Uganda


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: https://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.

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:

Hard Target

“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.”[31] 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.”[32] 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.”[26] 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.

Sincerely,

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.
Sincerely,
BARACK OBAMA

To conclude, this bit of hiphop poetry from FURF1387 in the comments at the military.com article quoted above, is right on the mark:

FURF1387
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

I noted these selected paragraphs from articles I read today. The topics are most certainly related.

From an article in Nigeria’s Daily Independent:

On Sudan, my country Nigeria was made to ratify the break-up of that country into North and South so that the powerful nations can have access to the oil fields in the South which they currently cannot control under the incumbent regime. Will Nigeria allow UN to split it into North and South? Never! …

Gradually, White House is bringing Al Qaeda to Nigeria even when Nigeria has no issue with Al Qaeda. The US attempt to force its Africa Command (AFRICOM) base on Nigeria is responsible for the current bombings being tagged ‘Al Qaeda bombs’, so that Nigeria can accept the inevitability of US forces in Nigeria. What’s more, with CIA agents now prowling Nigeria, more bombings should be expected, as the US is determined to pursue its 2015 prediction that Nigeria will break-up. (Cornelius Segun Ojo)

——–

Which country has the biggest military budget per year?

——–

The US military budget in context

From the Narco News Bulletin:

State Department cables recently made public by WikiLeaks do seem to confirm that the U.S. government is very aware that much of the heavy firepower now in the hands of Mexican criminal organizations isn’t linked to mom-and-pop gun stores, but rather the result of blowback from U.S. arms-trading policies (both current and dating back to the Iran/Contra era) that put billions of dollars of deadly munitions into global trade stream annually.

As the death toll mounts in the drug war now raging in Mexico, it pays to remember that weapons trafficking, both government-sponsored and illegal, is a big business that feeds and profits off that carnage. Bellicose government policies, such as the U.S.-sponsored Merida Initiative, that are premised on further militarizing the effort to impose prohibition on civil society only serve to expand the profit margin on the bloodshed. (Pentagon Fingered as a Source of Narco-Firepower in Mexico)

There is an election this week in Uganda. Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire records some of her observations:

We have also seen Museveni try to tell the youth in the last few days, through the New Vision newspaper, which largely leads with his stories that they shouldn’t vote the opposition for it will sabotage a government plan to give them jobs. I don’t think Ugandan youth are fools to think that what a man has not done in 25 years can achieve in 5 years. Uganda produces about 400,000 graduates from higher institutions of learning every year but less than 50,000 jobs are created annually. President Museveni and his brother Salim Saleh have even gone into security business sending hundreds of Ugandan youth to Iraq and Afghanistan to reduce the numbers of idle youth. The truth is there’s no real plan for the youth and many will not be voting for the ruling party.

… But because many have for long trusted Museveni on security, few Ugandans bother to know or even ask why their sons are fighting in Somalia.

For a regime that has enjoyed such trust on security matters, there shouldn’t be thousands of police officers at every corner in Kampala right now. … no wonder people are now anxious …

We wait for the next three days and see if every home will have a policeman attached to it in the name of security.

Museveni is one of the US’s prized client dictators, sending proxy armies to Somalia and around the world, and also, a favorite of the US Africa Command.

Meanwhile, back at home in the US, the US government fails its own people and fails to do the job of governing:

Dear Poor People, Thank You for Going Without Heat So We Can Buy Another Week of War

As a result of your going without heat next winter, we will be able to afford almost one whole week of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which cost about $468 million a day. Although when you add in the many hidden costs like increased long-term veteran’s health care due to the conflicts, your sacrifice is probably only really going to cover maybe half a week.

I hope you understand that when we had to choose between providing basic necessities to our citizens or fighting about five more days in Iraq and Afghanistan because of [insert newest justification here], we clearly just had to choose the wars over you.

These few bits of news are worth considering in relation to each other. Our choices have consequences.

In a State Department briefing Johnnie Carson let us know the real reason for US involvement in Somalia, and the reason for sponsoring African proxies through AMISOM.

Somalia has dominated the 15th African Union summit in Uganda (AFP) July 2010

Not until the very end does Carson give an inkling of what the real U.S. fear is wrt Somalia, which is why the ICU’s revolution was crushed so violently.

It is important that the TFG be strengthened, for if it is not, Shabaab will continue to emerge as a significant political threat not only in the south, but also throughout the region.

They’re not really worried about ‘violent extremists’– after all, what’s more extreme than intentionally dropping bombs from remote control onto human beings as a matter of policy — they’re worried about popular control of political & economic power & authority, as are the regional dictators who understand the role model this would function as. (africa comments)

In other words, they are worried about the possible emergence of democracy, which is much more difficult for external actors to control, and a serious threat to dictators everywhere.

The dictators and their US and EU sponsors do not want a political solution, do not want Somalis to be allowed to stabilize their own country. That is why the continued involvement and the continued destabilizing use of proxy force in Somalia.

In Uganda Carson changes position on Ugandan democracy:

New Vision: Museveni has not become a dictator — Carson
THE US assistant secretary of state for Africa, Johnny Carson, has said President Yoweri Museveni has not turned into a dictator as he had predicted five years ago.

In an article published in The Boston Globe in May 2005, Carson said “Africa’s success story” (Uganda) could return to the dictatorial past if Museveni continued his controversial push for the removal of presidential term limits from the Constitution.

Asked yesterday whether he still held the same view five years later, Carson said: “I don’t believe [there’s that phrase again – AC] President Museveni is a dictator. He is a president duly elected in a free and fair election.” (h/t africa comments)

Karoli Ssemogerere tells us: Johnnie Carson has delivered early warning to the Opposition:

After the World Cup attacks, of course all sorts of help have been here. Washington sent Attorney General Eric Holder, their top law enforcement official, to Kampala. Carson has become a regular face in Kampala and this visit is as remarkable since on his last visit, he faced open rebuke from President Museveni and his Foreign Minister Sam Kuteesa for publicly supporting the replacement of the Electoral Commission.

A few weeks later, Carson rewrote the institutional memory …

One of the shortcomings of American foreign policy is its obsession with the status quo, predictability and who is on our side versus who is on their side mentality? Museveni, exhausted after two decades in power, seems to offer the reassurance that Uganda on its own can serve as a bulwark for American interests in the region and now backed by its newfound oil wealth, need not continue on a sustained path to greater democratisation and respect for human rights.

The Americans could not sustain the democratisation rhetoric in the face of oil and the “terrorist threat.” Neither can their public officials in the face of a well oiled lobbying machine that recruits former government officials at will.

Carson is saying in a few words, we understand the complexities of the system. We prefer to deal with the defined quantity Museveni, a product of years of experience, be nice to the opposition through cups of tea and other empty platitudes.

Democracy does not matter, human rights do not matter, American interests, mostly oil, are what matters. Of course in the long run, the big picture, genuine support for democracy and human rights would be far better protection for American interests. But nobody is thinking that way.

AFRICOM’s General Ward recently addressed the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). As b real describes in the comments on the previous post, Gen. Ward manages:

to make clear two main items –

economic development tops the list of opportunities for the u.s. in africa

and

sustained security engagement is required to create & exploit those opportunities

Sustained security engagement is the polite way of saying ever increasing militarization. Militarization is US policy in Africa.

How well is democracy working in four of the US government’s partner/client/proxy states in East Africa? Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda are all presently in election cycles. Are US military partnerships enabling these countries to become more representative and democratic?

Kagame’s leading challenger in the presidential election scheduled for August is Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Kagame, who has not allowed her to register her candidacy, jailed her briefly a month ago, and today (May 28, 2010) he jailed her American attorney, Peter Erlinder, lead defense counsel in the Military-1 trial at the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda.

Opposition leader and former judge, Birtukan Mideksa, has again been imprisoned (Dec. 2008) by the US-backed regime of Meles Zenawi

ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia held elections in May.

When human rights Watch criticized the results of Ethiopia’s May elections, in which the ruling coalition “won” an improbable 545 out of 547 seats, leaders in Addis Ababa didn’t ignore the influential NGO. Instead, they paid tens of thousands of demonstrators to gather in the capital and denounce the report. (Newsweek)

And from:

ADDIS ABABA, July 20 (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s highest court on Tuesday rejected a case brought by the country’s opposition against the ruling party’s landslide May election victory, finally exhausting legal appeals for the defeated parties.

The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and its allies won 545 seats in the 547-member parliament. Both a European Union observer mission and the United States criticised the overwhelming victory.

Medrek and other opposition parties alleged widespread pre-poll intimidation during a campaign in which both sides claimed candidates and activists were murdered. Medrek also said there was some vote rigging.

Eight-party Medrek won just a single parliamentary seat in the poll. The other seat went to an independent candidate.

The aftermath of the May 23 poll is being watched by Western diplomats in a country that is a growing destination for investment and is Washington’s key ally in the Horn of Africa, where it is seen as standing against Islamic militancy.

