Source: The DePaulia
This Nov. 12, 2006 file photo shows the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony. The ruthless African bush fighter that some 100 U.S. military advisers will soon help hunt down was almost caught by Ugandan troops earlier this month, a military official said.
In recent weeks, President Obama announced he would be sending 100 military advisors into Uganda. The personnel will be on the ground to « provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield, » Obama wrote recently in a letter addressed to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
This does not mean that the U.S. is sending combat troops to fight in war, nor does it mean that President Obama called for this deployment without the approval of Congress.
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) spoke on the Senate floor Monday reminding his colleagues of a bill they passed in May of 2010, titled The LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.
« I don’t often stand behind this president, » the Republican senator said. « But I do in this case. Because we passed it without a dissent vote. Every member in here, there is not one that voted against it. »
This legislation called for President Obama to make a comprehensive and multilateral strategy that would apprehend Joseph Kony and free the central African region from the atrocities that he and his leaders have committed.
Those who believe that this action was taken without consulting Congress are simply mistaken. General Carter Ham, head of AFRICOM, referenced the law during his Oct. 4 press conference. « Rule number one for the military, we follow the law. »
The general also touched on the importance of the removal of Kony based on human rights, telling reporters, « If you ever had any question if there is evil in this world, it is resident in the person of Joseph Kony. »
Countless atrocities have landed Kony on the International Criminal Court’s wanted list. These acts include kidnapping children to use as soldiers or sex slaves, mutilation, burning people alive, raping women and young girls and forcing young boys to rape and murder their own families.
Some are misnaming this situation a civil war. Matt Brown, director of communications for the Enough Project, explains the origins of the situation and why « civil war » is a misnomer.
« The LRA conflict began as a civil war in the 80’s, » Brown said. « It was Ugandans fighting Ugandans. But now the LRA has morphed into a stateless, lawless band of thugs and rebels that prey on innocent victims and can, in no way, be fighting for or representing the interests of Ugandans. »
Regardless, many are wondering ‘Why now?’, throwing out theories of U.S. interest in Ugandan oil and the desire to have Uganda ‘freed up’ to help fight in Somalia. However, neither of these answer the question.
Brown stated that while the Somalian theory is plausible, he does not agree with it. He explained to the DePaulia that the U.S. supports the current AMISOM mission in Somalia and has already helped train the Ugandan troops fighting there.
Current DePaul graduate student Matthew Sebastian negated the oil theory. « The US and Uganda have strong ties and I consider the idea that we are merely going in for the oil to be a misinformed conspiracy. »
Sebastian, who is pursuing his master’s degree in international studies and looking at issues surrounding northern Uganda for his thesis, is cautious to pledge his full support to this deployment.
« The State Department has identified Africa as the next front for anti-terror operations, » Sebastian said. « In some ways, the US involvement with the LRA conflict after this announcement will be a practice run for AFRICOM, which seeks not only to bolster U.S. presence on the continent but also strengthen national armies. »
Referring to the potential positive and negative results, Sebastian warned that « there are geopolitical interests that transcend this simple ‘either/or’ calculation that we shouldn’t forget. »
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it is important to realize how this deployment happened. In 2009, over 2,000 people gathered on Capitol Hill to lobby for The LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recover Act—making it the largest lobbying effort for an African issue in U.S. history.
Most attendees were around college-age and came to urge their congressional members to be cosponsors of the bill. The legislation passed as a direct result of those efforts.
On that day, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Ma) stood and said, « These Americans, thousands of them high school and college students, understood that the children and people of this region [sic] have no voice in Washington. So they were determined to become their voice. »
Beaming from the podium, Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) spoke of the young activists she had met in her California office. « I cannot do justice to their passion, their commitment and their dedication to do what is right. Their energy absolutely ignites the room, » Davis said.
« We cannot let them down, and more importantly we cannot let down the suffering children that this legislation will help. »
By Lynsey Hart