AFRICOM was created for two main reasons, oil and China. I have documented where US officials have stated this at numerous places in this blog. For a more detailed discussion see Understanding AFRICOM: A Contextual Reading of Empire’s New Combatant Command Part I, Part II and Part III.
Kwesi Pratt, editor of the Insight newspaper in Ghana, was one of the few people who caught on to this very early. His question to President Bush regarding oil and Africa was rudely dismissed by Bush. In this century the West intends on taking 3 Cs out of Africa: Crude, China, and Capital.
Uganda People’s Defense Forces and U.S. Soldiers wait for supplies to be dropped from a Ugandan Air Force Mi-17 helicopter during Atlas Drop 11 at Drop Zone White near Olilim, northern Uganda, April 18, 2011. The US military was active in Northern Uganda and bordering countries long before President Obama announced he was sending Special Operations forces there in October 2011. AFRICOM and SOCOM (US Special Operations Command) plan to be there long after Kony and the LRA are a distant memory.
The LRA has been a scourge on Uganda for more than 20 years. When Uganda discovered oil prospects, the US became interested in the LRA. The military option to defeat Kony has been explored numerous times in the past, notably Operation North (1991), Operation Iron Fist (2002) and Operation Lightning Thunder (2008-2009). Each failed and led to massive reprisals against civilians.
The Acholi religious leaders, representing the regions and people who have suffered most from Kony and the LRA, point out that the only times things have gotten better is when there have been talks and negotiations.
Kony has no known political affiliations, he just likes war and terrorizing. Humanitarian rationalizations have always been the cloak of legitimacy for the ruthless extraction of African resources. We should recognize this by now.
Kony and the LRA operate across the borders in the territories of several countries that are of particular interest to the United States (partial lists of their resources in parentheses) South Sudan (oil, land, water, China) the DRC – Congo (oil, coltan, tin, tungsten, copper, gold, water, timber, China etc.) Uganda (oil, China, source of proxy soldiers, water, land, etc.) Burundi (uranium, rare earth, diamonds, cobalt, copper, land, water) CAR – Central African Republic (diamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil). So Kony and the LRA are a very handy target indeed.
It would be excellent for everyone if Kony and the LRA are put out of business. IF (big IF) the US military can put Kony out of business, on its own, that would be a blessing. That is not the real reason the US is there, and the US will not be leaving when Kony is gone.
Museveni used protection from the LRA as a tool against the Acholi and other people of Northern Uganda, some call his methods genocide, they were certainly brutal and pervasive. It was not entirely inconvenient for him to have the LRA in business. The same is true for the United States. Kony and the LRA are very convenient, putting the US military exactly where they want to be.
Kony is a handy cover for the real reasons for US interest in the region, which are all about African resources.
You can see links to more information and documentation in these posts:
Uganda – Stepping On the Mission Creep Accelerator
If Uganda Has Oil It Must Need The Pentagon’s Democracy
or via this search: http://crossedcrocodiles.wordpress.com/?s=lra
Soldiers of the 5th Brigade, 75th Division, California Army Reserve, stand in formation with soldiers from Rwanda and Uganda during exercise Natural Fire 11 in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
U.S. and Democratic Republic of Congo representatives gathered February 17, 2010, at a military base outside of Kisangani in north-central DRC to mark the establishment of a light infantry battalion intended to be a model unit for the future of the Congolese military.
KISANGANI, Democratic Republic of Congo - Congolese soldiers stand in formation during a ceremony marking the formation of the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) Light Infantry Battalion's establishment, February 17, 2010. The battalionnâ€s soldiers will soon undergo 6-8 months of training as part of a U.S. government partnership with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Photo by Nicole Dalrymple, U.S. Africa Command)
The train-and-equip mission, part of a long-term, multi-lateral U.S.-DRC partnership to promote security sector reform in the country, will assist the DRC government in its ongoing efforts to transform the Armed Forces of the DRC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, widely known as FARDC).
The training is intended to increase the ability of the Congolese army to conduct effective internal security operations as part of the FARDC’s rapid reaction plan, help preserve the territorial integrity of the DRC, and develop an army that is accountable to the Congolese people. This initiative also represents one aspect of a long-term, multiagency, international approach to promote a sustainable peace through the creation of a model unit in the FARDC.
Brigadier General Jean-Claude Kifwa, commander of FARDC’s 9th Region, spoke at the ceremony, saying he thought it was a sign of progress that a quick reaction force was being established in his region.
“I’d like to thank the authorities of my country for choosing Kisangani to be the center of quick reaction forces,” Kifwa said. “I think this is progress in the reform of our new army.” He said that the battalion’s main mission would be to protect the territorial borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Congolese people and their goods.
KISANGANI, Democratic Republic of Congo - Congolese Color Guard members take part in a ceremony marking the establishment of a Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) Light Infantry Battalion, February 17, 2010, in Kisangani. The battalion will be trained via a U.S. government partnership with the DRC. (Photo by Nicole Dalrymple, U.S. Africa Command)
Members of the newly formed light infantry battalion will undergo a 6-8 month training program at the Base Camp in Kisangani. The training will cover small unit tactics, food preparation, maintenance, medical care and first aid, logistics support, HIV/AIDS prevention and communications. Human rights considerations and the respect for human rights in military operations will be incorporated in each aspect of the training.
“The commanders, staff officers and noncommissioned officers who will lead this battalion began their training last year in Kinshasa,” Garvelink explained. He added that the battalion’s soldiers were all carefully selected by the FARDC to “ensure the highest caliber of trainees possible.”
U.S. Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM), via its Special Operations Command component, is providing on-the-ground oversight of the training program, which will be taught by U.S. military personnel and Department of State-hired contractors.
When asked about any possible hidden policy agenda of the United States in the Congo, Ambassador Garvelink answered, “The interest of the United States in the Congo is to see a democratic, representative government that takes care of its people and is at peace with its neighbors. That’s what our objective is.” (from africom.mil)
In February 2008 the US and UN organized a special training: U.S. Military Legal Experts Train DR Congo Military in Preventing, Prosecuting Sex Crimes. So far I have not heard of any significant successes resulting from this training.
Regarding the reasons for training an infantry battalion and the interest of the United States, Rick Rozoff points us to some timely information:
Earlier this month the Kenyan newspaper The East African divulged that “American legislators are pushing for a law that will see another phase of military action to apprehend Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.”
The news source added that the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Bill adopted by the U.S. Congress last year “requires the US government to develop a new multifaceted strategy” and as such the new bill under consideration “will not be the first time the US government is providing support to the Uganda army in fighting the LRA.
“The US has been backing the UPDF [Uganda People's Defence Force] with logistics and training to fight the rebel group.” 
Last month it was announced that the U.S. Africa Command has dispatched special forces to train 1,000 Congolese troops in the north and east of their nation, where Congo borders Uganda.
Former U.S. diplomat Daniel Simpson was quoted above as to what in part is Washington’s motive in pursuing a new war in and around Somalia: To test out AFRICOM ground and air forces in Djibouti for direct military action on the continent.
A United Press International report of March 10, placed under energy news, offered another explanation. In a feature titled “East Africa is next hot oil zone,” the news agency disclosed that “East Africa is emerging as the next oil boom following a big strike in Uganda’s Lake Albert Basin. Other oil and natural gas reserves have been found in Tanzania and Mozambique and exploration is under way in Ethiopia and even war-torn Somalia.”
The article added: “The discovery at Lake Albert, in the center of Africa between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is estimated to contain the equivalent of several billion barrels of oil. It is likely to be the biggest onshore field found south of the Sahara Desert in two decades.”
I wrote about oil and the LRA earlier in If Uganda Has Oil It Must Need The Pentagon’s Democracy. The comments include the Response of Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) to the ” Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009″courtesy of Africa Focus. They conclude:
… 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.
Given current US finances, it seems unlikely that the US is investing in training the Congo soldiers out of a selfless desire to see a democratic, representative government that takes care of its people and is at peace with its neighbors. That certainly has never been the case before in the DRC. And considering the role of US Africa Command protege Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the proxy army the US is training and arming in Rwanda, and Rwanda’s involvement in resource exploitation and political terrorism in Congo, US motives are at best unclear.
In 2008 Refugees International reported in U.S. Civil Military Imbalance for Global Engagement: Lessons from the Operational Level in Africa that the US:
… only plans to spend $5.5 million in 2009 [in Congo, compared to 49.65 million budgeted for Liberia] to help reform a 164,000-strong army in the DR Congo, a country with 65 million people where Africa’s “first world war” claimed the lives of over five million people.