So do you think Washington will do anything to encourage more free and representative government in Ethiopia? Ethiopia has been one of the principle US and western proxies for interfering in Somali affairs. I’m willing to bet that looking, and not all too carefully at that, is all the US and western governments will do for Ethiopian democracy. So far the US and EU have blithely ignored the electoral regularities and atrocious human rights record of Ethiopia’s Zenawi.

EU and U.S. say poll short of international standards

The 2005 elections ended with the then opposition disputing the government’s victory. Riots broke out in Addis Ababa in which 193 protestors and seven policemen were killed. The top opposition leaders were jailed until 2007.

The lone opposition member to win a seat in parliament:

Girma won his seat in Addis Ababa’s Mercato district, seen as Africa’s biggest open-air market and one of the city’s poorer areas.

“I won because a lot of my voters were merchants who are economically independent,” he said. “They weren’t civil servants or unemployed and subject to the same forms of intimidation as a lot of other people. I was lucky.”

Girma’s victory was slim, however, and he only beat his ruling party opponent by a margin of 114 votes in a constituency where both he and his father were born.
(Reuters)

The strongest of the opposition leaders, Birtukan Mideksa, is still in jail serving a life sentence. The conditions in Ethiopian prisons are dreadful, as I wrote in Guantanamo in Ethiopia. Birtukan Mideksa’s health is deteriorating. Meles Zenawi and his western allies may not have to worry about the threat she poses to their political expediency much longer if she does not get proper medical attention and care.

In Ethiopia the US has acted as an enabler of anti democratic practices, pouring aid and encouragement on Meles Zenawi, regardless of his dreadful human rights record. Meles is also a great favorite of US Senators and Congressmen who are members of the politically powerful religious cult, The Family, who help appropriate and funnel millions of US taxpayer dollars to his regime.

the Ethiopian government got its fingers burnt when it held multi-party elections in 2005 that it almost lost — and has been busy clamping down on opposition parties and free speech ever since.

________

UGANDA

In Uganda elections are coming up in the next year, in early 2011. Uganda is a great favorite of the US Africa Command, and of the Pentagon in general. Along with Burundi, Uganda provides the proxy warriors acting on behalf of the US and EU in Somalia known as AMISOM. Uganda also provides soldiers employed by US military contractors in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. Uganda’s President Museveni is also a great favorite of the Senators and Congressmen who are members of The Family, who help appropriate and funnel millions of US taxpayer dollars to his regime.

Both Uganda and Ethiopia are virtual military dictatorships, regardless of whether they hold elections or not. In May 2009 President Museveni:

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.

Museveni already had presidential term limits removed so he could continue to run for President. The opposition is trying to reinstate term limits along with some other electoral reforms:

The bill will mainly be seeking to restore the two-term limit on incumbency, reform of the electoral commission and removal of the army representatives from parliament,” he said.

It would also compel the president to seek the opposition’s opinion before appointing senior leaders of the electoral commission, a measure the opposition hopes will make the body more independent.

There are also some other interesting developments among Uganda’s opposition.

If passed it would prevent Museveni, who has already served for 24 years, from seeking re-election.

The main opposition candidate:

Besigye said:

… the reforms before the 2011 elections should include the appointment of an independent elections commission and the removal of the military from monitoring elections.

We will be watching with interest. The US Africa Command has found Museveni and his military a particularly valuable partner and proxy. Will it see political opposition as a danger to this relationship? Will it help Museveni label and treat his opposition as terrorists. The stakes are even higher since the discovery of large quantities of oil in Uganda’s great lakes region.

And the bombings in Uganda, allegedly by Al Shabab, complicate the situation. The Somalis declared the bombings were retaliation for the continued deaths of civilians due to the indiscriminate shelling of civilian neighborhoods by AMISOM troops in Mogadishu, Killing of Civilians by UN Supported Troops in Somalia Admitted But Not Acted On. So far the US has seized on the bombings as evidence of international terrorist aspirations. The real story is far less clear. See the July africa comments for more detailed background and a more complete picture.

Some Ugandans are calling for withdrawal from engagement with Somalia:

It is not yet clear what effect this gruesome attack will have on the Ugandan government’s assessment of its ability to effectively deal with this aspect of its involvement in Somalia, or whether such an assessment will induce it to take real leadership within the region by forcing a rethink on this continent-wide challenge of viability.

Under former US President George Bush’s war on terror, they were able to use American money for upgrading their security apparatus, which was then turned on the local opposition, thus dividing local security resources between looking for terrorists and terrorising government opponents.

The other big risk is whether the militarists in Uganda’s government will be able to resist the temptation to take advantage of this security problem and develop another strategy for regime preservation.

________

BURUNDI

Burundi is just concluding its electoral cycle. The opposition boycotted the presidential poll in June, and the parliamentary poll on July 23.

All the main opposition groups boycotted the June presidential election, which Nkurunziza won with more than 90 percent of the vote.

Former rebel leader Agathon Rwasa, who had been regarded as his main rival, went into hiding and later explained in an audio message that he feared for his life after claiming the polls were fixed.

In Bujumbura’s southern Kanyosha district, one group of friends said that they planned to shun polling stations and democracy has deserted Burundi.

“There is no democracy with a single party. This has never been seen anywhere,”

The central African state had hoped the polls would prove its democratic credentials and consolidate a fledgling peace deal but they have instead left the political landscape in ruins and heightened fears of civil strife.

The international community largely endorsed the results of the May local polls despite the fraud claims and urged the opposition to end their boycott and return to the fray for the presidential vote. (h/t, and more information at Breaking the Cycle)

Burundi is awash in small arms, a legacy of years of civil war. A grenade costs about $3, and grenade attacks on politicians are common. Both the ruling party and the opposition blame each other for grenade attacks. Burundi is the other country, in addition to Uganda, that supplies troops to AMISOM in Somalia. The arms and military assistance the US taxpayers provide to this key partner/proxy of the US Africa Command, cannot have a beneficial effect on this divisive political situation. It looks like the Burundi government and military are looking for terrorists by terrorizing government opponents. And the international community seems comfortable with that. This is certainly not a prescription for democracy and US policy appears likely to exacerbate authoritarian rule and a divided terrorized population. President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government is:

… ranked by graft watchdog Transparency International as the most corrupt in east Africa.

________
RWANDA

Rwanda’s presidential election is coming up in August.

For many Western observers – Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates among them – Rwanda’s economic growth is the foundation of its democratic transition. Yet, as Rwandans head to the polls next month to elect a president, Paul Kagame’s ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has perverted the very democratic ideals it claims to uphold.

Over the last 16 years, the RPF has centralized power into a one-man dictatorship. … The Hutu community, making up some 85 per cent of the population, is largely excluded. … politics, business and the civil service are all dominated by military personnel or former members of the RPF.

In advance of the upcoming presidential elections, many “friends” of Rwanda have remained supportive of its so-called “democratic transition.” They ignore the repeated arrests of journalists and opposition politicians, the closing of independent local newspapers, the ejection of a Human Rights Watch researcher, an assassination attempt against exiled Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, who fell out with President Kagame earlier this year, the murder of journalist Jean-Leonard Rugambage, who attempted to report on Nyamwasa’s assassination attempt in the online version of a Rwandan newspaper the print edition of which the government closed down, and the murder of Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, vice-president of the opposition Democratic Green party. While diplomats from some countries, such as Sweden and the Netherlands, have cut their aid, the U.S. and the U.K. continue to publicly support Kagame. Canada’s position is vague as it encourages Rwanda to adopt policies that promote a pluralist society.

Under the watch of a sympathetic and supportive international community, Kagame has done everything within his power to ensure that the August elections consolidate his political power.

The US has been among the most sympathetic supporters of Kagame. With the RDF, he has acted as a US proxy in the Congo, DRC. Many of the minerals mined in the DRC are marketed by Rwanda, and controlled by the RDF or its subsidiary militias.

According to Charles Onyango-Obbo, who generally has succumbed to Kagame’s spell, TRI-STAR corporation is:

… “the business arm of the RPF”. He goes ahead to tell us that TRI-STAR has business interests worth more than 20 billion dollars “making the RPF the richest party in Africa”. So much power and wealth in very few hands.

Another optimistic sign, he reveals, “the party’s local and international assets could be equal to or larger than Rwanda’s gross domestic product.” A classic example of Fascism!

He even sheds more light into the much publicized Lake Kivu “energy” investment. Apparently, the locals will not reap a cent. The investment is a joint venture between TRI-STAR , a British and an American firm.

What is worrying to many of us is the fact that TRI-STAR as a private entity seems to enjoy unfair support from the government. If TRI-STAR is owned by the RPF, then Kagame’s role in securing TRI-STAR’s business interests is a serious conflict of interest.

Now, also worrisome is the fact that TRI-STAR owns more close to 40% of MTN Rwanda. MTN is the country’s sole internet and mobile phone provider. That is why when the banned newspaper, “Umuvugizi” went online, the government quickly blocked its website.

