudan.
The Lord’s Resistance Army is so atrocious a thing that no words – “atrocious”, “evil” – seem strong enough to convey how evil it is.
The LRA is a Northern Ugandan rebel group led by the now-middle-aged madman Joseph Kony. For over twenty-five years it has been abducting children, and so brutalizing them that they become mindless killing machines. It has used these children to kill hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children in Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan, and more recently, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. By 2006, the LRA had abducted over 50,000 children to make child soldiers and sex slaves. …
Escaped child soldiers and other LRA abductees frequently have reported seeing Sudan Armed Forces trucks during their time in captivity … delivering food, weapons, and uniforms to LRA commanders. And in recent days, the LRA has teamed up with the Janjaweed, the killers in Darfur, receiving training and weapons at Islamic camps that have been set up there. For although some (usually secular elites, hostile to Christianity) refer to Kony as a “Christian,” his current belief system is a combination of the demonic and Islam.
Kony claims he is possessed by “spirits”. Possession by spirits and Islam – that’s demonic squared!
Details of horrific acts … have been repeated in villages all over East Africa since Kony began taking children in 1986, to ensure himself an ever-replenished army of boys and girls, some as young as five or six years old. …
The rebels gathered all the children together and started killing people right in front of their eyes. They forced the children to kill their own parents. After the slaughter, the boys had to carry large metal barrels, and the girls had to fetch water to fill the barrels. They built fires around the barrels, and while the water was heating up, the children were forced to hack up their parents and fellow children’s bodies and throw their dismembered parts in the boiling water. After some time, the children were then made to eat the flesh. In this way the LRA commanders knew that the children were so traumatized that they would do anything. They would not try to run away because there was nowhere and no one left to which to run.
That’s what happened. The children were forced to cook and eat their own parents. Behold Africa in the 21st century. Still the heart of darkness.
Why are the Muslims using the LRA to destabilize South Sudan?
They are targeting Western Equatoria State, which borders Uganda, because it is so fertile, and has the potential to be the breadbasket for the region. If it is destabilized, it will affect the food supply of the country, as well as lessening the possibilities of profitable commercial agriculture. Khartoum’s proxy militia is also targeting it because it is a strong Christian community. …
The people of Western Equatoria … have always been extremely self-sufficient… Now people are abandoning their homes and attempting to find shelter in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. …
The Equatorians do not want to be dependent on NGOs and the U.N. for their existence. At present they are trying to provide their own security with “arrow boys,” young men armed with nothing but homemade bows and arrows who protect against the well-armed LRA. They want the government to supply them with real arms, but there is little chance of that taking place if only for the reason that the Government of South Sudan is well aware that it is under scrutiny by the global community, and it is always held to a higher standard than the Islamists in Khartoum.
Can this really be true? Is defense with arms now held by “the global community” to be impermissible? Well yes, for some it is – Israel, for instance.
What is really needed to help the people of Western Equatoria State as Khartoum wages its proxy war against them via the LRA is the full implementation of U.S. law found in the “Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act” of 2010. In this legislation, which was heartily supported on both sides of the aisle, Congress required the U.S. government to develop a regional strategy supporting multilateral efforts to stop the LRA. The president was to report on the creation of that strategy within six months of the act’s passage.
In November 2010, the Obama administration presented its strategy. The four major objectives were: protect civilians, apprehend Kony and senior commanders, promote the defection and disarmament of LRA fighters (remember these were abducted children), and increase humanitarian access to the region.
A fine strategy that was not implemented. The author of the report has this opinion:
Ending Khartoum’s proxy war on South Sudan would cost far less than our continual bombing of Libya, or our largess to President Mubarak’s successors in Egypt, or our unending jizya to the Palestinian Authority. And in this case, we actually would know that in helping the people of South Sudan we were helping true friends and allies in the fight for secular democracy and religious freedom.
Religious freedom? Freedom from religion is what’s needed. There would still be a struggle for control of oil fields, and men like Joseph Kony would still brutalize and kill for the joy of it. But one persistent excuse for the infliction of massive human suffering would be gone.