… intelligence, judiciary, and prison agencies are sadly neglected. In the DR Congo, the State Department has played a very active role in facilitating dialogue among belligerents and is concerned about the humanitarian situation in the east, but the Defense Department is virtually ignoring the nation’s desperate need of military reform. As a result, an inadequately resourced security sector reform program has contributed to the Congolese army becoming a major source of insecurity for civilian communities.
It would be nice if the Congolese Army protected rather than preyed on the civilians they are supposed to protect. But I doubt the brief and limited training will make a significant difference, even if Human rights considerations and the respect for human rights in military operations will be incorporated in each aspect of the training. And I suspect human rights are more an afterthought than a goal.
“The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass,” acknowledged a senior U.S. official who specializes in Africa but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. “Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.”
This has been the essence of US foreign policy as it is actually practiced for the past several decades. It has escalated over time, particularly in the 1980s under Reagan, and with the proliferation of pointless wars this century begun by Bush and expanded under Obama. I say pointless, because although there may have been objectives, they were not related to the means used to achieve them, or to the eventual outcomes, in any coherent way. The US has tried to solve political problems with the brute force of military power. US foreign policy appears divorced from the realities of who what when where and why the US is conducting its policy. The result has been destruction without achievement. US policy in Africa continues this pattern. The destruction of Libya is the most aggressive recent example.
AFRICOM – a map of US military presence in Africa, countries where the U.S. has recently, as of spring 2013, conducted exercises, operations, or has bases in Africa.
Map of known US military locations in Africa.
The interactive version of the above map courtesy of John Reed in Foreign Policy.
You can see another map with more information about the drone base locations here. The map of what we know is shown below, but US drone activities are so shrouded in secrecy, this map only provides a small part of the story.
Known U.S. drone and surveillance flight bases in Africa February 2013
Go to the link to see more details of the specific bases from satellite maps.
U.S. military presence in Africa. Here are more details about US military bases and activities pinpointed in the maps above.
Last month, about 1,200 U.S. Marines, sailors and airmen participated in African Lion ’13 where they drove 250 tons worth of vehicles and equipment on a 300 mile convoy and practiced low-level flying and aerial refueling.
U.S. troops are aiding the French fight against Islamist rebels here.
The northwest ramp of the airport at Niamey, Niger is the possible site of a U.S. drone base. About 100 U.S. troops have been deployed to Niger to set up a drone base to support a French-led military operation against al-Qaeda in neighboring Mali.
A special ramp at Ouagadougou’s airport is reportedly a hub for U.S. military surveillance planes operating in the region. The United States flies PC-12 surveillance aircraft from here north to Mali, Mauritania and the Sahara.
U.S. coast guardsmen and sailors from the Navy and the Royal Navy helped sailors from Cape Verde’s navy conduct maritime law enforcement operations. The Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll and a Cape Verdean patrol boat conducted joint operations
In February and March, more than 1,000 troops from African countries and the U.S. participated in Flintlock 13. Flintlock is an annual special operations exercise held in the region. In April, U.S. Army medical troops trained Mauritanian medical personnel the latest in suture-less cataract surgery techniques during exercise MEDRETE 13-2.
In March, the U.S., five European countries and eight African nations participated in exercise Saharan Express 2013 aimed at developing anti-piracy skills here.
The South Sudanese village of Nizara is the possible site of a new U.S. drone base. The U.S. military has been in talks with South Sudan about basing surveillance planes here. U.S. special operations troops are also here helping to hunt Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.
An airstrip under construction near Lamu in coastal Kenya is reportedly home to a new U.S. drone base. More than 100 U.S. commandos and other personnel are based at a Kenyan military installation
In February, U.S. special operations troops co-hosted a conference for special ops forces from east Africa.
Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti is home to roughly 2,000 U.S. troops and serves as the major U.S. base in Africa. The U.S. military targets al-Shabab in Somalia and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula from this key base.
Entebbe airport is apparently home to U.S. drone operations. U.S. special operations troops are also here helping to hunt Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army. The United States flies PC-12 surveillance aircraft from here over territory used by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Arba Minch, Ethiopia is reportedly home to a U.S. drone base. The United States flies Reaper drones from here over Somalia.
The U.S. has a drone base at the airport on the island of Mahe in the Seychelles. The U.S. military flies Reaper drones over East Africa from this island base.
U.S. Navy and Air Force troops provided medical treatment to more than 1,300 people here over five days in early April under the aegis of the U.S. Navy’s Africa Partnership Station. Around the same time, U.S. special operations forces were teaching Cameroonian troops ground combat techniques.
Central African Republic
U.S. special operations troops are here helping to hunt down Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
A two-man “travelling contact team” from the U.S. Army “recently” ran a three week course training 29 local troops in basic intelligence techniques. U.S. special operations troops are also here helping to hunt Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.
Last week, U.S. milirary medical personnel and staff at the Nigerian navy hospital in Lagos exchanged “best practices” for treating trauma casualties.
A two-man “Travelling Contact Team” from U.S. Army Africa’s Inspector General’s office went to Monrovia to help the Liberian military stand up its own inspector general cadre.
Drones are now the preferred instrument of policy in the mammoth portion of US foreign policy that is run by the Pentagon and the CIA. They are also designed for domestic surveillance and control within the US. And many new varieties of drone are being introduced or are under development. This includes drones that can land and take off from carriers, sea going drones on the surface and under water, and tiny drones the size of an insect. Some are pictured below.
X-47B drone taking off from carrier deck
The Navy plans to use unmanned surface vessels to patrol harbors and, when armed with missiles or a .50-caliber machine gun, to protect ships
In one of the more unbeliable developments of the technology, the United States Air Force recently released a video showing their progress on development of tiny insect sized drones or what they are calling Micro Air Vehicles. These Micro Air Vehicles can hover, crawl, and even kill. And these drones can be out on missions for days at a time laying in wait, gathering energy from power lines or the sun. In the video seen above, the Air Force shows how these drones would be able to follow a target inside a building.
See the full article and video: U.S. Air Force Developing Swarms of Tiny Insect Sized Drones
US Air Force Micro Air Vehicles can hover, crawl, and even kill.
US Air Force Micro Air Vehicles can hover, crawl, and even kill.
From the beginning drones have been a tool of political assassination.
The first CIA targeted killing by a US killer drone was a political assassination:
Mr. Muhammad and his followers had been killed by the C.I.A., the first time it had deployed a Predator drone in Pakistan to carry out a “targeted killing.” The target was not a top operative of Al Qaeda, but a Pakistani ally of the Taliban who led a tribal rebellion and was marked by Pakistan as an enemy of the state. In a secret deal, the C.I.A. had agreed to kill him in exchange for access to airspace it had long sought so it could use drones to hunt down its own enemies.
You can see the drone attacks and who they have been killing in Pakistan in this infographic:
Out of sight out of mind
And we really don’t know who is being killed and why. Obama and Co. keep telling us it is al Qaeda, but that is not who we see is dying when information does get out. Terrorist is even more convenient than the cold war communist as a name to demonize opposition as enemy. Anyone in the world can be called a terrorist. It is particularly useful to use it on political opponents, justifying almost any action against them.
As Senator Feinstein said:
… it’s a perfect assassination weapon. It can see from 17,000 to 20,000 feet up in the air, it is very precise, it can knock out a room in a building if it’s armed, it’s a very dangerous weapon.
And see my earlier post: Political Assassin Robots Flying In African Skies.
US policy continues to blunder along in military recolonizing mode. AFRICOM looks for partners in African countries to act on its behalf, using proxies and drones to do its dirty work. This mostly results in US support for anti-democratic leadership, people who are willing to sell their countries out from under the feet of their fellow citizens. And when a leader pops up in any country who may actually want to work with fellow citizens to determine what they want, regardless of what the US wants, there will be plenty of drones to monitor and dispose of the problem. Its a perfect assassination weapon.
US Africa policy:
“The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass. Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.”
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.