I’ve said it again and again, that the much praised development in Rwanda is simply for the benefit of a very tiny minority. Corruption is deep but runs undetected due to the absence of a civil society. Beyond the façade of wealthy elites, the majority of Rwandans are dirt poor and the government has done almost nothing to improve their lives. (Nkunda)

Kagame had international human rights lawyer Peter Erlinder arrested in Rwanda. He was there defending opposition leader Ms. Victoire Ingabire accused of the crime of genocide ideology, a “crime” that appears common to all Kagame’s opponents, at least according to his justice system.

I have written more about Kagame here, Paul Kagame, Warlord of Congo’s Wealth. With access to the Congo’s minerals, partnership with the Lake Kivu energy project, and alliances with Tri-Star, the US has a lot invested in Kagame and his control of Rwanda. Rwanda is also a key partner of the US Africa Command:

… since year 2000, Rwanda received “$1,034,000,000 billion in United States taxpayer-funded foreign assistance”and that “an additional $240,200,000 is proposed in the President’s fiscal year 2011 budget. (AFJN)

Much of this has been military assistance, which includes occasional photo op humanitarian activities with little coordination or followup. What the military assistance does is help Kagame fight terrorism by terrorizing the opposition and the general citizenry.

And as Nii Akuetteh writes:

The millions who have already sounded the alarm publicly that Kagame is getting away with (mass) murder include The Economist; The New York Times; three different expert panels assembled by the U.N. Security Council; U.S. Sens. Durbin and Feingold; Mrs. Clinton’s State Department – although theirs may be just crocodile tears; the world’s best experts on the Great Lakes region – renowned researchers and thinkers such as Nzongola-Ntalaja, Howard French, Rene Lemarchand, Gerard Prunier, Thomas Turner and Allan Stam; and ADNA, a network of Africa-focused advocacy nonprofits monitoring U.S. foreign policy.

And the critics include millions of individual Rwandans and other Africans – like me.

Kagame’s leading challenger in the presidential election scheduled for August is Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Kagame, who has not allowed her to register her candidacy, jailed her briefly a month ago, and today he jailed her American attorney, Peter Erlinder, lead defense counsel in the Military-1 trial at the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda.
… right now Kagame’s regime is shutting down newspapers, is kidnapping the homeless and is demonizing and pronouncing Victoire Ingabire guilty – before her sham trial even begins.

In Washington’s current relations with Mr. Kagame, we are seeing the replay of a tired old movie. Since 1960, Africa’s year of independence, each and every U.S. administration has praised, financed and kept in power its own set of brutal African strongmen that, in its secret files, it has labeled “friendly tyrants.” Mobutu sese Seko of Zaire, Siyaad Barre of Somalia, Hissene Habre of Chad, Samuel Doe of Liberia and Jonas Savimbi of Angola – these are just five of the dozens.

Zenawi, Museveni, Nkurunziza, and Kagame are some of the most recent of these brutal “friendly tyrants”, a form of government the US still seems to favor for Africans. That tired old movie remains a favorite in Washington. And even if the US State Department has said a few harsh words, the US taxpayer money and the military partnering and the proxying energetically roll on, amassing power and wealth for client dictators.

Greed is the reason for the violence in the Congo. The violence is funded by the mining companies and all those, in many countries, who benefit from minerals and resource wealth extracted from the Congo. As a result of this violence, 1500 people die per day, 45000 die per month, 5.4 million have died in the last 10 years.

From the documentary Culture of Resistance two people who know the Congo tell us:

Maurice Carney –
The Congo is the deadliest conflict in the world since World War II. Congo is a geological scandal because of the mineral wealth within its soil. The conflict is based on who is going to control the resources of the Congo.

Kambale Musavuli –
If one person is brutalized in front of everyone, by the time that ends, everyone in the area are going to take their baggage and leave the community.
They have been displaced.
That is the cheapest way to move the people. So there are two rapes taking place, the rape of the land and the rape of the people. And these two rapes are inextricably linked.

[The above added February 22, 2012]

The [Democratic Republic of the Congo’s] significant mineral reserves coupled with corrupt management of the mining sector helped fuel the 1998-2003 civil war leading to the death of some 4 million people. Conflict and massive displacement continues in the eastern part of the country. (UN 2007)

Map of Coltan ore locations in the Eastern Congo, DRC (click to enlarge) -1-

What is Coltan?

Columbite-tantalite, coltan for short, is a dull metallic ore found in major quantities in the eastern areas of Congo. When refined, coltan becomes metallic tantalum, a heat-resistant powder that can hold a high electrical charge. These properties make it a vital element in creating capacitors, the electronic elements that control current flow inside miniature circuit boards. Tantalum capacitors are used in almost all cell phones, laptops, pagers and many other electronics. The profits from mining have fueled a brutal civil war and severely damaged the forest and wildlife.

Map of mineral deposits in the eastern Congo, the DRC (click to enlarge) -2-

For over a century, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been plagued by regional conflict and a deadly scramble for its vast natural resources. The greed for Congo’s wealth has been a principal driver of atrocities and conflict throughout Congo’s tortured history. In eastern Congo today, resources are financing multiple armed groups,many of whom use mass rape as a deliberate strategy to intimidate and drive the local population away from mines and other areas that they wish to control.

Specifically, the conflict in eastern Congo – the deadliest since World War II – is fueled in significant part by a multi-million dollar trade in minerals. Armed groups generate an estimated $180 million each year by trading four main minerals: the ores that produce the metals tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold. This money enables the armed groups to purchase large numbers of weapons and continue their campaign of brutal violence against civilians, with some of the worst abuses occurring in mining areas. These materials eventually wind up in electronic devices, such as cell phones, portable music players, and computers, including those sold here in the United States. Given the lack of a transparent minerals supply chain, American consumers continue to indirectly finance armed groups that regularly commit arocities and mass rape.
(Crisis in Congo PDF)

Map of sites of coltan and other mining exploitation in Kivu, Congo, the DRC (click to enlarge) -3-

You can see the geographical relationship between the mining, the mineral deposits, and the armed groups in these maps.

Map of four of the armed groups operating in the eastern Congo, Kivu North and South, the DRC, as of the end of 2007 (click to enlarge) -4-

The majority of the violence in the eastern Congo has been carried out in mineral-rich areas, by armed groups and military units on all sides of the conflict. This includes units of the Congolese armed forces, as well as the Rwandan rebel group the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, of FDLR, as well as an array of other militias.
(Crisis in Congo PDF)

These armed groups profit from the trade in two primary ways:

  • Controlling the mines, forcing miners to work in deadly conditions and paying them a pittance, an average of $1 to $5 per day.
  • Exacting bribes from transporters, local and international buyers, and border controls.

The armed groups trade in the 3T minerals – tin, tantalum, and tungsten, as well as gold:

Tin is used inside your cellphone and all electronic products as a solder on circuit boards. Fifty-three percent of tin worldwide is used as a solder, the vast majority of which goes into electronics. Armed groups earn approximately $115 million per year from trading in tin.

Tantalum (often called “coltan”) is used to store electricity in capacitors in iPods, digital cameras, and cll phones. A majority of the world’s tantalum – 65 to 80 percent – is used in elecronic products. Armed groups earn an estimated $12million per year from trading in tantalum.

Tungsten is used to make your cell phone or Blackberry vibrate. Tungsten is a growing source of income for armed groups in Congo, with armed groups currently earning approximately $7 million annually.

Gold is used mainly in jewelry but is also a component in electronics. Extremely valuable and easy to smuggle, armed groups are earning approximately $50 million per year from gold.

Gold from Ituri, used in jewelry and electronic components (click to enlarge) -5-

For one comparison, the amount of gold that Uganda exports in relation to the amount of gold it produces, see the following chart* (click to enlarge):
chart comparing small amout of gold Uganda produces with the large amount it exports

Ethnic rivalries are often blamed for the violence in eastern Congo, but they are a tool rather than a cause. The main reason for the violence is:

greed, the primary cause of the so-called “second war,” which began in 1998. A number of “elite networks,” as defined by a hard-hitting U.N. report, comprising military commanders, political leaders, and unscrupulous entrepreneurs in Kigali, Kampala, and beyond, backed up by international mafias, plundered the resources of eastern Congo (coltan ore, diamonds, gold, hardwoods) and turned the region’s economy to their personal profit. To accomplish their aims, they had to resort continuously to force, but without betraying their true objectives. In the “second war,” Rwanda and Uganda masked their predatory intentions by clandestinely maintaining regular or irregular troops, and above all by fostering armed bands, organized along ethnic lines, forming and reforming according to the current needs of their masters. The battles among these bands have rarely led to major victories or defeats; the whole idea is to maintain insecurity and justify the militarization that enables the massive plundering. Amid all this, the local people have paid a terrible price.

According to the U.N. report, which was published nearly a year ago, the number of “excess deaths” in Congo directly attributable to the Rwandan and Ugandan occupation can be estimated at between 3 million and 3.5 million. This conflict has been the deadliest since World War II. … Finally, acts of sexual violence accompanying the carnage have been without precedent in their frequency, their systematic nature, their brutality, and the perversity of the way they’re planned and staged.

