Tuesday, October 22, 2013

An all too familiar story

There's a good story posted yesterday on-line in the New Yorker.

The story is about how Texan philanthropist Shannon Davis and others, have helped fund, train and equip a special unit of the Ugandan army to pursue the notorious warlord, Joseph Kony and his army of child soldiers, now roaming somewhere, people think, in the Central African Republic.

Some thoughts:
Davis and the others rightly suggest that the Ugandans are the ones who must capture or put an end to Kony, not the legions of non-Africans who follow the agonizing and consistent failures of the Ugandan army. 

The result of the Davis funded mission, however, is hauntingly familiar to the first such attack on a Kony camp, funded by the Bush administration in Dec 2008. Despite nearly a year of training and millions in military aid, Kony was long gone when the Ugandans botched what was supposed to be a decisive blow on his base camp in the Garamba National Park in the DR Congo.

In the wake of the attack, it became clear that Kony had been tipped off, mostly likely by the Ugandan army insiders. I would suspect that same thing happened in this latest assault. The Ugandan army is trying to blame US intelligence for not sharing that Kony was already gone. I suspect it is the other way around. The Ugandans knew Kony was gone, but attacked anyway just so the funders would feel that their efforts had not been wasted.

I would suggest that Kony has not really been deprived of a safe haven. He has been roaming the remote reaches of the Central African Republic for more than seven years now, and roamed northern Uganda for 20 before that. Moving and setting up new camps is routine.

I would also suggest that Sudan's president al-Bashir willingly supports Kony, the first person indicted by the International Criminal Court, since now he too is on the court's most wanted list. Helping Kony is finger in the eye of the court.

It's been the same story with Kony told over and over, only with different players. As I argue in First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army, Uganda does not want to capture or kill Kony. He is much more valuable alive than dead or on trial before the International Criminal Court. That well-funded and well-intention people like Davis and Buffett, not to mention US Special Forces, are willing to train, equip and fund the Ugandans year-after-year illustrates how Kony is a cash cow for the Ugandans.

This has been obvious since the onset when Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni padded his military payroll and the pockets of his generals with thousands of non-existent "ghost soldiers" who were supposedly fighting Kony when he was in northern Uganda prior to vacating the country in 2006. The Ugandan army's refrain is sadly familiar when the generals are asked what they need to capture Kony: money, equipment and training. 

The US continues to advise and assist the Ugandans in their "pursuit" of Kony because the Ugandans are the bulk of the African Union's mission in Somalia. 

As a terrorist haven for the al-Qaeda-like Al Shabab, which conducted that horrific attack on the mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and previously bombed locations in Kampala, keeping a Ugandan force in Somalia is strategically much more important to US interests than Kony will ever be. 

A few helicopters and contingent of special forces to chase Kony is little more than a bone tossed to the Ugandans.
--Peter Eichstaedt