Why is Obama sending troops to Uganda?
“Uganda’s proximity to the new country of South Sudan is key in the whole equation. … this whole area is prime real estate where the fierce battle between China and the Americans/Europeans plays out, centered on oil and minerals, all part of the Great 21st Century African Resource War.
… Uganda – and nearby eastern Congo – happens to hold fabulous quantities of, among others, diamonds, gold, platinum, copper, cobalt, tin, phosphates, tantalite, magnetite, uranium, iron ore, gypsum, beryllium, bismuth, chromium, lead, lithium, niobium and nickel. …
Uganda may hold … part of a recent, largest-ever on-shore oil discovery in sub-Saharan Africa. …Washington wants to make sure that all this oil will be exclusively available for the US and Europe.
The Obama administration insists the 100 special forces will be “advisers” – not combat troops. Think of Vietnam in the early 1960s; it started with “advisers” – and the rest is history.”
In fact US military trainers and advisors in Uganda is nothing new. They have been there partnering with Museveni and the UPDF since AFRICOM was formed and before. Below is one picture from 2009, and two from earlier this year, 2011. In October 2010, a year ago, AFRICOM asked for bids for non-personnel services to build a Special Ops base camp in Uganda (google cached version link) in an “austere environment”. The intention to send US soldiers to Uganda did not just happen, it has been underway for a number of years.
Whether or not they catch Kony, it will be a handy bit of on the job training for continued operations in Uganda, South Sudan, and the DRC. For civilians living in the region this escalates the threat of violence they face every day. Every attempt to capture or kill Kony has failed, and led to murderous rampages.
The most grievous and pervasive threat of terrorism in Africa is the threat to African civilians from their own militaries. The militarized US foreign policy, employing military training and partnering, makes this threat exponentially worse.
Pepe Escobar, quoted above, provides a comprehensive summary:
“Anyone may be excused to see Uganda as Libya upside down – because that’s exactly what it is; the dictator in this case gets a good guy billing – one of “our bastards” – while the “rebels” have a pact with the devil. But is that all there is?
I got an urge to surge
The reality in Uganda is an absolute, murderous mess. As much as the LRA “rebels”, Museveni’s government (helped by Washington) has also perpetrated horrendous massacres against civilians. Kony may even be an amateur compared to Museveni – a sort of dictator for life who has just supervised the displacement and mass murder of at least 20,000 Ugandans on behalf of British corporations. Additionally, Museveni basically stole the Ugandan elections early this year.
Obama’s Uganda surge should be seen as a crucial exchange of favors with Museveni – who has sent thousands of Ugandan troops to the African Union (AU) force that is fighting the hardcore Islamist al-Shabaab in Somalia. So while Uganda fights a proxy war for the US in Somalia, Washington helps the dictator to get rid of the LRA “rebels”. No wonder the Pentagon is quite fond of Uganda; Museveni recently got $45 million in equipment, including four small drones.
The LRA – a ragged bunch of hardcore Christian fundamentalists – is based in northern Uganda but spread out between four countries, including the new South Sudan and Congo, in Central Africa. They carry no heavy weapons. They don’t stand a chance of destabilizing the Ugandan government – much less being a “national security” threat to the US. Bogeyman Kony may be in hiding somewhere along the immense Sudan-Congo border, with no more than 400 warriors left.
Uganda’s proximity to the new country of South Sudan is key in the whole equation. So far, for Northern Sudan the LRA has been a convenient, weaponized firewall against Western puppet Museveni. But most of all, this whole area is prime real estate where the fierce battle between China and the Americans/Europeans plays out, centered on oil and minerals, all part of the Great 21st Century African Resource War.
Any student of realpolitik knows the US doesn’t do “humanitarian” interventions per se. Africom’s surge parallels the real name of the game; precious minerals – and mining. Uganda – and nearby eastern Congo – happens to hold fabulous quantities of, among others, diamonds, gold, platinum, copper, cobalt, tin, phosphates, tantalite, magnetite, uranium, iron ore, gypsum, beryllium, bismuth, chromium, lead, lithium, niobium and nickel. Many among these are ultra-precious rare earth – of which China exercises a virtual monopoly.
The mineral rush in Africa is already one of the great resource wars of the 21st century.China is ahead, followed by companies from India, Australia, South Africa and Russia (which, for instance, has set up a fresh gold refinery in Kampala). The West is lagging behind. The name of the game for the US and the Europeans is to pull no punches to undermine China’s myriad commercial deals all across Africa.