… In this hospital, the sexually assaulted victims are two or three times as numerous as civilians treated for gunshot wounds, and four or five times as numerous as wounded soldiers. These are very significant ratios concerning the victims of eastern Congo’s interrelated conflicts.

… in eastern Congo, rape—extremely violent rape—“is soldiers’ work,” one of the rapists told one of his victims.
from Congo: A Hell on Earth for Women

Out of this violence, looted minerals are transported both by land, air, and water.

Map of mineral transportation routes out of the Congo, DRC (click to enlarge) -6

Air routes of minerals taken from the Eastern Congo, the DRC (click to enlarge) -7-

From the eastern Congo the minerals are:
(Crisis in Congo PDF)

  • Transported through neighboring countries including Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi.
  • Mainly shipped to East Asia, particularly to multinational smelting companies in Malaysia, Thailand, China, and India.
  • Once processed, bought by electronics manufacturing companies, turned into usable components such as capacitors, and added into the electronic devices.

The highest-selling devices with the 3T minerals are:
Cell phones and Blackberries * MP3 players * Digital cameras (also, TVs, computers, monitors)

Countries importing gold and 3T mineral ore from the Congo -8-

Crisis in Congo PDF cites the average annual wage of a civilian worker in the Congo as about $184 per year. It estimates the profits of the armed groups that trade in the Congo’s contraband minerals at $180,000,000 per year.

Rwanda and Uganda benefit most directly from the trade in contraband minerals from Congo. I have written about this previously in posts listed below. According to Crisis in Congo PDF, since January 2009 more that 900,000 people have had to flee their homes because of the violence. 7000 rapes have been reported, most rapes are not reported. Armed groups try to drive out local citizens and other armed groups. There are only 2 hospitals in all of eastern Congo that are able to perform surgury on fistula, a common result of the rapes. These rapes seem to fit the definition of genocidal rape, including:

… in genocide, rape is under control. It has become a tool, not an accident. In genocide, men rape in groups because they are ordered to or because they are systematically permitted to do so. It is calculated. The men rape not as individual men, but as members of their race, ethnicity, religion or nationality. They sexually assault women (and sometimes other men) of a particular group.

The goal in genocidal rape is not merely to hurt people. Much less is the goal simply to have sex. Group destruction is the goal. Sexual violence is not simply some ancillary tool to this goal. Indeed, because of the peculiar nature of rape and sexual torture, it is particularly suited to genocide. In war, the destructive effects of rape are largely beside the point. In genocide, the destruction is the point.

I am wary of the word genocide. I think in recent times it has been appropriated for political reasons, and thereby robbed of some meaning. What is happening to ordinary people living in the Eastern Congo is devastatingly painful to read about or contemplate, and I find it difficult to research or write about. Too much of it is happening because you and I enjoy our cellphones and other electronics.

For more detail on the violence against women there are quite a number of links on this page: women in conflict. It includes a video, and this article, Silence=Rape, which is hard to read but describes the problem. US demand for electronics helps fuel the problem. And the US isn’t helping, for example:
Congo’s Rape Epidemic Worsens During U.S.-Backed Military Operation
U.S. Civil Military Imbalance for Global Engagement: Lessons from the Operational Level in Africa

The training and weapons support the US provides to both Rwanda and Uganda, both active partners of the US Africa Command, is just more fuel for the violence in the Congo. This is even more questionable policy due to the profits and benefits US companies and consumers derive from the contraband minerals of the Congo.

________
Maps from:
L’économie minière au Kivu et ses implications régionales, PDF [Maps 1,6]
*Etude sur le rôle de l’exploitation des ressources naturelles dans l’alimentation et la perpétuation des crises de l’est de la RDC, PDF [Maps 2,3,4,5,7,8] see the Abstract
Both documents contain a great deal more information and more maps.
Check out a great powerpoint overview of coltan and the coltan trade with maps and photos PowerPoint by Dr. John Katunga of the Wilson Center.

________
Previous posts with related information and more links:
Paul Kagame, Warlord of Congo’s Wealth
DRC – Minerals, militaries, money and violence – part 2
DRC – Minerals, militaries, money and violence
Women in Rwanda and DRC – development vs military assistance
If Uganda Has Oil It Must Need The Pentagon’s Democracy

Canada funding and profiting from Congo’s wars
And more in this category:
https://crossedcrocodiles.wordpress.com/category/congo/

Training the next generation of miltary governments for Africa? or is this a humitarian mission, as the headline at africom.mil suggests: Opening ceremony in Northern Uganda Marks Start to Humanitarian Exercise.
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)

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)

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.

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.

It is not only at the US Embassy in Afghanistan that there are problems with the ArmorGroup/Wackenhut security guards, particularly the supervisors, as has been recently documented by POGO. And ArmorGroup/Wackenhut are not the only contractors to operate without serious and adequate supervision, or who fail to fulfill their US contracts in a safe and ethical manner.

Godwin and Barnabas, Ugandan security guards in Iraq

Godwin and Barnabas, Ugandan security guards in Iraq

Looking for opportunity: Ugandan recruits hoping to work as private security guards in Iraq undergo basic firearms training in Kampala, Uganda, Dec. 15 2008, Max Delany

Looking for opportunity: Ugandan recruits hoping to work as private security guards in Iraq undergo basic firearms training in Kampala, Uganda, Dec. 15 2008, Max Delany

After extensive interviews with eyewitnesses, and examination of documents, photographs, videos, and emails, POGO [Project on Government Oversight] believes that the management of the contract to protect the U.S. Embassy Kabul is grossly deficient, posing a significant threat to the security of the Embassy and its personnel—and thereby to the diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.

State has repeatedly warned AGNA [ArmorGroup North America] about its performance on this security contract, but its threats have been empty. As a result, violations of the contract continue.

the State Department has failed in its oversight of its security contractor.

The State Department should consider whether the security of an embassy in a combat zone is an inherently governmental function, and therefore not subject to contracting out. The language in the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act could be strengthened to prohibit the reliance on private security contractors for inherently governmental functions, and to include protection of the diplomatic mission in a combat zone as being inherently governmental. If embassy security in combat zones is determined not to be an inherently governmental function, the State Department should consider requiring military supervision of its private security contractors guarding U.S. embassies in combat zones.

By now most people have seen the grotesque pictures of the lewd and abusive games played by the ArmorGroup contractors in Afghanistan. It appears primarily the supervisors who are out of control. The State Department has neglected to supervise or hold anyone to account for grievous violations of their contracts. State has remained intentionally blind to the problems of contractor negligence and abuse.

The the Concerned Foreign Service Officers have issued a statement:

Concerned Foreign Service Officers has for years lamented that the internal corporate culture of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security promotes the concept that all things are allowable in defense of the nation’s security, and that employees who perform illegal acts in the name of security will be protected. The directors of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s security infrastructure promote an all-for-one team mentality which encourages agents to view themselves as being above the law. Complaints of improprieties in investigations and other activities are routinely ignored. Internal oversight is a joke and external oversight is blocked. The ugly photos currently making the news are a particularly ugly manifestation of that culture.

CFSO believes however that such aberrations do not occur when organizations promote a culture of accountability. Large-scale improprieties occur only when perpetrators feel secure that their actions will be either tolerated or ignored. …

Concerned Foreign Service Officers hopes that the search for explanations for the events at the American Embassy in Kabul will not stop at the front lines, but will also target the culture in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security that allowed these activities to occur, and those directors of State’s security infrastructure who promote that culture.

There are many security guards from Uganda in Iraq, and by now there are probably some in Afghanistan as well. US PMCs have hired many of their security personnel from Uganda, including guards at the US Embassy in Uganda:

Uganda: Guards Petition American Embassy Over Mistreatment

by Al Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, August 27th, 2009

At least 200 security guards protecting various American facilities in and around Kampala have petitioned the embassy protesting what they describe as unfair treatment by their bosses.

The guards were contracted by the American Embassy through a local private security, Armor Group. However, Armor Group recently sold its interests to Group 4 Securicor which currently provides security at US offices and residences in the country -a development vehemently opposed by the guards .Group 4 Securicor runs the contract through the US Defence Systems -Uganda arrangement.

According to the guards, the May 22, 2008 takeover by Group 4 Securicor flouted various clauses that govern their contract under the Federal Acquisition Regulations. “The presumed acceptance of the terms and conditions of services of G4S by the members of the Local Guard Force and the subsequent transfer of our earned fringe benefits amounted to abduction, forced labour and human trafficking which are all forbidden not only by the laws of Uganda but also by other international conventions that govern and protect the rights and dignity of the human person,” reads part of the petition addressed to the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy.

In their petition dated August 6, the guards also accuse their employer of failure to compensate colleagues who sustain injuries while on duty. “Under the Defence Base Act it is a requirement by the employer to provide adequate compensation to the employees but no member of LGF has been compensated for injuries while on duty,” the statement reads.