CAMP KASENYI, Uganda – Staff Sergeant Andre Amantine of the 2-18 Field Artillery Regiment out of Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, salutes Sergeant First Class Cary Adams-course Sergeant Major, during a 15-week Counter Terrorism Course, June 16, 2009, at Camp Kasenyi, Uganda. More than 100 Ugandan soldiers graduated from this CJTF-HOA-supported course, which covered topics such as individual movement techniques, troop landing procedures, land navigation, first aid, identifying improvised explosive devises, and more. (Photo by Master Sergeant Loren Bonser)
- SOROTI, Uganda – Uganda People’s Defence Forces soldiers from the 27th Infantry Battalion train on setting up a drop zone with U.S. soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, Georgia National Guard, at Drop Zone Red near Kapelebyong, Uganda, during Atlas Drop 11, April 14, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Sergeant 1st Class Brock Jones)
ENTEBBE, Uganda - Petty Officer 2nd Class Chad Drake, right, participates in platoon movement exercises, June 6, 2011, while members of the Ugandan People's Defence Force observe and give direction during an Advanced Combat Training course in Jinja. Drake visited four countries in the Horn of Africa with other cadets and midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy to participate in a cultural and military exchange to share best practices and understand regional affairs. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Wilson)
Pepe Escobar, quoted above, provides a comprehensive summary:
Obama, the king of Africa
“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.
Obama’s troops in Central Africa to fight LRA; will they deliver?
“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.
Response of Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) to the ” Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009″
“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
… the proposed US ‘engagement’ with the ICC would thus allow the US to declare itself above international law while using international law for its own interests.
… just as the US invokes counter-terrorism as a basis for military assistance to African states, it may come to use international justice enforcement to justify increased militarisation of select African armies. … the US prefers to rely on proxies to carry out its military agenda.
International Criminal Court
From The East African this week: African legislators see bias in ICC’s workings
Parliamentarians from member-countries of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Africa are accusing the Court for selectively pursuing justice by focusing on investigating suspected criminals mainly from this continent.
They said that while the ICC is keen on investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity in Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, the Court is sitting on numerous complaints against Western leaders who are accused of causing untold suffering from wars they started in the Middle East.
They said that the ICC appears to act under influence of some Western powers who use it as an instrument to weed out leaders who are against their policies in Africa.
“The ICC as a court per see is innocent. Our problem is that the process of indictment is usually politicised. For instance, the United States’s voice is loudest yet it isn’t a member of the ICC. But those who are members but with little international influence cannot have their grievances listened to,” said Isaac Musumba, Uganda’s Minister for Regional Co-operation.
… critics of the ICC have often cited the atrocities in Gaza as an example of the court’s bias against Africa, by not investigating the atrocities there.
In addition, more than 50 complaints against former US President George W. Bush and ex-British prime minister Tony Blair have been forwarded to the ICC for investigation with no lack.
I have heard several people say that if the ICC does not indict George Bush, it should release Charles Taylor. I don’t want Taylor released under any circumstances, but I understand the sentiment.
And the US Government wants to execute arrest warrents for the ICC, even though the US is not a party to the ICC treaty, the Rome Statute, and does not acknowledge ICC authority, except for authority over some other nations, so far, the nations of Africa.
In Pambazuka Samar Al-Bulushi and Adam Branch wrote: AFRICOM and the ICC: Enforcing international justice in Africa? They point out a number of problems with the US and AFRICOM involvement with ICC enforcement.
… in recent months, the US government has declared its interest in working more closely with the ICC – not with the intent of becoming a party to the Rome Statute (the ICC treaty), but to help execute arrest warrants.
“The Obama Administration has been actively looking at ways that the US can, consistent with US law, assist the ICC in fulfilling its historic charge of providing justice to those who have endured crimes of epic savagery… We would like to meet with the Prosecutor at the ICC to examine whether there are specific ways that the United States might be able to support the particular prosecutions that are already underway.”
This proposed alliance between the US military and the ICC has elicited little reaction from the human rights community despite the devastating consequences it may produce. At heart is the question of what it will mean for justice and the rule of law if the ICC comes to rely heavily on the military capacity of a single state – a state with its own military agenda and interests in Africa – as its enforcement arm, in particular when that state declares itself above the very law it claims to enforce.
Considering the US track record of destructive interventions in Africa during the Cold War and the US military’s disregard for international law in Iraq and Afghanistan, Africans have reason to be wary of greater US military involvement on their soil. The possibility that AFRICOM might add justice enforcement to its repertoire is therefore a genuinely troubling development, and the ICC risks becoming the latest pawn of US military strategy on the continent.
For one, just as the US invokes counter-terrorism as a basis for military assistance to African states, it may come to use international justice enforcement to justify increased militarisation of select African armies. … the US prefers to rely on proxies to carry out its military agenda.
Instead of bringing the US back within international law, the proposed US ‘engagement’ with the ICC would thus allow the US to declare itself above international law while using international law for its own interests.
The vast discretion afforded to the Office of the Prosecutor by the Rome Statute and the lack of transparency that characterises the prosecutor’s decisions as to whom to prosecute and why is unlikely to provide any check on this type of politicisation. Luis Moreno-Ocampo has shown himself willing to take full advantage of the discretion provided him, practicing immense selectivity in his investigations and prosecutions. … If the ICC is seen as working hand-in-glove with US interests in Africa, its legitimacy may end up fatally damaged.
LAYING STRATEGY: Mr Ocampo addresses the ICC review conference in Kampala. PHOTO BY STEPHEN WANDERA
The US Congress has just passed a law that AFRICOM should assist in the apprehension of Joseph Kony, one of the ICC’s main targets named by Ocampo. Of course the US law does not mention that the recent discoveries of oil in the areas where Kony operates make him an inconvenience for US and other big money financial interests. AFRICOM assisted in the disastrous Operation Lightning Thunder. It put up the money without which the raid would have been impossible. We are likely to see more and worse with AFRICOM further militarizing that conflict.
One recent incident may provide a taste for what is to come through an AFRICOM–ICC alliance. In December 2008, a military operation coined ‘Operation Lightning Thunder’ was carried out principally by the Ugandan military with training and financial support from AFRICOM against the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, the top commanders of which have outstanding ICC arrest warrants against them. The operation failed to capture the LRA leadership, however, and led to over 1,000 civilian deaths and the displacement of up to 200,000 Congolese.
The presence of US military on African soil raises a number of concerns for those communities where they are deployed. Former US Army Colonel Ann Wright warned against deploying US soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, citing the high number of rape and violent sexual assault cases in the US military and by US military personnel against women and girls in areas around US military bases. As she stated, ‘If the women of the Congo should Google, “US military – sexual assault and rape”, I suspect they will decline the offer of assistance from the African Command.’
Similarly, given the massive civilian devastation wreaked by recent US military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is likely that most Africans would say ‘no thank you’ to the offers of justice from the barrel of American guns. This is especially the case given that many of these law enforcement operations may be carried out not by uniformed US soldiers, but by US-contracted private security firms who anticipate a boom in business thanks to AFRICOM. Given the near total lack of accountability that private contractors have enjoyed in Iraq and Afghanistan, this should also give human rights and peace advocates considerable pause for thought.
Finally, regardless of how the proposed cooperation works out in practice, there is the underlying issue that, for people in many areas of the world, the idea that US military force is the chosen instrument of global justice makes a mockery of the violence and devastation they have suffered at the hands of US military intervention. The ICC’s pandering to the US military is an insult to all those in the US and around the world struggling to hold the US military and its mercenaries accountable.
And AFRICOM has its fingers in more legal pies. In May it organized the three day first Annual Africa Military Legal Justice System’s conference at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre in Accra, Ghana.
In February AFRICOM organized a training on the investigation and prosecution of sex crimes for military in the DRC. Considering the problem with rape in the US military, even more so with the US military contractors, this is not reassuring.
AFRICOM looks like it is interested in a lot of legal authority throughout the continent of Africa, a grave danger to the people who live on the continent.
U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) hosted the first-ever Africa Military Legal Conference May 18-20, 2010 at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Accra, Ghana. Representatives from 15 African nations, Canada and the United States attended.
ACCRA, Ghana - The first Africa Military Legal Conference, hosted by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), began May 18, 2010 at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center (KAIPTC) in Accra, Ghana. The three-day conference brought together lawyers and other legal experts from nearly 15 African countries. Participants in the opening session were Colonel Jon Lightner, chief legal counsel for AFRICOM, Air Vice Marshal Christian Edem Kobla Dovlo, commandant of the KAIPTC, Captain Kathleen Duignan, chief of AFRICOM's Legal Engagements Division, and Colonel Leo Hirschmann, a German officer who is serving a three year assignment at the KAIPTC as the head of training. (Photo by Nicole Dalrymple, U.S. Africa Command)
KITGUM, Uganda - Soldiers from Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States participate in an opening ceremony at the start of Natural Fire 10, October 16, 2009. Natural Fire 10 is a multi-national, globally-resourced exercise focused on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and regional security. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Africa)
AROMO, Uganda - Seaman Apprentice John Sanders, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3, and Uganda Peoples' Defence Force Corporal Ongora Bonny begin constructing the foundation of a bridge in Aromo, Uganda, October 10, 2009. The bridge, scheduled to be completed in January 2010, will benefit local residents by improving their transportation ability. (Photo by Staff Sergeant Ronald Lafosse, CJTF-HOA)
Natural Fire 10, a multinational military exercise involving five East African partner states — plus partners from the U.S. military — began October 16, 2009 in northern Uganda.