Then there’s the inescapable Pipelineistan angle. Uganda may hold “several billion barrels of oil”, according to Heritage Oil’s Paul Atherton, part of a recent, largest-ever on-shore oil discovery in sub-Saharan Africa. That implies the construction of a $1.5 billion, 1,200 kilometer long pipeline to Kampala and the coast of Kenya. Then there’s another pipeline from “liberated” South Sudan. Washington wants to make sure that all this oil will be exclusively available for the US and Europe.
Obama, the King of Africa
The Obama administration insists the 100 special forces will be “advisers” – not combat troops. Think of Vietnam in the early 1960s; it started with “advisers” – and the rest is history. Now, the “advisers” are even expected to fan out from Uganda to South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
And it’s not even the first time this happens. George W Bush tried the same thing in 2008. It ended in unmitigated disaster because of – what else is new – corruption inside the Ugandan army. Kony was tipped off and escaped hours before an attack on his camp.
The official Washington spin hammers the fact that the LRA has “murdered, raped, and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women and children”. Now compare it … to the thunderous silence of the Obama White House as racist eastern Libya “rebels” round up, harass, torture and even snuff out sub-Saharan Africans.
Africa has been fighting like forever against multiple strands of the great white genocidal slave master, aided and abetted by multiple strands of the subservient black dictator/kleptocrat – just to be presented in the early 21st century with an American president of direct African descent who has nothing better to offer than special forces, drones, a militarization surge and hypocrisy-laced “humanitarian” intervention.”
Escobar points out that Museveni’s UPDF has been responsible for a multitude of deaths, violence, and brutalities against Ugandans. As Escobar says, it is Libya upside down, this time the US supports the brutal dictator against the so called rebels. In addition to brutalities in Uganda, Museveni and Ugandan sponsored militias share responsibility for brutal war crimes in the Congo.
P. Okema Otika writes about Museveni’s crimes against Ugandans.
Museveni and Kony Both Should Face War Crimes Tribunal
“To anyone who is unfamiliar with the war in Northern Uganda that started in 1986 when Museveni had just come to power, Museveni’s quest to prosecute Kony might sound like a sound idea coming from a responsible person. However, to those who have suffered through the years and experienced atrocities perpetrated by both the rebels and the Ugandan army, the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF), Museveni is just as criminal as the Kony he is trying to prosecute.
Since 1986, Museveni’s army has been known to commit some of the worst atrocities on the ethnic Acholi people who occupy the regions of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader. The UPDF, also formerly known as the National Resistance Army (NRA) became infamous for burning civilians alive in huts, killings, and the rapes of both women and men in what the Acholi called tek gungu. Tek Gungu referred to rape of men and women by Museveni’s soldiers who would force a man or woman to kneel down (gungu) before the rape is committed against the male or female victim. These rape incidents have been documented by Human Rights Watch and yet remain ignored by most so-called mainstream media. Museveni, despite his army’s atrocities remains a Western “darling.”
By 1990, Museveni had accomplished most of what he wanted; leaving tens of thousands of Acholi dead and thousands languishing in Luzira prison for alleged treason. All these are well documented and still remain fresh in the minds of the Acholi who had trusted Museveni and thought he would treat them as citizens of Uganda rather than his adversaries.
As if his terror was not enough, in 1996 Museveni declared a presidential order that stipulated that all local Acholi living in their homes in the villages be forcefully moved into concentration camps to be surrounded by government troops ostensibly to guard them against LRA rebels’ atrocities. Where else in the world but in Africa would the international community today stand for such gross violation of human rights?
Museveni’s troops immediately started beating up locals to run to the camps. They burnt down crops and houses of the locals so that they would not go back to their homes. The result was the creation of communal homelessness for over 500,000 people who up to now have no permanent home, and live in some of the worse human conditions in the world. Although Museveni prefers to call the camps “Protected Camps,” the locals who live there know it as a concentration camp in which terror reigns and individual freedoms don’t exist.
Government soldiers claiming to be guarding these camps are well known for their atrocities on the hapless civilians.They rape the women and have contributed to the increase in the rate of HIV/AIDS — now the highest in that region.
These are just few recorded incidents and yet the majority remained unreported. Similarly, the government is indiscriminately using its Helicopter Gunship and night-guided vision technology to try to spot and kill the LRA rebels. However, the majority of the unfortunate victims are innocent civilians.”
It needs to be repeated, the most grievous and pervasive threat of terrorism in Africa is the threat to African civilians from their own militaries.
Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire provides additional Ugandan perspective. She tells us both the CAR and DRC have asked Uganda’s UPDF to leave their countries. I am curious how that fits in with the renewed military initiative coming from the United States. The US has entered into agreements regarding the search for Kony with South Sudan, the CAR and the DRC.
“Many Ugandans, through various social networks, have expressed skepticism over the 100 combat troops the US deployed to Uganda
The CAR government in December 2010 had asked the UPDF to leave but they are still present in one area. A friend who works in CAR once told me that when they were asking CAR civilians which militia groups are involved in the conflict, some wrote UPDF. This is because the ordinary people on the ground just see people in UPDF uniforms and have no clue who they are and what they are there to do.
The DRC government asked UPDF to leave, at first by May this year but later asked for a calendar showing their withdrawal. I have not heard of the details of this withdraw plan. In some incidents the Congolese Army, which has its own structural problems had clashes with UPDF in DRC which were largely unreported in the media.
One UPDF soldier who has been based in CAR told me early this year that fighting LRA was very difficult because “you have to do surveillance on a jungle bigger than the size of Uganda.”
A researcher in one of the few agencies that still work in Dungu told me that because of the wide area of operation of LRA we must recognize that “military intelligence is more important that military power. Aerial surveillance and ‘human’ intelligence is crucial” if LRA is to be dealt with. And as far we have seen over the years all the four government involved in the fight for LRA have not shown us they are capable of doing the needed surveillance work.
So the question is will this US deployment deliver?
What can 100 combat troops do? Will they deliver several other botched attacks or will they help end the conflict? Well at the end of the day, regional governments must be more willing and give LRA more attention than they have done in the last three years. DRC, South Sudan and CAR must work faster to pacify the lawless regions that have made it easy for LRA to operate for this long. Also the past has shown that focusing only on military intervention will not easily bring back rebels who were forced to carry out all these crimes in the first place.
Those who worry about foreign intervention must equally worry about the deaths and human rights violations that millions of people in the three countries face daily.
The worry is not that the Americans are here -because they have been here for some time. The question is, are they capable of delivering in a short time without staying in the region too long. If the American forces stay in the region too long this will have implications as the suspicions about their interest in oil in Uganda, South Sudan and DRC is already ripe.”
I have written about the Botched raid at the end of 2008 in greater detail: Stability operations cause 900 civilian deaths, 100,000 displaced, miss target. There was an earlier attempt to get Kony with US backing:
“The hunt for joseph kony has been marked by one spectacular failure after another. In 2006, in an unprecedented move, the United Nations mounted a covert operation to capture or kill him. A squad of U.S.-trained Guatemalan Special Ops soldiers set out into Congo’s Garamba National Park, a longtime LRA refuge and the scene of last year’s Operation Lightning Thunder. Trained in jungle warfare and accustomed to surviving in the bush for long stretches, the Guatemalans were equipped with M-16s and the latest special-operations technology. But they were no match for Kony and his child warriors. Makassa recalls the day the Guatemalans appeared. He had left Garamba park briefly to pick up food and supplies in southern Sudan, just across the border. On his way back he got a call: “The situation is bad. Unknown soldiers came to fight us. Hurry up and help us.” The caller described the unknown soldiers as muzungu—a Swahili word meaning “white man.”
By the time Makassa reached the scene, the battle was over. Five LRA soldiers had been killed. But not one of the Guatemalans had survived. The LRA fighters slaughtered them all and, according to one account, beheaded the commander. Some reports put the U.N. dead at eight; others say as many as 40 counterinsurgency troops may have died that morning. The LRA left the corpses in the jungle but took the weapons—including heavy machine guns and grenade launchers.
Kony was in southern Sudan at the time, far from the battle. Makassa called him with the news. “Kony was very happy,” Makassa recalls. “Kony likes fighting, he likes war.’”
DefenseTech writes: U.S. Sending “Combat Equipped” Troops to Africa
“In addition to Uganda, U.S. forces have permission from South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to operate on their territory while helping to hunt down the LRA.
The troops are likely special operations forces and their low numbers reflect the U.S.’ desire to avoid the appearance of neo-colonialism on the continent. The Pentagon routinely deploys forces to Africa to train local militaries … They’re usually sent in small numbers and are special ops troops, often dressed as civilians, who are trained in local languages and customs. Don’t forget all the combat equipped troops who live at Camp Lemonier, in Djibouti. Still, it’s very rare to hear about U.S. forces actively hunting bad guys in Africa. Even when we go after pirates and terrorists in Somalia we usually do it with AC-130 gunships and UAVs. If Americans to hit the ground its usually for the few minutes or hours it takes to kill or capture one of these guys.