The American Embassy Assistant Regional Security Officer Mr Daniel Glick declined to comment on the petition but another official at the embassy who requested to remain anonymous because he is not authorised to speak to the media said they had rejected the petition on grounds that the petitioners never followed the proper procedures.

“Under normal circumstances it is the contracted firm (G4S) to petition the embassy so that we can take action but not the employees as it is in their case,” said an official at the Embassy.

The guards also accuse their employers of frustrating their efforts to join a trade union as a way of boosting their bargaining power. “This has led to the Court Martial and subsequent dismissal of the chairman/spokesperson of the guard’s committee (Mr Opige Elyau) who championed the same course,” the petition said.

In a separate interview, Mr Elyau said he was dismissed on allegations that he was inciting the guard force against management. He promised to challenge his dismissal.

In the comments Feral Jundi writes:

The customer receiving these guard services has some responsibility too. These men are protecting you with their lives, the honorable thing to do is to step up and listen to what they have to say. The unethical thing to do, is look the other way and hope it just fixes itself. pfft

And Bravo2 writes:

For example if the company was still ArmorGroup, a UK Company, they would most likely had been carrying some type of workmans comp on these employees as required by local or UK Law, but when it changed to a local Ugandan company, the Ugandan company only needs to follow Ugandan employment laws.

While I can understand they are pissed off to no end, such as the locals we employ here in Africa and other places I have worked, they have every right to be. This is the art of contracting…squeezing every possible penny out of everyone. These local companies such as the Ugandan one is little more than a broker only…. someone who makes money on another person, while doing absolutely nothing. The contract I work here in Africa…AfriCom was forced into this brokering agreement thru the Djiboutian Govt, and there is nothing they can do about it. The Brokers take 2/3 of the locals pay the US pays them. Suxs ass but thats life.

And in another article Eeben Barlow writes:

… the same company that are acting out their Ramboesque dreams whilst getting paid for it in Afghanistan are treating their staff in Uganda as though they own Africa.

I am aware of similar practices by some companies working in East Africa and the locals are viewing them with increasing contempt. Maybe they are unaware of just how offending their behaviour has become, but it has not gone unnoticed. It is very possibly also proving to be a great recruiting campaign for the insurgents.

The US State Department and the Africa Command are working with numerous mercenaries, PMCs, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in Africa, particularly East Africa. The practices revealed in Afghanistan, and those described above, damage the US irreparably with potential friends, and strengthen potential foes.

The top picture above, from apple.jack on Flikr, comes courtesy of tumwijuke, who writes:

My 23-year-old cousin, Benji, is serving as a Ugandan guard in Iraq.

Benji is a tiny man with a big heart. He dreams of active service, fighting for peace and heroism. He’s not content with hearing about the exploits of the military. He wants to be there at the frontline in the midst of action. He says he has understood his place in the world and he needs to fulfill his destiny.

I think of Benji every morning at 5:00 a.m. when a gang of scraggly men and women jog past my house singing part-nonsensical, part-nostalgic, part-motivational war songs penned by Brig. Gen. Chefe Ali and the NRA. I think of Benji when I hear the instructors yelling at the hapless gang, calling them idiots and children and insulting their mothers. I think of Benji when I hear in the distance, the solitary shot of a trainee firing from an AK-47. I think of Benji when after a month, the guards are deemed ready for service, congratulated at a colorful ceremony in a dusty playground and shipped off to war.

Today I read this:

Security Issues Discovered at U.S. Bases in Iraq

WASHINGTON (AP) — A commission investigating waste and fraud in wartime spending has found serious deficiencies in training and equipment for hundreds of Ugandan guards hired to protect U.S. military bases in Iraq, The Associated Press has learned.

The problems at Forward Operating Bases Delta and Hammer include a lack of vehicles used to properly protect the two posts, a shortage of weapons and night vision gear, and poorly trained guards. Both bases house several thousand U.S. military personnel.

Concerned the shortages leave the bases vulnerable, the Commission on Wartime Contracting alerted military officials in Iraq and at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida.

“Incidents such as this are a concern in their own right, but they are a particular concern to the commission if they prove to be indicators of broader, systemic problems that impede the delivery of critical services to American military forces in a war zone,” said Bob Dickson, the commission’s executive director.

I think about Benji and I weep.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on the training of potential guards in Uganda:

As President Barack Obama announces plans to withdraw US troops from Iraq, thousands of young Ugandans are increasingly desperate to be sent to the war-torn country. Already, the Ugandan government says there are more than 10,000 men and women from this poverty-stricken East African nation working as private security guards in Iraq. Hired out to multibillion-dollar companies for hundreds of dollars a month, they risk their lives seeking fortunes protecting US Army bases, airports, and oil firms.

The war in Iraq is the most privatized conflict in history. Since the invasion in 2003, the US Department of Defense has doled out contracts worth an estimated $100 billion to private firms. Covering a vast range of services from catering to dry cleaning to security, one in every five dollars the US spends in Iraq ends up in the pockets of the contractors, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office. Increasingly these jobs have been outsourced to developing countries.

hiring Ugandans is cheap. Since the first Ugandans were sent to Iraq in late 2005, competition from other developing countries in Africa and the Indian subcontinent has seen the government cut the minimum wage from $1,300 to $600 a month. That compares with the $15,000 that one industry insider estimated an American guard could make each month. Nevertheless, competition is fierce, and for those Ugandans who land a job, Iraq can prove a bonanza.

Discussing one Ugandan guard, who has built himself businesses back in Uganda from his Iraq pay:

the fact that he is putting his life on the line to help US companies make massive profits is not lost on him. “If I am earning $600 a month and these companies are making billions, it is not fair,” he says.

For Uganda, however, another country’s war on a continent far away has proved to be lucrative. “The Iraq opportunity brings in about $90 million dollars, whereas our chief export, which is coffee, brings in around $60 or $70 million a year,” says the former state minister for labor, employment, and industrial relations, Mwesigwa Rukutana, now minister of higher education. That figure is mostly made up of remittances.

But domestic criticism has been fierce, with some equating the system to human trafficking or slavery. Reports of abuse, ranging from poor conditions and changeable contracts to sexual assault, have appeared in the media
.

And what will happen to Uganda when all these experienced soldiers bring their battle hardened expectations back to Uganda. The country may be sitting on a time bomb, as Charles Onyango Obbo wrote about in Iraq war could end up on Museveni’s doorsteps. And the potential for political conflagrations is far greater with the recent discovery of oil.

It is smarter to make friends than enemies, it gives you more options. If the US wants to make friends, and to keep the friends it has in Africa and elsewhere, it needs to examine its policies with care. An ethic of squeezing every possible penny out of everyone is very short term thinking for the long term interests of a country. A culture that encourages agents to view themselves as being above the law is guaranteed to make enemies. If the State Department wishes to engage in credible diplomacy, it needs to clean its own house, and practice some oversight and accountability at home.

The US has poured arms and military training on Uganda. Now that Uganda has found oil, the Ugandan military is getting busy displacing the people who live on the land where the oil is located, and seizing those lands for themselves.

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)

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)

Army to displace villages in Hoima

OVER 4,000 residents in seven villages of Kyangwali sub-county in Hoima district face eviction. The land will be used to establish an army base for the protection of the oil reserves in the region.

The residents, led by their local leaders and the MP for Buhaguzi, Tomson Abwooli Kyahurwenda, have vowed to resist the eviction saying the land was inhabited by their ancestors.

The land in question measures about 15 square miles and covers the villages of Katikara 1, Katikara 2, Kituti Kasonga, Kabenena, Ngurwe and Ngoma.

Kyahurwenda has written to the defence minister, Dr Crispus Kiyonga, protesting the army’s ‘illegal’ demarcation of the disputed land.

He said officials from the prime minister’s office had demarcated the land.

Kyahurwenda said the officers led by a man only identified as Bataali, had marked the land.

“I seek your urgent intervention. Change your decision to grab the land whose owners have had it customarily since time immemorial,” the letter, also copied to the Prime Minister said.

The Kitakara LC I chairman, Mugenyi Tibamwenda, said army officers had planted mark-stones claiming they had acquired the land.

He said residents had abandoned agriculture because of fear that they would be evicted from their land soon.

Tom Muhe Bigabwenkya, a sub-county councillor warned of serious consequences for the National Resistance Movement during the 2011 general elections.

The mid-western regional Police commander, Marcellino Wanitto, has promised to take up the matter to ensure that it is resolved amicably.

And from June 24:

Reports: Army officers grabbing Amuru oil land

High ranking army officers are forcefully grabbing land in the oil rich belt of Amuru District, the security coordinator in-charge of oil exploration in the area, Lt. Col. David Kagoyo, has said.

“I have reliable information from some sources that some army officers are forcefully grabbing people’s land in Amuru,” Lt. Col. Kagoyo said during Nebbi District’s oil exploration stakeholders meeting last week.

