Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Kony dilemma

The address this past Monday by Phillip Carter III, of the State Department's Bureau of African Affairs, to activists who participated in lobby day in Washington D.C. shed no light on the festering problems surrounding the Lord's Resistance Army.

Carter recited what had been done by the U.S. over the past few years in terms of its involvement in the failed Juba peace talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA, and how the U.S. has supported the reconstruction of northern Uganda.

The address was a polite brush off to the thousands of activists affiliated with the Invisible Children organization, Resolve Uganda and the Enough Project -- all three of which are dedicated to ending the suffering caused by the LRA.

Sadly, and despite the vague comments by Carter to the contrary, the U.S. and most of the other so-called "players" in the region are not going to do much about the LRA.

As I have pointed out on prior occasions, LRA leader Joseph Kony is driven by his desire to survive, first and foremost, an impulse that overrides his megalomania.

Kony has situated himself and his band of bloody soldiers in one of the most remote regions of the world, and despite the abortive attack on his camps last December and the subsequent pursuit by the Ugandan army, he has survived.

By literally hiding out in the recesses of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, he has successfully defied the will of Uganda, the DRC, and the whole of the international community to stop him.

As we saw from the debacle of last December, mounting an operation against Kony is a monumental undertaking. And, it is complicated by the fact that the LRA is accustomed to operating in small, fractured units, much like any other guerrilla army.

Destruction of several parts does not inflict enough harm to stop the whole.

While everyone seems to acknowledge the true tragedy that the continued existence of the LRA means, it has never been enough to generate the kind of resolve needed to end Kony and his army, which has relished killing innocent people by the thousands for 23 years.

The reason is simple. Kony has not caused enough problems for those capable of doing anything to stop him and his army.

In Iraq, huge oil reserves were lurking in the background as the U.S. invaded under the guise of fighting terror. Likewise, the war in Afghanistan has the Taliban and the background of 9/11.

Resolving the situation with Kony and his LRA or the fighting in Darfur suffer from the same dilemma, however. Definitive action in both instances would be based on moral principle alone, such as relieving human suffering and injustice where possible.

But it's clearly not enough to get the powerful to act. There has to be a monetary or material need as well, or at least a perceived threat to broader issues of safety, security and the "national interest."

While the lobbying in Washington DC is worthwhile and admirable, and the supporters of bills to heat up U.S. action in central Africa are to be applauded, it all won't result in much unless oil, gold, diamonds or some such wealth is suddenly found in these regions.

Or, as ridiculous as it seems, unless Kony and/or the Sudan government present a threat to the U.S. or European Union interests.

Only then would we see a rush to bring these tragedies to a swift and final end.

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