In this case, the troops will be directly assisting with a manhunt despite the fact that the White House says they won’t be “engaging” in combat with LRA forces, unless of course, the LRA forces shoot first.”
From military.com news: US Sending Troops to Africa to Battle Insurgency
“The deployment drew support from Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican who has visited the region.
“I have witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by the LRA, and this will help end Kony’s heinous acts that have created a human rights crisis in Africa,” he said in a statement. “I have been fervently involved in trying to prevent further abductions and murders of Ugandan children, and today’s action offers hope that the end of the LRA is in sight.”
But Obama’s letter stressed the limited nature of the deployment.
“Our forces will provide information, advice and assistance to select partner nation forces,” it said. “Although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will … not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense.”
In the comments sgtjmackinjersey writes about how Kony and the LRA really don’t have a political agenda:
“sgtjmackinjersey Oct 15, 2011 12:54:41 AM
… Robert Gersony, in a report funded by United States Embassy in Kampala in 1997, concluded that “the LRA has no political program or ideology, at least none that the local population has heard or can understand.” The International Crisis Group has stated that “the LRA is not motivated by any identifiable political agenda, and its military strategy and tactics reflect this.” IRIN comments that “the LRA remains one of the least understood rebel movements in the world, and its ideology, as far as it has one, is difficult to understand.” UPDF Lt. Col. Shaban Bantariza has said that “you can’t tell whether they want political power. Its only aim is to terrorize and brutalize the civilian population and to loot their homes.”"
James Inhofe has been one of the primary enablers of Museveni’s military excesses. As a senator, Inhofe is responsible for the US giving Museveni the dictator enormous amounts of US taxpayer money. Inhofe is a member of the religious cult The Family, which preaches, among other unchristian and undemocratic ideas, that men in positions of power are powerful because God wants them to have power. In other words, might makes right. Might makes right also appears to be the driving ideology of US foreign policy these days, perhaps the Obama doctrine at home and abroad.
AFRICOM has been wooing African journalists from a number of countries. It invited a number of Ugandan journalists to Stuttgart where General Hamm gave this interview which discussed Somalia and the issue of Kony and the LRA.
From Uganda’s Daily Monitor, and interview with General Hamm by Gerald Bareebe.
“After the passage of counter LRA legislation by the US Congress, the US has been helping UPDF with intelligence information regarding the whereabouts of Joseph Kony. How far have you gone with the hunt for Kony?
It’s not going as well as we hope it should be. There are some small successes but there are also some setbacks. So we have a lot of work yet to do in this regard. As you know, this is a hunt for one man with a small number of his followers in a very extensive geographic area. So it’s kind of tough.
It requires very precise information which can be provided by people from his area of operation or from his camp. Ugandans, the Congolese and others may be able to capture him, though the process may be longer than we may want. The US is committed to this because of the horrific atrocities Kony and his groups have committed.
I am encouraged by the commitment of Uganda and Congo to end this. The US role is to be supportive to the three primary countries involved in this and will facilitate the sharing of information by the parties. The USA will not have a leading role on the ground. Uganda, DRC, CAR and South Sudan have recognised that USA will support them to do this.
We have been training a battalion in Eastern Congo for this. It’s a very important mission for us. But we see the US doing a supporting role than a leading role. In my personal view, Kony cannot be brought to justice faster enough.
If anybody had a doubt that there is a real evil in our world, all they have to do is to look at what Joseph Kony has done and they will find out that evil exists in the name of Joseph Kony. The most important thing is that Kony has to be stopped. The preferred way to do this is to capture him and bring him to justice. There are those who would say that he should be killed. In my view he should be captured and be brought to justice but, if in the pursuit of that he is killed, I am not one who would shed many tears.”
I doubt General Hamm will shed any tears for the civilians killed either. They are just unfortunate collateral damage. The US is partnering with people who have caused enormous suffering in the region. All the military organizations included are implicated in war crimes, particularly in the eastern Congo. There is no reason to suppose things will improve. There is no accountability built in to this action. Kony is said to have made some friends in the region. There is also corruption always present. In 2008 Kony was tipped off by someone who knew about Operation Lightning Thunder.
