Western powers are moving swiftly to implement a major ongoing military campaign in East-Central Africa. The European Union, for instance, on Saturday, committed €9m for military operations against LRA.
The money is going toward a United Nations/African Union-supported military strategy against the rebels. The new strategy was launched in Juba with South Sudan vice-president, Riek Machar, in attendance. Machar is the man immortalized in Deborah Scroggins’ book Emma’s War as a man with sociopathic tendencies and much blood on his hands.
The new plan calls for a dark alliance of the Uganda, South Sudan, DRC, and CAR militaries to lead 5,000 soldiers on a hunt for Joseph Kony. There is no word on what exactly the 100 US military advisers in Uganda have been up to since arriving in late 2011.
Reuters quotes AU special envoy, Francisco Madeira, as saying on Saturday that, “The Americans are playing a pivotal role in some aspects. …. They support us militarily, they support us with equipment, they support us with military advice, they support us even with intelligence and training.”
Reuters also reports that the multinational military force will be headquartered in Yambio in South Sudan. South Sudan is of course an important new regional ally for Washington, as indicated by the substantial support being directed at the new nation.
The worst fears of the Stop Kony 2012 critics are being realized in record time. Militarization of the region is proceeding apace. It can only be hoped that history will not repeat Operation Lightening Thunder, when the consequences were born by civilians caught in middle, as the LRA melted away from its pursuers and lashed out against helpless populations in retaliation.
Human Rights Watch has called attention to a November 2011 open letter from 20 regional civil society organizations, which observes that: “Civilians in this remote region have no protection from LRA attacks, and often no means of communicating with others to call for help. We can only truly rejoice when the LRA threat is over and when we hear that Joseph Kony is no longer terrorizing our region.” However, that merely notes the problem – which no one questions – and leaves open the question of how best to eliminate the threat posed by the LRA. It can hardly be used as evidence of local popular support for a military campaign following in the footsteps of the disastrous Operation Lightening Thunder just a few years ago. Why is there so little attention to community voices now? Is it because they cannot be counted on to stick to the desired script?
The international military operation appears to be an attempt to develop a coordinated regional military force accustomed to collaborating and in league with the prevailing international order headed, ultimately, by Washington. The New York Times pointed out that “The announcement also came a few days after a bipartisan group in Congress introduced a resolution condemning Mr. Kony and supporting a regional military effort from the four most victimized nations.” And, more to the point, “The United States… reiterated its support on Friday for the regional military operation and its own “multi-year strategy.”” A multi-year strategy to eradicate a rag-tag group of a few hundred bandits, many of whom are children? Clearly, the goals are much larger than the LRA.
It is unclear if the announcement on Saturday is directly connected to the Invisible Children campaign or if it was simply a bit of convenient timing. The situation cries out for papers with resources to do some real investigative journalism. Sadly, that is unlikely to happen. The NYT did note that “The African Union said Friday that its operation had been months in the planning, and would not stop until Mr. Kony was captured.” However, that is unsurprising. The real question is whether Invisible Children was brought on board to coordinate advance publicity (read: propaganda) for the campaign.
Many reports like the BBC did note the obvious context – that the Kony2012 internet video with over 100 million views had focused international attention on Kony and called for a military solution – but stopped short of probing the connection more deeply. The BBC quotes regional UN envoy, Abou Moussa, as saying that the spike in global interest in Kony had been “useful, very important”.
Julius N. Uma, “EU earmarks €9m for joint military operation against LRA,” Sudan Tribune, March 25, 2012 (http://www.sudantribune.com/EU-earmarks-EUR9m-for-joint,42022).
Reuters, “African Union launches US-backed force to hunt Kony,” Mar 24, 2012, (http://af.reuters.com/article/sudanNews/idAFL6E8EO0CY20120324?sp=true).
BBC, “African Union force steps up hunt for Joseph Kony,” 24 March 2012, (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17498382).
Josh Kron, “African Union to Make Push Against Rebels,” March 23, 2012, (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/world/africa/african-union-to-make-push-against-rebels.html?_r=1).
Human Rights Watch, “Urgent Action Needed to End LRA Abuses – New Document Answers Questions about Rebel Group’s Past and Present,” March 22, 2012, (http://reliefweb.int/node/484766).