Soldiers from Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States opened the exercise with a ceremony attended by senior military officials from each country.
The 10-day exercise focuses on humanitarian and civic assistance, disaster relief and regional security.
Roughly 550 U.S. personnel and 133 military personnel from each of the five partner nations are taking part. Altogether, there will be nearly 1,220 participants. Three training opportunities are going on simultaneously. Medical, dental and engineering projects will assist the local community and security partnership exercises near Kitgum which will increase the soldiers’ ability to work together.
Meanwhile, in Kampala and Entebbe, military leaders and senior civilian officials from participating countries will take part in a tabletop exercise — facing simulated emergencies in Africa. This type of exercise will sharpen senior and mid-level military leaders’ skills in their response to disasters, to offer humanitarian assistance and to prepare for pandemic situations.
Medical care will include direct care by a doctor or dentist, to include optometry and pharmacy services as well as dental extractions. Education classes on HIV/AIDS, nutrition and hygiene will also be provided. The care will be provided at Pajimo Health Center, Palabek Health Center, Mucwini Health Center and Kitgum Government Hospital.
Engineers will work together to make improvements at a high school, primary school and a hospital. Improvements include repairing or replacing roofs, window panes and doors, repairing walls, installing handicap ramps and placing a concrete floor. Engineer projects will be conducted at the Kitgum High School, Mucwini Primary School and Kitgum Government Hospital.
Natural Fire 10 closes with a ceremony October 25, 2009, when all participants will return to their countries.
Natural Fire was first held in Kenya in 1998, with U.S. partnership. Since, then it has been held every two years in East Africa. In 2000, it grew to include Tanzania and Uganda, as well as the U.S. and Kenya — a significant step for the EAC alliance. In 2006, Natural Fire expanded to include field training and humanitarian assistance. Since then, the exercise has grown to feature five partner states, with the addition of soldiers from Burundi.
This gives you the basic description of the exercise. You can see the location of Kitgum on this map. You will notice that Kitgum is right on the border of southern Sudan, where there is oil, and where US coporations are buying up large tracts of land. There are recent significant discoveries of oil in Uganda, with more expected both in Uganda and in the DRC.
Ugandan districts affected by Lords Resistance Army, map created by Mark Dingemanse for Wikimedia.
There are many questions about what other agendas are at work with this exercise, besides the ones that have been publicly announced.
Paul Amoru describes the location of the exercise:
Northern Uganda, the former epicentre of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) conflict, has become home for US Marines and army officers, at least for the next three weeks.
Over 600 military personnel from Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda are also expected to arrive in Kitgum District, where Uganda, along with these partners will hold a 10-day exercise, focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
For a region that has just returned to normalcy, three years ago, the high levelled military cooperation has triggered raw excitement among the formerly displaced community. The US-led exercise is dubbed Natural Fire 10.
Advanced US military personnel, who are settling in the war battered region, have already mounted several installations in Kitgum, including a water purification plant at Akwang Sub-county. The plant will produce up to 20,000 litres every day.
UPDF 4th Division spokesperson Ronald Kakurungu yesterday remained upbeat about the event. “This is an opportunity for us to associate more with civilians. We expect to cement our strategic relationship with the community,” Capt. Kakurungu said.
As an article in the East African points out:
…the decision to site the exercise in northern Uganda raises questions about whether it may presage a renewed US-supported assault against the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Natural Fire 10 will involve live fire in the field as well as convoy operations, crowd control and vehicle checkpoints, the US Army reports.
And while Maj Gen William B. Garrett III insisted recently that the exercise is focused on training for humanitarian relief, the US Army commander added that the forces he will lead in Natural Fire 10 will be ready to respond to any security threat that may arise in the Kitgum region.
The Obama administration is being urged by dozens of Democratic and Republican members of Congress to help finish the fight against the LRA.
Several non-governmental organisations based in the US also advocate US military action to put an end to the maraudings of the LRA.
The US provided operational support to a joint Ugandan-DR Congo-Southern Sudan offensive last December that was aimed at capturing or killing LRA leader Joseph Kony and dealing a decisive blow to an insurgency that has terrorised Ugandan civilians for the past 20 years.
But the operation dubbed Lightning Thunder failed in its objectives.
[you will find more details on Operation Lightning Thunder here and here]
Kony escaped, and his forces embarked on a killing spree that took the lives of an estimated 1,000 Congolese villagers.
Natural Fire 10 may well have the primary purposes claimed for it, but the skills being taught to the East African soldiers “are readily transferable to any sort of operations that their commanders want to undertake,” notes Daniel Volman, head of the Washington-based, non-governmental African Security Research Project.
Kony and the LRA have spread out from northern Uganda into both Sudan and the DRC. They are in the way of the exploitation of the oil and other natural resources. So suddenly, in addition to the humanitarian horror they have always been, they are now inconvenient to the interests of global money. So now there is talk of further military action against them. The Acholi Leaders Peace Initiative writes to us courtesy of Africa Focus, about the possibility of a military option:
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.
It must be acknowledged that there are numerous groups which are causing insecurity throughout the region. While the LRA is one said group, any strategy that is put in place must also address the other negative forces working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and Uganda who pose a threat to stability.
As the conflict has transformed into a regional issue, diplomatic engagement with regional stakeholders, namely those from Democratic Republic of Congo, Southern Sudan, Central African Republic, and Uganda is integral so that the needs and concerns of all affected are adequately addressed.
Furthermore, we feel that not all non-violent strategies have been explored adequately. While some have put forward that dialogue has failed, we argue that there were certain factors such as the stick and carrot approach, vested interests, presumptions, and the lack of coordination and communication between the LRA, GoU, and mediating parties did not provide a fruitful environment for dialogue to take place.
Time and again, issues of spoilers both regionally and internationally have played a role in frustrating any attempts at peace. For any regional strategy to be successful, we feel that such spoilers need to be investigated, made known if found guilty, and held accountable for their actions in the interest of sustainable peace.
It has been observed that past development programs in Northern Uganda have failed to make an impact on the ground due to various factors such as corruption. … [a] plan needs to be put into place to ensure that support is maintained to the affected civilian population to prevent them from once again being victims due to the actions of others.
Among the regional spoilers have been the governments of Uganda and Rwanda, both of whom have been in competition with each other and with the DRC to take advantage of the mineral resources of the DRC. Both those governments are taking part in this exercise. And both of those governments have acted as proxy warriors, looking after the interests of US and other western interests in minerals in the DRC, in addition to their own interests. This has led to unending war and humanitarian disaster in the Eastern Congo.
Democratic institutions need encouragement and support in East Africa, as in many other places. Military exercises, no matter how humanitarian their decriptors, do not provide support for democratic institutions. Military exercises feature soldiers as government. Those who eye Natural Fire 10 and other recent US military exercises on the African continent with skepticism and apprehension have much to justify their fear.
If there is oil in Uganda, there must be bad people there who need the Pentagon to bring them democracy, a colleague observed. And indeed this is in part correct, there are some very bad people there. The Lords Resistance Army has plagued Uganda for 20 years, committing murders and atrocities, and kidnapping children to be child soldiers and sex slaves. The map below shows the historical areas in which the LRA operated. Much of the time the problem was ignored. But it has been a huge problem, creating hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people, especially children.
Ugandan districts affected by Lords Resistance Army, map created by Mark Dingemanse for Wikimedia.