Amuru lies in the oil belt licenced to Heritage Gas company stretching from south of Panyimur to North of Wadlai along the Nile river.

The LC5 Chairman Nebbi, Mr John Pascal Wapokra, was non-committal on the land grabbing question, saying the matter is before court.

Lt. Col. Kagoyo demanded that before anything is done, the land ownership issue should be settled first before the oil drilling takes place since it could jeopardise the gains that the government and development partners have made.

The discovery of the oil wells in Amuru, which was created out of Gulu District, has created anxiety over land ownership in the area.

Area residents who spoke to this newspaper said the incident has created fear that they might lose their land.
Similarly, due to its oil potential, land grabbing is at a high level in Buliisa District.

The US continues to train and supply the Ugandan military, the UPDF. Uganda is a favored partner of the US Africa Command. Pictured above is just one of many training programs. If people are pushed off their traditional lands, the lands they live on and the lands they farm, where are they going to go, and what are they going to do?  If the soldiers evicting them are armed and trained by the United States, how will they feel about the United States?   Evicting these people creates a growing pool of internally displaced persons who have a legitimate grievance against their government, and against all those involved in extracting, in fact stealing, their resources. They will be able to see, but not to share wealth some of which should be legitimately theirs.   That some of these displaced people may be lured into terrorism as a response is something that can be predicted and avoided. To date, no one seems interested in preventing the problem before it starts. So far the approach is first create the problem, then waste lives and resources fighting it.

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.

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,  Number of villages attacked: 74,  Attacked once: 47, Attacked twice: 9, Attacked three times: 5, Attacked eight times: 1 (Duru)

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, and areas of Ugandan and Rwandan activity marked

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)

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.

________

Map links:
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

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 Unganda side you can see the places Tonyo, Hoima, and Butiaba marked on the map.  These are of particular interest to the oil business.

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.

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.

Musevenis 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.

__________

Note:
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
and
Botched raid.

The New York Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur.  Graph: John Emerson (backspace.com)

Two graphs, the New York Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur. Graphs: John Emerson (backspace.com)

Julie Hollar has written a superb analysis of why the conflict in the Congo is ignored by the media; Congo Ignored, Not Forgotten, When 5 million dead aren’t worth two stories a year. She covers when and why coverage was better, and what is going on now. I won’t repeat all she writes, it is well worth reading. Near the end she includes this paragraph:

Paying attention to the Congo would also mean reporting on the main factor fueling the conflict: the plunder of the country’s resources, which primarily benefits multinational corporations. The conflict areas of the Congo are rich with minerals like copper, tin, gold, diamonds, cobalt and coltan, a mineral used for cell phones and other common electronic devices. Rebel groups who hold these areas sell off the minerals at cut-rate prices, using the profits to maintain power as big companies look the other way. As happened with conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone and Angola, activists are pushing for a mechanism to make corporations verify that they aren’t buying the Congo’s conflict minerals.

The GDP of both Rwanda and Uganda include minerals stolen from the Congo. So far both countries are rewarded for this theft by praise for their economic progress, and of course by the money these minerals bring. Too many people in too many countries are profiting from Congo’s wealth. Canada is the largest mining interest in the Congo, and funds a lot of the conflict. Mostly all parties are perfectly willing to see the conflict continue. Despite the massive number of deaths, the use of rape as a form of terrorism, used along with murder and dismemberment to threaten and depopulate areas, and the conscription of children as soldiers by all sides, most of the media coverage of the Congo conflict involves endangered gorillas or Angelina Jolie. Media coverage discounts and ignores the people of the Congo.

The Congo conflict is sometimes known as Africa’s world war. Here is a list from 2001 of many of the parties involved, from Natalie Ware at American University.

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC):
    * Hutu Interhamwe militia – mostly from Rwanda and responsible for 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
    * Former Hutu members of the Rwandan military – also responsible for 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
    * Mai Mai – group of traditional Congolese local security forces
    These groups operate inside the DRC supporting the government “often as guerillas operating inside territory held by antigovernment forces” (U.S. State 2001)
  • Libya – provides arms and logistical support but no troops
  • North Korea – sent advisors to train government troops
  • Rwanda – supports Congolese Rally for Democracy based in Goma (RCD/Goma) and Congolese Rally for Democracy based in Bunia (RCD/Goma); majority Tutsi
  • Uganda – supports the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC); mainly non-Tutsi
  • Burundi – fights against various Hutu groups based in the DRC that are against the Tutsi-led Burundi government
  • Angola – supports the government of the DRC
  • Namibia – supports the government of the DRC
  • Zimbabwe – supports the government of the DRC
  • Sudan – supports the Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF); Ugandan expatriates against the government of Uganda

The conflict in the DRC is often characterized as an ethnic conflict. It is a resource war. The various sides exploit ethnicity when it works to their advantage in the pursuit of mineral and other natural resources. All the groups engaged in fighting in the Congo engage in terrorism and conscript children.

China is missing from the above list, its presence has expanded greatly since 2001. The west is entirely missing from the list. Canada, the United States, the UK, countries of the EU, are all players in one form or another, and have been for some time. They are a huge market for the stolen mineral wealth of the Congo, and home base for the multinational corporations who fuel the plunder. Canada is the biggest player in mining. China is also heavily involved in mining in the Congo. The US is supplying a great deal of military training and arms transfers to Rwanda and Uganda, which extend their reach and power into the Congo.

wreckage from the plane

wreckage from the Ilyushin 76, photo/Reuters

On March 9 an Ilyushin cargo plane, S9-SAB, Soviet era plane, owned by Aerolift, known gunrunners, and chartered by Dyncorp, one of the largest suppliers of mercenaries, burst into flames and crashed into Lake Victoria. Supposedly it was carrying tents and water purification equipment to the AMISOM, African Union Mission in Somalia, soldiers in Somalia. Reports say 11 people on the plane were killed. Dyncorp is currently under contract with the US Department of State.

From Uganda’s New Vision, a description of the crash:
Entebbe place crash kills eleven

The accident occurred moments after the Ilyushin cargo plane, S9-SAB, operated by Aerolift left the airport. Dynacorp, an American company, had chartered the plane.

The aircraft plunged into the water at a place referred to as Magombe, loosely translated as graveyard, owing to the disasters that have occurred there in the past. Several boats have reportedly capsized in the area, fishermen disclosed.

Magombe, according to a statement from the Civil Aviation Authority, is about 5.5 nautical miles (9.9km) south of the airport. The plane burst into flames before it hurtled into the water and got submerged, witnesses said.

“It left the airport after a Kenya Airways flight but it made an awkward sound. It caught fire soon after it got off the ground,” an officer at Kigungu Police post said.

A policeman, Gerald Ssesanga, who resides near the airport, said he saw the blaze but thought it was a fire lit along the shore. Juma Kalanzi, a fisherman, also saw the fire but initially thought it was on the nearby Nsaze Island.

“I realised it was a plane when the fire started spreading on the lake,” he stated.

So big was the blaze that it caught the attention of the early risers along the shores of the lake.

A search and rescue team comprising the army, the Police and CAA staff rescued two tired fishermen, Karim Mubajje, and another only identified as Deo. Mubajje and Deo narrowly survived after their boat capsized as the blazing plane plunged into the lake where they were fishing.

Mubajje recounted hearing a loud explosion as they drew nets out of the water. “In a few seconds, the plane spun several times and tumbled into the water, capsizing our boat,” he said.

They held onto the wooden pieces of their boat for four hours until they were rescued.

Responding to a question on whether the crash was the work of terrorists, Masiko remarked: “I am not ruling out anything and I am not including anything. Don’t speculate. Let us wait for the investigations.”

On the plane’s airworthiness, the minister disclosed that it was okay, adding that it flew to Somalia 20 times in February.

There are only 28 days in February, that means this plane, chartered by Dyncorp, was making almost daily flights to Somalia during February. What was it carrying? Who was paying for the cargo? Was it in violation of the UN Arms Embargo? And was it only flying these trips in February, did it start before that? Does Dyncorp continue to charter Soviet era Aerolift planes registered in Sao Tome for flights back and forth to Somalia?

Further description of the crash from Uganda’s Daily Monitor:

Mr Yusuf Buga, a fisherman, said he heard an explosion first and then about 10 miles away from where he was winding up his fishing, a fireball fell from the sky into the lake.
“It was not a plane that plunged into the water; by the time it hit the water, it was a fireball that continued to burn on the water surface for about an hour,” Mr Buga says.
Mr Charles Kiwanuka, 19, seems to have seen even more action than Mr Buga.

“By 5:00am, we were all packing up because we fish at night. From our boat we heard an explosion and, on looking up, saw a fireball headed for the waters where two other fishermen dozed on their canoe. The aircraft exploded from the air before falling into the lake as a fire.”

