Thursday, October 8, 2015

Cabbages and Kony

The four-year fiasco that is the futile search for renegade militia leader, Joseph Kony and his army of child soldiers, has once again become the focus in Washington, DC.

Congress discussed Kony recently during a meeting of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations. The hearing was titled, “Ridding Central Africa of Joseph Kony: Continuing US Support.”

While there appears to be continuing support to keep up the hunt for Kony, the reality on the ground in Africa is typically confusing at best.

A recent article in the Washington Post provides a well-crafted update on the search for Kony. It focuses on the apparent dealings the Ugandan army and U.S. special forces advisers have had with Muslim rebel fighters in the region, known as the Seleka.

I have argued in First Kill Your Family that the Ugandans aren't truly committed to finding Kony.

It is absurd for the Ugandans and their American advisers to complain that they can'd find Kony. Many people know where he is. The Post even published the following map:

The only ones who don't seem to know are the soldiers who have been hunting him ever since late 2008 when the Ugandan army botched an air and ground assault on Kony's camp in the Garamba National Park in the north eastern corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 2011, President Obama ordered 100 U.S. military advisers to help the Ugandans with the hunt for Kony. They've been unsuccessful so far, and Obama will soon have to decide to continue the U.S. support or cut it.

Kony has been killing elephants and rhinos in Garamaba ever since he arrived there in late 2005, having abandoned his marauding of northern Uganda for some "fresh meat." Only recently, however, has this on-going slaughter of wildlife become an issue.

Kony and others, it seems, have been selling the highly valuable tusks to black marketeers who arrive in helicopters, load their cargo, and fly off. If a bunch of men who deal in wildlife parts can find Kony, why can't the Uganda and U.S. Special Forces?

While the Post article looks at a potential controversy should the U.S. advisers be pumping the Seleka for information and cooperation, it's a needless discussion.

The Seleka are apparently among the many who have been dealing with Kony. So if the Ugandans and the Americans are serious about finding Kony and bringing him to just, then WHY NOT talk to them? How can the Kony mission not use any and all means to find Kony?

While the Kony mission stumbles along, the reasons for it lack of success became quite evident as one reads deep into the article. The problems are many.

First, the U.S. has been rotating personnel in and out of the mission, which is based in Entebbe, a town south of the capital of Kampala, and the site of a military airport that also hosts UN planes. This has made it nearly impossible for continuity of the mission.

Second, the U.S. made some noise about adding to the mission three of the highly mobile Osprey aircraft, which can take off and land vertically, along with crew and added personnel. It only lasted three weeks before they were all pulled and reassigned to missions with higher priorities.

This has forced the mission to rely on private contractors to ferry food and supplies around to the various remote base camps. But officials now say that these contractors work at their own pace, meaning that they fit in the work when they can. Hardly a high priority mission.

Third, the U.S. advisers complained about how the Ugandans use, or abuse, U.S. equipment. In one instance, the Ugandans used a U.S. helicopter for a resupply mission, but only put five cabbages on it. Five cabbages? Are you serious?

That's supposedly a resupply mission for soldiers who are supposed to trekking around the jungles looking for Kony?

If anything, it shows that the Ugandans are not serious about finding Kony, as I've long argued, and are more interested in getting and using U.S. arms and equipment for their own purposes.

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