The US has not taken much notice of this until very recently. The Ugandan Army has stepped up its battle against the LRA in recent years, and the LRA has moved and expanded its operations into the DRC, as well as Sudan and the Central African Republic. In December 2008, the US Africa Command, AFRICOM, helped plan and arm a badly botched raid on the LRA, including contributing $1 million worth of fuel. Without the money for fuel, the raid could not have taken place. No effort was made to warn or defend the civilian population. The raid failed, the raiders came up empty handed, but the LRA attacked the civilian population in reprisal. It carried on a reign of terror throughout areas of the DRC that went on for weeks and months. Hundreds have been killed and maimed, children were kidnapped, and are still being kidnapped, and hundreds of thousands displaced. I wrote about it earlier, with links to accounts of what happened, Stability operations cause 900 civilian deaths, 100,000 displaced, miss target and Botched raid. Here is a map of LRA attacks outside Uganda, mostly in the DRC:
Map of LRA attacks in the DRC, December 2007 - January 2009. Total number of villages attacked: 74, Attacked once: 47, Attacked twice: 9, Attacked three times: 5, Attacked eight times: 1 (Duru)
Now there are oil discoveries in the neighborhood. With the oil discoveries there is a lot more US interest in doing something about the LRA.
US Senate wants Obama to crush LRA for good
The East African, June 1 2009
Republicans as well as Demo-crats are pressing President Barack Obama to help the Ugandan military destroy the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Legislation introduced last week in the US Senate would require the Obama administration to move towards “eliminating the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army.”
The proposal calls for military and other forms of US support for multilateral efforts to “apprehend or otherwise remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield and to disarm and demobilise Lord’s Resistance Army fighters.”
Introduced by key members of both major US political parties, the legislation would also provide $20 million in the coming year for humanitarian aid to civilians in Central Africa affected by LRA actions and for efforts to promote recovery and reconciliation in northern Uganda.
“The introduction of this Bill demonstrates the growing consensus on the need for greater US leadership to disarm top LRA leaders and permanently end this violence,” said Democratic Congressman James McGovern.
Republican Congressman Ed Royce said the bill “rightly targets” LRA leader Joseph Kony.
“Kony’s removal is essential to peace in the region,” Royce declared.
It is fashionable to blame conflict in Africa on poverty and other environmental factors,” Royce wrote in a blog he posts on his congressional website.
“But sometimes just getting rid of one person does make a big difference. History is full of captivating leaders with bad ideas who do great damage. It’s a lesson I learned from West Africa, where Liberian president Charles Taylor, ran a gangster regime that brought havoc to neighbouring Sierra Leone. After his hard-fought removal, the region is peaceful. Kony’s removal won’t guarantee peace — but it will make it possible.”
That approach is being endorsed by Human Rights Watch and 21 other non-governmental organisations in the US that are jointly backing the legislation known officially as the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.
Thousands of young Americans have also taken up the cause of pushing the US government to help put an end to the atrocities that Kony’s forces have inflicted on civilians in Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic as well as in Uganda.
This co-ordinated campaign by the US president’s political allies is likely to influence the Obama administration thinking. It increases the likelihood that the US Africa Command (Africom) will be ordered to help plan and execute a new Uganda-led offensive against the LRA.
Senator Russell Feingold said in introducing the anti-LRA legislation that the earlier “botched operation does not mean that we should just give up on the goal of ending the massacres and the threat to regional stability posed by this small rebel group.
Moreover, given that the US provided assistance and support for this operation at the request of the regional governments, we have a responsibility to help see this rebel war to its end.”
The LRA is an entirely appropriate target for the Ugandan government. I think everybody would be glad to see the last of the LRA. However, the presence of oil in Uganda and probably the DRC, plus the multitude of other minerals in the DRC makes any incursions there more complex. I doubt the Pentagon’s Africa Command will improve the democracy situation. You can see some some of the problem in this map of the DRC. It includes mineral resources, and the areas where both Rwanda and Uganda operate inside the DRC, ostensibly to go after the various militias originating in their countries, that now include the LRA. Though both Uganda and Rwanda rake in big profits from minerals mined in the DRC.
DRC map, coltan, minerals, with areas of Ugandan and Rwandan military activity marked
[Added March 3, 2010: For more, and more detailed maps of the location of coltan and other minerals in the DRC, see this post: Trading Congo Contraband – Maps – 3T Minerals, Coltan, Gold.]
There is also the possibility of major oil finds in northwestern Kenya, bordering on northern Uganda and southeastern Sudan. So the LRA is very much in the way, wherever it is holed up or active. This more than any humanitarian concern is making it more urgent and important to get rid of them. AFRICOM is still wearing its humanitarian makeup in Northern Uganda. If you look at the map of Northern Uganda at the top of this post, Pader, Gulu, and Lira are all featured in the photos at the africom.mil photo gallery photos from Uganda. The one following is of US soldiers grading the road for a bridge crossing that will, among other things, help get goods to market at Lira. I so not wish to minimize the value of this and similar projects. They are a boon and blessing for the local people, until and unless they may be used against the local people. But humanitarian assistance is not the reason for AFRICOM. It would be better for development and democracy if such projects were funded and undertaken by civilian agencies. And the funding for these projects is peanuts compared to the military spending.
AROMA, Uganda - Local residents of Aroma, Uganda look on as service members from the U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion-11, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, grade the area surrounding the Walela Cultvert Bridge on May 5, 2009. This was the final construction phase of a bridge that connects the main Lira road to the Aroma sub-county. Funded by Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, the Walela Bridge was constructed by 25 U.S. Navy construction engineers in partnership with their counterparts from the Uganda People’s Defense force. It will improve the lives of more than 60,000 people from three villages by enhancing their transportation ability, providing them with year-round access to the Lira market, and aiding in the delivery of humanitarian assistance supplies. (Photo by Technical Sergeant Dawn Price, CJTF-HOA)
There is another danger from US militarism in Uganda’s path. Back in February Charles Onyango Obbo wrote in Uganda’s Daily Monitor:
Iraq war could end up on Museveni’s doorsteps
Two weeks ago The Sunday Times (of London) magazine had a striking photograph of Ugandan guards in Iraq. But even more telling was the short text that accompanied it. It reported that while Britain and America are planning on withdrawing their troops from Iraq, “the Ugandans are coming”.
The Ugandans, said The Sunday Times, were ‘desperate’ to be sent to Iraq, and already almost 10,000 of them are working as private security guards in Iraq, risking their lives to guard various American installations. We know this already, but then it gets quite interesting. It describes the war in Iraq as the ‘most privatised’ in history.
Over the last five years, America has dished out contracts worth about $100 billion. More and more of the 230,000 private-sector jobs related to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, it said, have been outsourced to the Third World, what it called “the military equivalent of installing call centres in India”.
It discussed why American and British contractors moved into Uganda to hire guards for Iraq (we speak English, have surplus veterans from our many wars) but, ultimately they came because Uganda “is cheap”. Since the first lot of guards was sent in 2005, the paper reports, competition has driven wages down from $1,300 a month to around $600 today.
To understand how cheap our lives are, the $6000 compares with the $15,000 a British and American guard could make.
It would take a Ugandan two years to earn what a Brit or American makes in a month. It becomes very ironical: The Uganda government backs Zimbabwe President Robert Zimbabwe in his insane drive to destroy his once prosperous country, and Kampala officials and security officers own the firms that have a monopoly on exporting Ugandan guards to Iraq. However, most of the chaps who train the Ugandan Iraq guards are white instructors from Zimbabwe. Some of them, probably, were officers in the white supremacist army against which Mugabe and his guerrillas fought!
The story of Ugandan Iraq guards, however, is just in the first chapter of its telling. Even at $600 (before the Ugandan firm deducts its njawulo), these guards are already making more than they possibly could at home. Now that the American presence is winding down, by the end of next year, there might be little work for Third World guards in Iraq. If there is, the salaries could be so low, it would no longer be worth it.
When these 10,000 guards return home, then the reckoning will start. Their story might be much like that of the African veterans of World War II. The unintended effect of that war was that when the Africans returned home, they were inspired to join the struggle for independence. Their fear of the colonialist had gone. They had killed the mzungu in war, seen them wail in pain, and flee hot battles, and their allies. They realised that; ‘Hey, these guys are just like us’, and decided that there was nothing special that gave them the right to colonise us.
The Ugandans who are serving in Iraq have seen even a more dramatic humbling of the world’s sole superpower, America. If America can be brought to its knees by a rag tag bunch of dissidents, the UPDF – a comparatively rudimentary and unsophisticated force (its notable bush credentials notwithstanding) – must look very ordinary to them now.
President Yoweri Museveni is a not a fool, one reason he has been able to cling to power as long as he has. He realises that the guards are probably better trained than the average UPDF soldier. And, farther, that having so many people with their skills who are not intimidated by the UPDF returning home and not being within the control of the security services, is dangerous.
