Sunday, May 18, 2008

Three strikes and you're out

Joseph Kony, leader of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, has once again snubbed negotiators who traveled to Ri-Kwangba, a remote location in the steaming jungles along the border of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Only this time it was not the nearly 200 people who last month went there to witness the signing of a peace settlement that will permanently end the 21-year war that Kony led in northern Uganda.

This time it was Kony's own people, the leaders of his Acholi ethnic group, who went there at his bidding supposedly to explain details of what would happen to him, should he sign the deal.

Uganda has proposed a special court to try him in lieu of the International Criminal court in The Hague. But Kony would much prefer the forgive-and-forget mato oput ceremonies that the Acholi have historically used to settle family and clan disputes such as stealing a cow.

The traditional ceremonies have never been used for such things as massacres of entire villages and the kinds of atrocities committed by Kony's Lord's Resistance Army.

But that didn't stop Kony from issuing new demands for his signature on the peace deal, such as a shiny new mansion in Kampala, security and piles of money.

If anything, these latest demands only confirm that Kony has lost touch with reality outside of the brutal and bloody existence he has created for himself and his cultish militia for the past 20 years. Could he really expect to be rewarded lavishly for causing the death of some 100,000 in his homeland and the displacement of nearly 2 million of his fellow Acholis?

Back in Uganda, the Acholi leaders said they were finished with Kony, that never again would they go to visit with the man.

This latest move has left the international community with few choices. Someone has to capture Kony and take out his militia, but the question is who?

The government of the DR Congo can't control the dozens of militias that proliferate in eastern Congo, and it's unlikely it will allow Uganda to re-enter the country, which Uganda did in the mid-1990s when it backed the former army of Laurent Kabila that toppled Mobuto's regime.

The logical choice to go after Kony would be the UN's massive force there now, which is some 17,000 peacekeepers.

Something like this was tried in January 2006 by Guatemalan special forces and it resulted in a four-hour gun battle in which eight of the blue helmets died, as did 50 to 60 of the LRA.

And, if the UN took the initiative to go after Kony, who's wanted by the ICC, it would only complicate matters in Darfur, Sudan, where the Sudanese government already suspects that the UN forces assigned to Darfur want to capture the two Sudanese wanted by the ICC.

Stay tuned.

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