The two fishermen Mr Kiwanuka refers to, who survived by holding onto a piece of crap from the shattered aircraft …

Also from Uganda’s Daily Monitor: Crashed plane ‘not inspected’

The Illyushin-76 cargo plane carrying 16 tonnes of supplies including tents and water-purification equipment for Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers in Somalia plunged into Lake Victoria soon after take-off from Entebbe Airport.

The aircraft was on a support flight carrying water purifiers and other equipment for ugandan peacekeeping troops in Somalia.” It seems unlikely that the plane was carrying 16 tonnes of just tents and water purification equipment for the 3700 AMISOM troops. So what else was on the plane? Additionally, three high ranking Burundian officers were in the plane, including a brigadier general and a colonel.

SA plane crash victim identified

Duncan Rykaart, a former special forces operator and colonel, was one of 11 people aboard a Ilyushin 76 cargo plane that crashed into Lake Victoria on Monday.

He had been working for Bancroft Global Development, an American company specialising in research on explosive devices and landmines, since January. The company advises the African Union’s peacekeeping troops in Somalia.

Regarding Mr. Rykaart’s history:

November 2001: Guns for hire again

A born-again Executive Outcomes operation is at the centre of allegations of a military contract between ex-South African Defence Force soldiers and the Sudanese army.

We hear South African security has established a link between a local company known as NFD and the Sudan contract.

NFD’s directors include Duncan Rykaart (ex- colonel in the SA Defence Force’s Five Recce Brigade)

NFD Operations Manager Rykaart denies any knowledge of the Sudan contract, though SA military sources pinpoint him as taking the lead role in the negotiations with Khartoum. … Rykaart insists his company has no foreign security contracts currently, although the NFD website boasts a client base in Egypt, Congo-Brazzaville, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Angola and Bulgaria.

As b real points out:

all of the training & arming of somalis on all sides continues in violation of the arms embargo. that’s part of what makes the 20 flights into mogadishu so interesting. and the u.s. sponsored training by the ugandans, rwandans, and kenyans (and possibly even south africans)

He adds some relevant background material on Dyncorp, and its contract with the Department of State:

US hires military contractor to support peacekeeping mission in Somalia

NAIROBI, Kenya: The United States has hired a major military contractor to provide equipment and logistical support to the peacekeeping mission in Somalia, bringing U.S. dependence on private military companies in several hot spots to a particularly troubled corner of Africa. The DynCorp International contract is the latest in a series of deals that allow the United States to play a greater role in African military matters, without having to use uniformed troops…

The company is on standby to provide services anywhere on the continent to include “support of peacekeeping missions by training specific countries’ armed services to enhance their ability to deploy through air and sea, provide logistics supports to mission and work with regional organization to prevent and resolve conflict,” according to bid documents.

If everything was legit, why was Dyncorp using an uninspected Aerolift plane? The old Russian planes were supposed to be banned in Uganda in 2005, plus, the crew of the plane may have been drunk:

Queries raised over ‘condemned’ aircraft that plunged into Lake Victoria

..as efforts to recover the wreckage and the bodies continued into the weekend, reports were emerging that the aircraft should not have been in Ugandan airspace in the first place because the Civil Aviation Authority had banned aged Russian-type planes from operating in the country in 2005.

Even more intriguing were reports from patrons of a popular pub in Entebbe that the crew drank well into the night before their 5.14 am departure on the flight.

Conceding that the authority suffers from political interference that limits its capacity for safety oversight over ad-hoc operators, highly placed sources in the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority told The EastAfrican that the flying coffins were back in force, operating on the authority of powerful political figures who exert considerable pressure on the regulator.

So far AFRICOM, the US Africa Command, has not been named in this story. But it officially enters the picture in the efforts to recover the wreckage from the lake:

US Army to help Uganda in plane crash recovery
The US government is scheduled to assist the government of Uganda in conducting search and recovery operations of human remains and the flight data recorder from the wreckage of an Ilyushin 76 aircraft that crashed in Lake Victoria recently.

Service members from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, a US body based in Djibouti are expected in Uganda to help in the rescue mission, according to a press statement from the body.

This follows a request by the U.S. Embassy in Uganda and the government of Uganda for U.S. military assistance in recovery operations at the crash site. …

AFRICOM and the Ugandans work on recovering the wreckage:

Ugandan, US divers recover plane wreckage

The Americans have been tasked to retrieve the remains of the dead, recover the black box and advise the investigation team based at the Civil Aviation Authority offices in Entebbe. “US service members are in the Horn of Africa to build relationships with partner nations,” Anthony Kurta, a US commander, said.

“We have deployed a team to support Ugandans in the operations. We work beside Ugandan military forces on a regular basis as part of our efforts to strengthen their own security capacity,” he added.

Two Russians; a captain and the co-pilot, two Ukrainians, three senior Burundian army officers, two Ugandans, a South African and an Indian died in the March 9 incident.

The remains of the Ugandans, Burundians and Ukrainians have been buried.

And the nature of the plane’s cargo, and the recovery efforts take an even odder turn in this press release, with explanatory comments from b real:

From a press release by CJTF-HOA’s public affairs outfit: U.S. Horn of Africa Personnel Dive for Aircraft Wreckage in Lake Victoria

U.S. Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa have located the wreckage of an Ilyshin II 76 aircraft that crashed in Lake Victoria and are conducting diving operations to retrieve information.

The divers have found the aircraft tail.

“It was very tall, and it was in the flight path, so we splashed divers on it and there it was,” said Lieutenant Junior Grade Scott Bryant, the on-scene diving operations officer. “We also located portions of the fuselage, that are not enclosed, they are cracked open like an egg.”

According to Bryant, divers have also located both wings, landing gear with four tires and what they believe to be one of the engines. However they believe the other engines are sunk and will confirm over the next few days.

“Most of the heavy stuff is underneath the silt. We found parts of the tail that are sunk and the divers had to dig five feet under,” he said. “This is very difficult diving and potentially very hazardous. Probably some of the most difficult I’ve seen in 19 years of service. There is no visibility, especially once you touch the bottom; a powder, like talcum powder, floats up everywhere and you can’t see at all. Because of the wreckage, there are very sharp medal objects pointing everywhere and we have fishing nets to deal with.”

Lake Victoria is the second largest fresh water lake in the world. The wreckage is 80 feet under water, buried in approximately 15 feet of silt and 6.8 miles from the closest pier.

CJTF-HOA brought personnel and equipment to Uganda from Bahrain, Italy and Djibouti. Equipment includes sonar systems, self contained under water breathing apparatus (SCUBA) gear, surface-supply diving equipment, a hyperbaric chamber for emergencies and three boats. CJTF-HOA is part of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

As b real points out:

of course the pr piece omits any mention of dyncorp or its contract w/ DoS so that it can portray (“shape” is the popular term these days) the operation as assisting the ugandan govt.

that’s alot of expensive equipment to bring in for the recovery operations. fortunately for them nobody really is asking any important questions

Note the captions of the following pictures of the recovery operation taken from the CJTF-HOA photo gallery:

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Lieutenant (junior grade) Scott Bryant, assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2 (EODMU 2), directs a team member to approach a safety boat provided by the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority on Africa's Lake Victoria March 27, 2009. Bryant is the diving officer-in-charge of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake)

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Lieutenant (junior grade) Scott Bryant, assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2 (EODMU 2), directs a team member to approach a safety boat provided by the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority on Africa's Lake Victoria March 27, 2009. Bryant is the diving officer-in-charge of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Petty Officer 2nd Class John Handrahan, assigned to the forward-deployed U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 (EODMU 11), dives into Lake Victoria in Africa March 28, 2009 as part of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake)

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Petty Officer 2nd Class John Handrahan, assigned to the forward-deployed U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 (EODMU 11), dives into Lake Victoria in Africa March 28, 2009 as part of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Sailors assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8, EODMU 2 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 reflect upon a day of completed dives into Africa's Lake Victoria April 1, 2009. The units are diving as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) mission to locate the wreckage of an Ilyushin 76 cargo aircraft which crashed into the lake on March 9 and retrieve information for the Ugandan government's investigation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Dustin Q. Diaz)

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Sailors assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8, EODMU 2 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 reflect upon a day of completed dives into Africa's Lake Victoria April 1, 2009. The units are diving as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) mission to locate the wreckage of an Ilyushin 76 cargo aircraft which crashed into the lake on March 9 and retrieve information for the Ugandan government's investigation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Dustin Q. Diaz)

Recovery operations include U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8, EODMU 2 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, and U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 (EODMU 11). Again from b real:

at least 3 EODMU units on the scene?

according to the website global security, this represents both “Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 1” (EODGRU 1) and “Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two” (EODGRU 2)

on the former,

The mission of EODGRU 1 is to provide the Pacific Fleet with the capability to detect, identify, render safe, recover, evaluate, and dispose of explosive ordnance which has been fired, dropped, launched, projected, or placed in such a manner as to constitute a hazard to operations, installations, personnel, or material.

on the latter,

EODGRU 2’s mission is to provide combat ready EOD and Diving & Salvage forces to the Fleet per unit ROC & POEs. Eliminate ordnance hazards that jeopardize operations conducted in support of the national military strategy. Clear harbors and approaches of obstacles. Salvage/recover ships, aircraft and weapons lost or damaged in peacetime or combat.

nothing in either of those missions about recovering tents & water purifiers

which is more likely –

1. the EODMU’s are looking for evidence of sabotage
2. the EODMU’s are looking to recover ordnance

After this there is not much more information. At least two accounts say the black box was found, although there was one denial that it was found.  No statements about any information from the black box have been forthcoming.

no mention of dyncorp, dos, dyncorp, amisom, africom, the eodmu teams, ordnance disposal, etc…

okay, hold on a moment.