Just like the government has done with many LRA former rebels, it will incorporate the guards into the UPDF. That, however, has its risks. Even when they were badly treated, the Uganda guards in Iraq lived better, were paid more and more promptly, than many rank and file UPDF soldiers, some of whom still live in manyattas, and make do with tired sandals for boots. They could spread discontent, and that is hazardous. Also, UPDF cannot possibly absorb 10,000 guards, some of whom might not necessarily have the “correct” political and ethnic profile for the army.
The best option, therefore, would to create a Reserve Foreign Force in which all the former guards are placed, and get a trusted general who is on kateebe, to head it. That will partially solve the problem of control, but it won’t help in ensuring loyalty to the “Museveni way”, as the bulk of the Iraqi guards are unlikely to ever be dyed-in-the-wool NRM cadres.
The private need by the regime to reward insiders by letting them corner the Iraqi guards supply contracts could one day clash with its public need to keep power by monopolising the means and skills of war. Will the Museveni government avoid the fate of the British colonialists after WW II? Only time will tell.
Charles Onyango Obbo is an astute observer and journalist. As he points out, we only know the opening chapters of this story. The comments that follow the original text at the link are worth reading as well, and lend credence to Obbo’s observations. The oil discoveries, and competition for oil money will further complicate the tale. The presence of AFRICOM, which is already on quite friendly terms with Museveni, and the US habit of picking favorites and interfering with domestic politics, as it has been doing in Kenya and Somalia, is likely to play a part in the unfolding story.
LRA in Northern Uganda
LRA attacks in the DRC
DRC, coltan, and military activity
Added June 20:
It looks like Uganda is in for a bunch more partnering with AFRICOM. Obama just appointed/nominated the ambassador to Uganda, from the White House:
Jerry P. Lanier, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Uganda
Jerry P. Lanier is a career diplomat with 26 years of service in the Department of State. He is currently the Foreign Policy Advisor for U.S. Africa Command headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany.
Prior to that, he was the Director of the Office of Regional and Security Affairs in the Africa Bureau at the State Department. Mr. Lanier has also served in the Philippines, Kenya, Thailand, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Ghana. At State he has served as the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, country officer for the Republic of Korea, Legislative Management Officer for Africa, Deputy Director for the Office of West African Affairs, and Deputy Director for the Office Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh Affairs. He received his B.A. at Pembroke State University, his M.A. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and served three years as lecturer in the history department of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Mr. Lanier’s employment history looks like he has experience interfering with the internal affairs of other nations.
Huge deposits of oil have been identified in Uganda along the shore of Lake Albert:
Uganda’s oil reserves rival Saudi Arabia’s, says US expert
map of Uganda showing the Bunyoro kingdom in green, located along the side of Lake Albert, where much of the oil is located
Uganda along lake Albert, the white line in the lake is the border between Uganda and DRC. On the Uganda side you can see the places Tonyo, Hoima, and Butiaba marked on the map. These are locations of oil discoveries.
The southern portion of Lake Albert in Uganda including most of oil Block 3A (map added 4/2010)
These are the oil blocks around Lake Albert, with Uganda on the east/right, and the DRC on the west/left
KAMPALA, UGANDA - Uganda’s oil reserves could be as much as that of the Gulf countries, a senior official at the US Department of Energy has said.
Based on the test flow results encountered at the wells so far drilled and other oil numbers, Ms. Sally Kornfeld, a senior analyst in the office of fossil energy went ahead to talk about Uganda’s oil reservoirs in the same sentence as Saudi Arabia.”You are blessed with amazing reservoirs. Your reservoirs are incredible. I am amazed by what I have seen, you might rival Saudi Arabia,” Kornfeld told a visiting delegation from Uganda in Washington DC.
The group of Ugandans was in Washington on an international visitor programme and looked at the efficient use of natural energy resources.
The group comprised Ministry of Energy officials, a Member of Parliament, members from the civil society and one journalist.
At present, Uganda has four oil prospectors on the ground including Heritage Oil, Tullow Oil, Tower Oil and Dominion Oil.
Of the four prospectors, Tullow and Heritage have registered success at wells in two blocks in the Albertine basin, which lies in the upper-most part of the western arm of the Great Rift Valley.
According to data so far aggregated since the first discovery was made by Australian prospector Hardman Resources (now taken over by Tullow) in June 2006, Uganda has established reserves at 3.5 million barrels of oil per day.
Experts in oil exploration say this could be just a tip of the iceberg.
In April last year, Tullow embarked on what it termed as a major drilling campaign in the Butiaba area around Lake Albert targeting an overall reserve potential in excess of a billion barrels.
The Butiaba campaign was preceded by successes in two drilling campaigns in the Kaiso-Tonya area and the Kingfisher field and all these have been 100% successes so far.
The Butiaba campaign has thrown up successes but the two biggest so far have been the Buffalo-Giraffe wells – described as “one of the largest recent onshore oil discoveries in Africa“.
“Combined with our other finds in the region, we have now clearly exceeded the thresholds for basin development,” the chief executive of Tullow commented then.
The Giraffe-1 exploration well, which is located in the Butiaba region, came up with over 38 metres of net oil pay within an 89-metre gross oil bearing interval.
The data from the Giraffe discovery indicate a net reservoir thickness of 38 metres, the largest encountered in the area to date.
The Buffalo-1 exploration well in Block 1 encountered 15 metres of net gas pay and over 28 metres of net oil pay.
The gas and oil columns encountered are 48 metres and 75 metres respectively with the potential to be even larger.
As Kornfeld marveled at Uganda’s oil finds, she was quick to add that for the country to benefit from the oil and gas resources but also avoid the pitfalls of oil producing countries like Nigeria, it is extremely important to set up strong governance structures.
Kornfeld and the other United States officials said they are ready to help Uganda’s nascent oil and gas sector with anything including the key environmental issues that are crucial to the efficient management of oil and gas.
“Anything you might want us to help you with we will and we have a lot of expertise in environmental issues relating to oil and gas,” Kornfeld said.
And in a quote from the article written a year ago, with the oil blocks pictured above:
“The Albert Basin now looks increasingly like it has the elements to make it a world-class petroleum basin. The flow rates, even constrained by available completion and test facilities, far exceeded our expectations,” Tony Buckingham says.
It is certainly true the the US has a lot of experience, and one might say expertise, in environmental issues relating to oil and gas. Unfortunately much of that expertise and experience is involved in circumventing and evading environmental law and responsible environmental management.
Then, as Ms. Kornfeld said, there is the issue of avoiding the pitfalls of other oil producing countries like Nigeria. In general, the US has supported the policies and governments in Nigeria that have engineered these pitfalls, into seemingly bottomless pits, working along with the US based oil corporations operating in Nigeria. So although they might know what to avoid in order to be socially and environmentally responsible, there is no indication that the US government or the oil corporations have any intention of acting in socially or environmentally responsible ways. Uganda does not have much history of environmentalism it can point to with pride either. So far the US response to African oil issues has been almost entirely military, hence AFRICOM, the US Africa Command.
The Uganda government may be strong in the sense of using muscle to insure compliance. It employs muscle internally against dissent, and externally to assist in exploiting the resources of its neighbors, particularly in the DRC. However its democratic history is weak, and employment of any form of participatory democracy in decision making is sadly lacking. The US has been an enthusiastic supporter of Uganda’s “strength”. Mahmood Mamdani points out that Museveni has been a US proxy in Rwanda, and is still a US proxy in the DRC. AMISOM soldiers from Uganda are in Somalia acting as US proxies, and the underlying issue there too is oil.
Museveni‘s name means son of a man of the seventh, meaning from the Seventh Battalion of the Kings Africa Rifles. That seems ironically appropriate, as Uganda is acting as a US proxy in the DRC, Somalia, and Ugandan mercenaries have played a prominent role in Iraq. US proxy warriors in Africa have been referred to as Bush’s Africa Rifles, now Obama’s Africa Rifles, not too different from the colonial proxy war tradition of the King’s Africa Rifles.
Museveni has shown no interest in allowing any democratic opposition to his presidency. In May he declared: I see no successor in NRM.
He may have ruled Uganda for the past twenty three years but President Yoweri Museveni is still hesitant to hand over power, not even to members of the National Resistance Movement, of which he is the leader.
On Thursday the president told NRM Members of Parliament that while he would be “happy” to hand over power, he saw “nobody” ready to take on the daunting responsibility of leading Uganda.