And from comment #6 at MoA by b real
“public announcements like this cover operations already in progress that will eventually draw media attention at some point, esp considering uganda’s burgeoning oil industry. considering the last u.s. effort to kill kony failed so spectacularly, the military is re-adapting its existing policies of majority reliance on proxy, surrogate & merc forces in pursuing its own interests across africa. whereas only a handful of boots on the ground to assist in operations is proving ineffective in realizing larger objectives (namely resource “stabilization” and/or removal of resistance to political and commercial designs), utilization of more boots on the ground in actual fighting capacity appears to be the future. this correlates w/ africom getting a boot-in-the-door and the inevitable scope/mission creep that inevitably follows. for instance, as i said in another thread, don’t be surprised to see u.s. boots on the ground waging battle in somalia.
maybe 1,000 villagers were killed in the 2009 campaign – expect a higher body count from this next one”
The Acholi religous leaders feel the same about the military approach. Military attacks and reprisals only result in more bloodshed.
“Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative
Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative
Kitgum Office, Plot 121 Uhuru Drive, P.O. Box 185, Kitgum, Uganda
Pader Office, 1st Street, P.O. Box 50, Pader, Uganda
Gulu Office, Plot 16 Olya Road, P.O. Box 104, Gulu,Uganda
21st June 2009
For over two decades, war between the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda (GoU) has ravaged the region of north and northeastern Uganda causing great suffering among the civilian population. Over the last number of years, the conflict has unfortunately spread to the Southern Sudan, DR Congo and Central African Republic. While several methods have been employed to bring and end to the conflict, all have failed to reach their goal of realizing peace.
To address this issue the “Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009″ was introduced to the U.S. Senate on May 19th, 2009, detailing the way in which the United States wishes to engage with the conflict.
We the Acholi Religious Leaders Initiative (ARLPI) who have been tirelessly working to bring about sustainable peace and reconciliation throughout the region, wish to express our gratitude for the continued interest and support the U.S. has shown towards ending the suffering of those affected. Their support to initiatives such as the Juba Peace talks and the provision of humanitarian aid during the course of the conflict has not gone unnoticed. Such contributions have significantly improved the conditions in the region.
Of particular concern of bill however is Section 4: Requirement of a Regional Strategy for Disarming the LRA. This section implies that a military offensive may be immanent. The military option has been explored numerous times in the past, notably Operation North (1991), Operation Iron Fist (2002) and Operation Lightning Thunder (2008-2009).
Experience shows that despite such attempts to end the conflict, only dialogue can be attributed to the relative calm experienced in Northern Uganda since July of 2006 Military strategies launched against the LRA have time and again led to severe reprisal attacks on the innocent civilian community as illustrated by the recent 900 civilian deaths during Operation Lightning Thunder.
Not only has the cost of the military option been expensive regarding the loss of human life, the financial implications of war are also immense. The large sums of money required to carry out war drain the resources needed to bring about development and reconstruction of affected areas.
In conclusion, we applaud the commitment of the bill to bring about stability and development in the region. However, we as the Acholi religious leaders whose primary concern is the preservation of human life, advocate for dialogue and other non-violent strategies to be employed so that long term sustainable peace may be realized. Let us learn from the past experiences where we have seen that violence only breeds more violence.
Archbishop John Baptist Odama
Al Hajji Sheik Musa Khalil
Rt. Rev. Bishop Nelson Onono
Rt. Rev. Bishop Benjamin Ojwang
Rt. Rev. Bishop Macleord Baker Ochola II
Fr. Julius Orach
Bishop Sabino Odoki”
Here is the text of President Obama’s announcement:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release October 14, 2011
TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT TO THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND THE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE
October 14, 2011
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)For more than two decades, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)has murdered, raped, and kidnapped tens of thousands of men,women, and children in central Africa. The LRA continues to commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security. Since 2008, the United States has supported regional military efforts to pursue the LRA and protect local communities. Even with some limited U.S. assistance, however, regional military efforts have thus far been unsuccessful in removing LRA leader Joseph Kony or his top commanders from the battlefield. In the Lord’s ResistanceArmy Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, Public Law 111-172, enacted May 24, 2010, the Congress also expressed support for increased, comprehensive U.S. efforts to help mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA to civilians and regional stability. In furtherance of the Congress’s stated policy, I have authorized a small number of combat-equipped U.S. forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield. I believe that deploying these U.S. Armed Forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa. On October 12, the initial team of U.S. military personnel with appropriate combat equipment deployed to Uganda. During the next month, additional forces will deploy, including a second combat-equipped team and associated headquarters, communications, and logistics personnel. The total number of U.S. military personnel deploying for this mission is approximately 100. These forces will act as advisors to partner forces that have the goal of removing from the battlefield Joseph Kony and other senior leadership of the LRA. Our forces will provide information,advice, and assistance to select partner nation forces. Subject to the approval of each respective host nation, elements of these U.S. forces will deploy into Uganda, South Sudan, the CentralAfrican Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.The support provided by U.S. forces will enhance regional efforts against the LRA. However, although the U.S. forces arecombat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense. All appropriate precautions have been taken to ensure the safetyof U.S. military personnel during their deployment. I have directed this deployment, which is in the nationalsecurity and foreign policy interests of the United States,pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreignrelations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. I am making this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congressfully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (PublicLaw 93-148). I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.
