Saturday, October 22, 2011

Congolese: Uganda not serious about Kony

A blog posted this week by writers of the Economist, one of the world's leading news magazines, quoted a Congolese army commander as accusing the Ugandan army of being "not serious" about the capture of Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army.

The blog is titled Baobob, which is a majestic and extremely long living tree in Africa, and focuses on the plight of an unnamed army lieutenant who has the unenviable mission of leading his men against the LRA as it roams the remote northern jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The officer bemoans the fact that his men have not been paid or resupplied for months, yet they continue to slog after the battle-hardened child soldiers of Kony's LRA.

What makes the army unit's situation all the more depressing is that the Ugandan units that are in the region are well-supplied and well-equipped, but aren't doing anything.

"It's a crooked war the Ugandan are fighting with the LRA," the officer tells the Economist blogger. "They have all the weapons in the world, but they're not serious."

This commander's frustrations parallel my own when it comes to Uganda's abortive efforts to track, capture and/or kill Kony and the minions of his murderous cult. As I have argued in my book, First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his army have a vested interest in keeping Kony alive.

As I discuss in my latest book, Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World's Deadliest Place, Museveni focused his army in the DRC starting in early 1996 when he teamed up with Rwandan President Paul Kagame to topple the regime of Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu was replaced with their hand-picked commander, the late Laurent Kabila, whose son Joseph will most likely be re-elected president of the DRC next month.

After Laurent Kabila tried to kick the Ugandans and Rwandans out of his country in 1998, they launched a second war in the DRC that stalled. But Uganda and Rwanda stayed in eastern Congo until 2003, allowing them to plunder the gold, diamonds, timber, as well as untold tons of what has become known as "conflict minerals": tin, tungsten and tantalum.

Meanwhile, back in northern Uganda, Kony continued to fight, wreaking havoc against his own tribe, the Acholi who dominated all of northern Uganda. Museveni let his generals inflate the number of soldiers actually fighting in the north, which became know as the "ghost soldiers." The generals were eventually relieved of their rank, but not until after they'd been able to pocket millions of foreign aid dollars meant to put an end to Kony and the LRA.

Although Kony decamped northern Uganda in 2006 for the remote jungles of northern DRC, he continued as he had done for the prior 20 years, killing, looting and kidnapping, no longer able to justify his criminal behavior by claiming to fight the Museveni government.

In 2008, former President Bush sent US military advisers to Uganda, and with the Ugandans, they devised an attack on Kony's camp, which failed miserably when Kony was apparently tipped off and fled with army. He then went on a murderous rampage, killing nearly 1,000 innocent people in the region.

Because of these past failures by the Bush administration, and armed with a congressional mandate, President Barack Obama has sent yet another bevy of US military adviser to Uganda to see if they can convince Museveni and the Ugandan army to get the job done once and for all.

While some influential commentators, such as the perennially bizarre and woefully confused Rush Limbaugh, have said that Obama is trying to wipe out Christians in Africa, other more knowledgeable ones have said that these advisers will actually be armed and accompany Ugandans into the jungle.

With US forces on the ground, this gives hope that finally something might be done about Kony, but wait! Last Sunday, shortly after Obama made the announcement, Uganda's Museveni says that no, US advisers will NOT be on the ground, and according to reports, "will not participate in actual fighting."

Museveni's comments only reinforce my long-standing belief, which is now shared by that poor Congolese lieutenant, that Uganda does not want Kony captured. Rather, what we can see is more foreign money and arms lavished on Uganda, but to no other purpose but to enrich and empower the Ugandan elite.

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