So the Uganda government will continue to run along lines that Museveni sees as in his/Uganda’s interest. I don’t know if this is the “strong governance structures” to which Kornfeld refers. It may well be. She and her cronies may see this as the most convenient way for the US to access Ugandan oil. But it cannot be described as democratic, or in any way resembling participatory democracy. Unless people who live where the resources are can benefit from those resources, and have some say in how they are disposed, there will be conflict. And problems are already brewing. In April 2009 Uganda Bunyoro Kingdom Threatens Lawsuit over Oil Exploration:
Cultural leaders of Uganda’s Bunyoro kingdom, located on the Ugandan side of the oil-rich Albertine rift, have threatened legal action against the central government over oil exploration and production activities there, a kingdom official said Monday, but the government has promised talks to resolve the issue.
Yolamu Nsamba, the principal private secretary of the king of Bunyoro, said the government has breached the pre-independence agreement of 1955, which provides that Bunyoro is entitled to substantial amounts of revenue from mineral exploration in its kingdom.
“For years now, the central government has been dealing with oil exploration companies secretly yet the law has never been changed,” he said, adding that kingdom officials have already informed the central government of its intentions.
A government official told Dow Jones Newswires separately Monday that the central government would soon start talks with kingdom officials to resolve the issue. Uganda is expected to embark on an early oil production scheme in the first quarter of 2010.
The 1955 agreement was signed between the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and the U.K. protectorate government and stipulates that in the event of mineral development taking place in Bunyoro, a substantial part of the mineral royalties and revenue from mining leases would be paid to the native government of Bunyoro Kitara.
Bunyoro remains influential in Uganda although its cultural leaders are prohibited from engaging in national politics.
It will be interesting to see how Bunyoro fares in maintaining some control over its riches. And there are troubles with the neighbors too. In May 2009 Uganda beefs up marine surveillance on its waters.
Uganda has stepped up security on its waterways and is quietly revamping its marine police in anticipation of tensions with its neighbours over the country’s natural resources.
Apparently, the discovery of high-value natural resources such as oil and gas under and near Uganda’s lakes and the need to protect fisheries resources are the imperative behind moves to improve security on the country’s waters.
The Police Marine Unit has acquired four specialised boats at a cost of $8.6 million to be paid over a period of five years.
The acquisitions and keen interest in marine security come in the wake of an incident in August 2007, when Congolese troops on the disputed Rukwanzi island in Lake Albert shot and killed oil prospectors who were carrying out surveys on the Ugandan side of the lake.
Officials say terror threats have also underscored the need for improving security on the country’s lakes because Uganda’s main Entebbe airport — the kind of key infrastructure usually targeted by terrorists — is located on a peninsula in Lake Victoria.
Much as the boats are up and running and have recently been seen around Migingo island, over which Kenya and Uganda are squabbling, questions are being raised over the capacity of the police to take on and maintain such infrastructure both financially and technically.
Uganda is landlocked, so issues of how and where the oil will be refined and transported are still up in the air. Tullow, Heritage Face Tough Choices on Uganda Oil Devt.
After remarkable exploration success in Uganda, Tullow Oil PLC (TLW.LN) and Heritage Oil Ltd. (HOIL.LN) face tough choices over how to develop the oil they’ve discovered.
Both companies face immense infrastructure challenges bringing the oil from its remote region to world markets. They have to walk a fine line between their commercial goals and the sometimes conflicting ambitions of the Ugandan government. Tullow and Heritage also have to handle overtures from much larger rivals that want in on the substantial quantities of oil they have discovered.
“Lake Albert is a multibillion-barrel basin,” with great potential to expand reserves even further once problems with licenses on the Congolese side of the lake are resolved and exploration begins there, said Paul Atherton, chief financial officer of Heritage.
Tullow and Heritage have long talked of exporting the Lake Albert oil to world markets via Kenya, initially by rail to the port of Mombassa and eventually through a large enough pipeline to carry the 150,000 barrels of oil per day the basin is thought to be capable of producing.
The government has clashed recently with Tullow over the pipeline, said an official at the energy and minerals ministry.
And Uganda’s energy minister recently said no unrefined oil should be exported from Uganda and instead the country should build a refinery to process all domestic crude and supply oil products to the whole region.
As talks on the development move slowly forward, one voice that has been heard little so far is that of the local communities, said Dickens Kamugisha, chief executive of the African Institute for Energy Governance, a non-governmental organization based in the Ugandan capital.
Local people are worried about the problems caused in Nigeria, Angola and Chad by the exploitation of oil resources and unchecked flows of petrodollars to governments with a reputation for corruption, he said. “The process has been secretive,” with insufficient public discussion over the competing development plans and no publication of the production-sharing contracts between the Ugandan government and the companies, he said.
Tullow and Heritage stressed that they have maintained good relationships with local communities. Tullow said it has shown local people around their drill sites to explain what they are doing and both companies are contributing to local development by funding schools, health clinics and even lifeboat training on the lake. Employment of local people “would be an integral part of any development plan,” along the lines of work the company has done in Ghana, said McDade.
Kamugisha acknowledged the local work of the companies, but expressed concern about the lack of transparency from the government. He said he wants the Ugandan government to follow the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and declare all oil revenues openly in order to prevent corruption. Both Tullow and Heritage said they are happy to disclose the terms of their contracts — which they described as containing good terms for Uganda — if the government allows it.
Whether this is enough is unclear. A dispute is already brewing over who controls rights to minerals in the Lake Albert area and how revenues will be distributed between the government and leaders of the Bunyoro Kingdom — the ethnic grouping that occupies districts on the lake’s eastern shore . Local communities “say they have been completely left out of the process and are not satisfied,” said Kamugisha.
It looks like some rough roads ahead.
h/t to b real whose research identified many of the links above
Bunyoro map from Face Music – History of Uganda
Oil blocks pictured above blocks from this article .
October 15 2011:
For more on this topic see:
If Uganda Has Oil It Must Need The Pentagon’s Democracy including the documents in the comments.
For more on the first attempt of the Pentagon to go after Kony and the LRA see:
Stability operations cause 900 civilian deaths, 100,000 displaced, miss target
Uganda, from google maps, showing the border with Sudan and the DRC
Senator Feingold has been a leading proponent of AFRICOM. I am in many respects an admirer of Senator Feingold. But he has either missed the point entirely regarding AFRICOM, or he has one or more agendas he has not revealed.
At the end of December AFRICOM funded and advised a strike by Uganda against the Lord’s Resistance Army in the northern DRC. I wrote about it with a map of the location here, with more details here. The raid was badly botched. It was the equivalent of striking a hornets nest with a stick. The raiders found only empty campsites. The Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, which had been relatively quiet, followed their habitual predictable practice of reprisals against the civilian population. The result was hundreds of children kidnapped to be conscripted as child soldiers or sex conscripts. At least 900 people have been brutally murdered, and at least 100,000 displaced, their homes, villages, and livlihoods destroyed. These figures come from January. The killing, the theft of children and the displacement continue.
The New York Times described AFRICOM’s part in the raid:
It is the first time the United States has helped plan such a specific military offensive with Uganda, according to senior American military officials. They described a team of 17 advisers and analysts from the Pentagon’s new Africa Command working closely with Ugandan officers on the mission, providing satellite phones, intelligence and $1 million in fuel.
AFRICOM paid for the raid. Without the $1 million worth of fuel, it would not have been attempted, regardless of the other training and equipment provided. The LRA is a legitimate target for Uganda and its neighbors. But the raid was disasterously mishandled, and funded by US taxpayers.
As Steve Coll writes:
The larger issue here is the momentum that military liaison creates when it becomes the heavily funded nexus of U.S. policy. Africa Command’s mission is to “engage” with brother armies, its commanders have a professional bias to action, and they often do not take strategic direction from civilians until they are ready to present their war, engagement and training plans, whether in Colombia or Pakistan or Uganda. Military liaison, even if it is conceived progressively, becomes its own self-fulfilling destination, especially when the rest of the U.S. government is starved, by comparison, for resources.
After the raid, Mary Yates defended AFRICOM’s actions with the only defense available, that it was the LRA’s fault for committing the same evil acts that it has commited for decades, not mentioning that anyone could and should have predicted the danger. The error, in addition to botching the raid, was the complete failure to make any attempt to protect the civilian population.