To conclude, this bit of hiphop poetry from FURF1387 in the comments at the military.com article quoted above, is right on the mark:
Oct 15, 2011 10:35:44 AM
“100 here….100 there….100 a day to keep the barbarians at bay….100 a day reinforcing legions far away…the Republic at home begins to sway…unity oozes day by day…citizens won’t labor without circus & play…besides outsiders do the dirty work for much less pay… the empire spreads and melts away…AH, but that’s all a story from some ancient day…in some ol’ galaxy, far, far away…no need to fear…100 away..100 a day…100 there…100 HERE…no longer.”
Added February 14, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
DOD To Equip Uganda Forces In Bid To Destroy Rebel Forces
U.S. Africa Command is set to begin a new security assistance program in East Africa that aims to bolster the ability of Uganda’s military to fight the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group that for more than 20 years has terrorized civilians.
Congress has lifted a hold it placed earlier this month on a Defense Department proposal to begin a new program to provide Ugandan defense forces with counterterrorism training and equipment, according to Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. James Gregory.
The project, part of a second batch of so-called Section 1206 security assistance programs drawn up by the Defense and State departments, is designed to “provide communications and intelligence training as well as communications and engineering equipment to improve Uganda’s ability to remove LRA leadership and fighters from the battlefield,” according to Gregory. The project has a price tag of $4.4 million, he said.
During testimony before Congress this spring, Gen. Carter Ham, commander of AFRICOM, singled out the Lord’s Resistance Army as a “scourge” and an example of a transnational extremist threat to security on the continent. “In order for Africa Command to reduce threats to our citizens and interests, both abroad and at home, we need to contribute to operations, programs and activities that help African states provide for their own security in a manner that is consistent with the rule of law and international norms,” Ham told the House Armed Services Committee on April 5.
In May 2010, the President Obama signed into law the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, which required that the executive branch draw up a strategy to support multilateral efforts to protect civilians from the LRA, to apprehend or remove the LRA leader Joseph Kony, and to disarm and demobilize LRA fighters.
On Nov. 24, 2010, Obama transmitted the strategy to lawmakers with a letter explaining that it would guide “U.S. support across the region to mitigate and eliminate the threat to civilians and regional stability posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army.” The strategy consists of four objectives, one of which is to “apprehend or remove from the battlefield Joseph Kony and senior commanders.”
A State Department assessment on Uganda calls the Lord’s Resistance Army, which aims to overthrow the East African country’s government, “vicious and cult-like.” Between 1986 and 2006 the group is believed to have kidnapped thousands of children to serve as soldiers and slaves, according to the State Department. Its primary targets are civilians, especially women and children, according to a Congressional Research Service report. “Human rights abuses committed by the LRA include murder, mutilation, abduction of young women for sexual servitude, and kidnapping of children to become rebel fighters,” according to the State Department.
In 2005, the Ugandan forces drove the LRA out of the country. Since then, the rebel group has operated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic and is responsible for displacing nearly 2 million people, according to the State Department. For more than two years the governments of Uganda, Congo and Southern Sudan have waged joint military operations against the LRA in northeastern Congo.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon was cleared by Congress to spend as much as $123.3 million on similar projects in Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Uganda, Burundi, Oman, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Maldives and the Philippines (DefenseAlert, July 19).
Those projects, along with the new Uganda security assistance effort and a first batch of 1206 efforts to enhance the capabilities of Eastern European nations preparing to deploy to Afghanistan begun in April, require $159.3 million, comprising nearly half of the available funds for such programs — which are very popular with combatant commanders — in this fiscal year.
The FY-11 Defense Authorization Act granted $350 million for Section 1206 projects, including $75 million for stability operations. Congress, which first authorized Section 1206 projects in FY-06, permits spending on these programs for two purposes: to enhance partner nations’ counterterrorism and stability operations and bolster foreign maritime security forces for counterterrorism. — Jason Sherman