“The wreckage is still 80ft under the water and 15ft under silt in Lake Victoria that cannot enable the divers get the black box out of the wreckage,” The Air Force spokesperson Captain Tabaro Kiconco has said.

yet

Capt. Kiconco said that the divers had successfully mapped the area w[h]ere the wreckage was found and also retrieved the cracked open portion of the fuselage, plane wings, one of the engines and landing gear with four tyres.

what do you wanna bet that’s not all those divers from the different explosive ordnance disposal mobile units retrieved from the lake?

And that is where the story ends, or at least where the telling of the story ends. There are no serious answers on what caused the crash, or what the plane was carrying that required explosive ordnance disposal units to recover. There are no further questions asked or explanations given. There is no clue as to what those multiple Aerolift flights back and forth to Somalia were (perhaps are) carrying. In fact, no one has posed serious questions to the parties involved, and they are not volunteering any answers.

So all we get is: move along there, nothing to see here, move along, just keep moving. Everything is under control. And it certainly looks like everyone concerned is under very heavy manners. Unless someone with some clout asks some questions, and that does not seem likely, we are unlikely to learn AFRICOM’s Lake Victoria secret.

Note:
I am indebted to the extensive research on this incident by b real, and posted in the comment threads on these articles:
A Carrier Group to Attack Somalia
Somalia Thread
Africa Comments

b real continues these topics and more at his newer location
africa comments blog. 
If you want to follow events in Somalia and East Africa, I suggest you visit.

cjtf-hoa-djibouti

Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, seen from space, view it in Google Maps.

It looks like Camp Lemonier is on its way to becomming a permanent base. From the Stars and Stripes (you can see more photos in the article):

Camp Lemonier grows to support AFRICOM

… Increasing American activity in the Horn of Africa has propelled Lemonier from a sleepy 97-acre post to a 500-acre base that’s become one of the military’s major installations on the continent. Last year’s stand-up of U.S. Africa Command means the base is only going to get busier.

“As AFRICOM matures, Camp Lemonier will transition to supporting long-term [theater security cooperation] efforts and establishing strong and enduring regional relationships,” Gen. William “Kip” Ward, the AFRICOM commander, said during testimony to the House Armed Services Committee in March 2008. “Camp Lemonier will be a part of supporting and developing regional African capability and capacity; thus, its funding support must continue.”

… Congress has set aside more than $100 million for camp improvements between fiscal 2007 and 2010 …

… the most telling indicators of the camp’s larger role may be the new infrastructure that will allow it to serve as a support hub for Africa Command. Crews have already broken ground on new taxiways to increase its ability to manage aircraft. Leaders are considering putting in a “hot pad” that will allow planes to refuel, rearm and get back on their way quickly.

Lemonier is now set to be an enduring base of operations for Africa Command. Navy Capt. Patrick Gibbons, the base commander, envisions the camp as a forward staging base for troops making last minute preparations before a mission. It is already a logistics hub that supports ships working in the Gulf of Aden and aircraft flying counterpiracy missions there. Other teams are tasked to pick up anyone who needs to be rescued. Lemonier’s mission even extends beyond the Horn of Africa region where Djibouti lies.

“The camp is becoming an enduring mission” …

Unfortunately, to date, and aside from the development photo ops in Djibouti, Camp Lemonier has contributed to destabilizing both Somalia, and Kenya, and facilitated the invasion and occupation of one country by another, the Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia, and involved in planning and funding the disastrous raid on the Lord’s Resistance Army by Uganda in December. These are all the actions of AFRICOM in East Africa. AFRICOM and Camp Lemonier contribute to propping up the dictator Meles in Ethiopia, as the US cozies up to Meles, funding his ambitions and excesses in the way that has discredited American good intentions and foreign policy around the world. It does not matter how real your politik, deeds tell the story. Mary Carlin Yates was just in Ethiopia planning further cooperation. The effect will be to destabilize, exploit, and oppress in Ethiopia and its neighbors:

March 25, 2009 (ENA) – Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Wednesday received and held talks with US Africa Command Civilian Deputy (AFRICOM), Ambassador Mary Yates.

Ambassador Yates said as Ethiopia is AFRICOM’s partner in security, the visit is intended to further scale up the relation.

Meles said Ethiopia and AFRICOM have been cooperating to ensure peace and security.

Accordingly, he said encouraging activities are being carried out in the area of military cooperation and capacity building.

The two parties have also discussed as to how to maintain the prevailing peace and security in Somalia, according to a senior government official who attended the discussion.

Of course step one to increase and maintain peace and security in Somalia would be to end Ethiopian involvement. There is nothing good Ethiopia can do in Somalia. It has no credibility. The history is so bad, that even if Ethiopians had good intentions, they would not be believed. That Ambassador Yates was discussing continued involvement in Somalia with Meles signals just how bad are US intentions, and how poorly informed is US planning.

AFRICOM is still looking for a permanent base in Africa. I doubt Camp Lemonier is seen as the permanent HQ, but it obviously is becoming permanent. Judging from a number of signals, including the very minor one, which parts of the archive of this blog are getting traffic, Ghana and Botswana are both under pressure and being seriously considered as potential home bases for AFRICOM. I surely hope Ghana can resist. The idea of hosting AFRICOM is not popular with any Ghanaians I know.

The US GAO, General Accounting Office, released a February report. From the New York Times

A report issued Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office acknowledged that the command had taken steps recently to win the trust of American diplomats and development experts, as well as African leaders. But it said the command must do a better job explaining what it does to build credibility among its United States government partners and with the African nations it is seeking to help.

“The military’s large size brings the promise of increased resources,” the report said, but that size also stirs concerns among African nations “about potential encroachment into civilian responsibilities like development and diplomacy.”

In an interview here on Monday, before the G.A.O. issued its report, Gen. William E. Ward, the head of the command, said many of the misperceptions about the command had been dispelled.

If General Ward believes the “misperceptions”, the products of realistic skepticism and knowledge of history, have been dispelled, he is living in a dream world. More likely he is continuing the same mistake AFRICOM planners have made all along, only listening to themselves, and those they have selected to agree with them.

The GAO report (PDF) on Africom makes clear that AFRICOM headquarters is still planned for the continent. It is one of the three main recommendations of the report:

• Include all appropriate audiences, encourage two-way communication, and ensure consistency of message related to AFRICOM’s mission and goals as it develops and implements its communications strategy.

• Seek formal commitments from contributing agencies to provide personnel as part of the command’s efforts to determine interagency personnel requirements, and develop alternative ways for AFRICOM to obtain interagency perspectives in the event that interagency personnel cannot be provided due to resource limitations.

• To determine the long-term fiscal investment for AFRICOM’s infrastructure, we recommend the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, as appropriate, conduct an assessment of possible locations for AFRICOM’s permanent headquarters and any supporting offices in Africa.

ug-drcmap1

Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars, a careful and thorough look at US involvement in Afghanistan through 2001, has written a column in the New Yorker about the botched raid across the Uganda DRC border sponsored by AFRICOM. The map above shows Garamba Park, where the raid took place.

Coll writes about how AFRICOM describes itself:

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. On Saturday, the Times published an important piece about the training, planning, intelligence, and financial support Africa Command provided for a cross-border raid by Uganda’s military against the Lord’s Resistance Army, which had gone to ground in a national park in the Congo. The raid turned out to be the military equivalent of poking a bee’s nest with a stick—the L.R.A. escaped, and, in the ensuing rampage, its members killed hundreds of Congolese civilians.

Coll continues:

The L.R.A. is a cult-like militia with a long record of atrocities whose leader has been indicted by the International Criminal Court. One can imagine the White House review in the expiring Bush Administration that authorized support for an Ugandan mission, which included intelligence photos and mapping, operational plans, satellite phones, and a million dollars worth of fuel. As it has done for this season’s producers of “24,” mucking around in Africa would have offered the outgoing President and his advisers the fantasy that they could reframe, in a final act of heroism, the moral equation of their misbegotten Global War on Terror.

… Rather than the satisfying, vindicating capture of a child-conscripting war criminal, the George W. Bush Administration received a final lesson in the immutable laws of unintended consequences in war (which laws the Administration might have memorized after Iraq).

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.

AFRICOM, the US Africa Command, is the heavily funded nexus of US policy in Africa. US military investment dwarfs all other investment.

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