But Sen. Feingold ignored all that. He blames only the local militaries, Uganda and the DRC. This is the great advantage of proxy armies. You can blame them for the losses, and claim credit for the wins. On Thursday Sen. Feingold testified to Congress:
Just over two months ago, the Ugandan, Congolese and South Sudanese militaries launched a joint offensive against the LRA’s primary bases in northeastern Congo. Serious concerns have been raised about the planning and implementation of this operation. …
… I am not ruling out that this offensive—still ongoing—may yet succeed. …
As a 17-year member of the Subcommittee on African Affairs and someone who has been involved with AFRICOM since its conception, I would like to offer some thoughts on this matter. While I supported AFRICOM’s creation, I have been concerned about its potential to eclipse our civilian agencies and thereby perpetuate perceptions on the continent of a militarized U.S. policy. It is essential that we get this balance right and protect chief of mission authority. By doing so, we can help ensure AFRICOM contributes to broader efforts to bring lasting peace and stability across Africa. When I visited AFRICOM’s headquarters last December and talked with senior officials, we discussed the important roles that it can play. They include helping to develop effective, well-disciplined militaries that adhere to civilian rule, strengthening regional peacekeeping missions, and supporting post-conflict demobilization and disarmament processes. In my view, assisting a multilateral operation to disarm an armed group that preys on civilians and wreaks regional havoc fits this job description, theoretically, at least.
Mr. President, to put it bluntly, I believe supporting viable and legitimate efforts to disarm and demobilize the LRA is exactly the kind of thing in which AFRICOM should be engaged
Following this botched raid, again, quoting Steve Coll:
The explanatory “commander’s vision” on Africom’s Web site is a mush of “Dilbert”-inspired, PowerPoint mission creep. The Africa Command, it says, “develops and implements military programs that add value to the important endeavor of stability and security on the content of Africa and its island nations.” It also “directs, integrates and employs credible and relevant military capability in peace and in response to crisis.” It is a “trusted and reliable partner for nations and security institutions in Africa.” And, of course, it is a “listening and learning organization.”
If you could even sort out what those slogans mean in practice, would you believe them? Not anymore. …
And it is important to emphasize again, that no one consulted with Africa, the African Union, or African governments in creating AFRICOM. It is not welcome in Africa.
Olayiwola Abegunrin writes in AFRICOM: The U.S. Militarization of Africa:
AFRICOM is an example of U.S. military expansion in the name of the war on terrorism, when it is in fact designed to secure Africa’s resources and ensure American interests on the continent. AFRICOM represents a policy of U.S. military-driven expansionism that will only enhance political instability, conflict, and the deterioration of state security in Africa. This is a project that most African countries have rejected to be located on their soil. … AFRICOM would destabilize an already fragile continent, which would be forced to engage with U.S. interests on military terms.
Militarization of Africa with the U.S. designed so-called AFRICOM is not the solution to Africa’s problem. What African countries need is development of their own institutions for security, political and economic independence; massive infusion of foreign direct investment, fair equitable trade, access to U.S. markets, and for U.S. to decrease/or total removal of agricultural subsidies, debt relief and improved Official Development Assistance tailored towards the development aspirations of (recipient countries) African countries and not AFRICOM that will only lead to militarizing the continent.
So what does Senator Feingold really expect to get out of AFRICOM? for the US or for Africa? Is he simply deluded as to the certainty that leading with military laison will destabilize a continent? Or is there something he is not saying that he hopes to accomplish? Does the importance to him of this unspoken goal outweigh recognition of the dangers of AFRICOM, just as the urge to attack the LRA outweighed the clear and obvious dangers of such an attack. The botched raid against the LRA is likely to be the template for many future disasters with AFRICOM leading US policy in Africa. All those involved in the planning and funding of AFRICOM will bear responsibility for this destruction.
ADDED March 16:
Daniel Volman & William Minter: Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa
The government has presented AFRICOM as a cost-effective institutional restructuring and a benign program for supporting African governments in humanitarian as well as necessary security operations. In fact, it represents the institutionalization and increased funding for a model of bilateral military ties — a replay of the mistakes of the Cold War. This risks drawing the United States more deeply into conflicts, reinforcing links with repressive regimes, excusing human rights abuses, and frustrating rather than fostering sustainable multilateral peacemaking and peacekeeping. It will divert scarce budget resources, build resentment, and undercut the long-term interests of the United States.
While AFRICOM may be new, there’s already a track record for such policies in programs now incorporated into AFRICOM. That record shows little evidence that these policies contribute to U.S. or African security. To the contrary, there are substantial indications that they are in fact counterproductive, both increasing insecurity in Africa and energizing potential threats to U.S. interests.
I strongly recommend reading Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa. It provides an overview of the issues that is both clear and thoroughly researched.
Photo of Joseph Kony and leadership of the Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, from a photo essay by Erin Baines taken in 2006. Kony is seated, front row, the second face from the right; lower left inset of some young LRA “soldiers”.
The Lord’s Resistance Army has plagued Uganda for 20 years. It is most notable for kidnapping children and turning them into LRA soldiers and slaves, and for its brutality towards civilians. It created a phenomenon in Northern Uganda called night commuters, children walking long distances to shelter in town overnight so they would not be kidnapped by the LRA.
AFRICOM, demonstrating its goal to “enhance the ability of each one of our African partners to provide for their own security”, helped plan and pay for a thoroughly botched attempt by the Ugandan Army to crush the LRA, Operation Lightning Thunder. According to the New York Times the LRA:
… had been hiding out in a Congolese national park, rebuffing efforts to sign a peace treaty. But the rebel leaders escaped, breaking their fighters into small groups that continue to ransack town after town in northeastern Congo, hacking, burning, shooting and clubbing to death anyone in their way. [map here]
The United States has been training Ugandan troops in counterterrorism for several years, but its role in the operation has not been widely known. It is the first time the United States has helped plan such a specific military offensive with Uganda, according to senior American military officials. They described a team of 17 advisers and analysts from the Pentagon’s new Africa Command working closely with Ugandan officers on the mission, providing satellite phones, intelligence and $1 million in fuel.
The operation made no effort to warn or protect the civilan population although reprisals and civilian massacres are standard operating procedure for the LRA.
The LRA got word the attack was coming and fled, leaving empty campsites.
In an indescribably savage manner, the rebels then attacked several homesteads, axing, cutting, slitting throats and crushing skulls with wooden bats and axes. …
According to the president of the civil society of Dungu, Felicien Balani: “The LRA entered around midnight. They surprised the faithful of the church who were in a prayer vigil. They burned them in the church,” said Balani. …
“In Doruma, it was really awful. They had killed at least 300 people. We were in a village where there are only six survivors, all the others were killed,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, who coordinates the investigations on behalf of Human Rights Watch. …
After the massacre, the rebels “ate the Christmas feast the villagers had prepared, and then slept among the dead bodies before continuing on their trail of destruction and death” through another 12 villages.
In September 2007 Jendayi Frazer, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs said:
So we will not sit still and just let them live in Garamba Park and cultivate land and kill animals. … the US government is worried that a fresh regional war involving Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo could flare up …
According to Dr Frazer, the US government is ready to back co-ordinated military operations by the three countries to fend off rebel forces fighting any government while using a neighbouring country as a military base.
Dr Frazer also vowed that her government would not shy away from employing military means to end the activities of the “negative forces” if efforts to end conflicts through dialogue are not successful – yet another indicator of the new approach the US is taking on conflicts in the region.
Instead of providing stability or security the US and Uganda have succeeded in expanding the war against civilians in the DRC. That area of the DRC had been relatively peaceful before Operation Lightning Thunder. Now many thousands more are suffering. And the slaughter of civilians has not ended. The LRA continues its path of slaughter and devastation through villages in the Congo. Uganda appears to consider the operation a success:
“The operation has been a success in that it has left Joseph Kony naked,” State Minister for Defence Ruth Nankabirwa told IRIN.
“Because of the surprise nature of the attack, he fled from his camp empty-handed. He left behind everything, including food, equipment and other gadgets, so this has reduced his capacity,” she added.
AFRICOM along with its African military partner, Uganda, launched Operation Lightning Thunder. The result is their target, the rebel LRA, escaped untouched, around 900 civilians are dead, thousands raped, maimed, injured and their homes destroyed, hundreds of children conscripted, at least 100,000 displaced. Of those 100,000 people who have been displaced, it is estimated at least half of them are inaccessible to help. And any aid would be a magnet to the LRA as they continue to restock by murder and theft.
I wonder how the AFRICOM side of the military partnership sees this. Is the biggest problem the devastation they have helped create? or is it the bad publicity? In recent history African militaries rarely engage in military to military wars. Most wars are against the civilian population. America had many of these military partnerships with Africa during the Cold War, with horrifying results. As long as American foreign policy is military policy in Africa, as long as military to military partnerships are the goal, there will be many more equally horrifying attacks on civilians.