In the latest issue of Newsweek, I read an article that both horrified and bewildered me. The atrocities depicted were as troubling as any I have ever read or heard about. Normally; I oppose any US involvement in other country’s problems unless it directly affects our nation. However, in this case, I applaud former President Bush for his advocating our assistance to help put an end to this reign of terror. The problem is that despite our efforts, as well as those by the United Nations, the atrocities continue.
Joseph Kony has been hunted by the Ugandan government for 23 years. He is the leader of an insurgent organization called the Lord’s Resistance Army. When Idi Amin’s dictatorship ended in 1979; Uganda didn’t exactly transform into a “kinder, gentler nation.” In fact, it opened the door for the creation of new, more ruthless groups trying to gain control of the country. Among them was a group led by now President Museveni. Unlike other groups; Museveni’s guerillas were known for their discipline and refusal to harm innocent civilians. Many Ugandans viewed this group as true liberators and because of this; Museveni was allowed to fight his way to Kampala and assume power.
Once Museveni became president, he essentially declared war on the most viscous groups. At the top of his list was the Lord’s Resistance Army led by Kony. Well known for his pathological cruelty and complete disregard for human life; Kony became the primary focus of the government. “Kony has forced new male recruits to rape their mothers and kill their parents. Former LRA members say the rebels sometimes cook and eat their victims.” To date, the LRA is responsible for the slaughter of an estimated 65,000 civilians.
What troubles and confounds me is the inability to stop this animal. Not only was President Museveni obsessed with Kony; President Bush and the United Nations were as well. In 2006, a mission called Operation Lightning Thunder was devised with the support of the UN and US military intelligence operatives. A group of US trained soldiers were given the task of capturing or killing Kony and his rebels. The mission proved to be another disastrous failure as all of the soldiers were killed, their commander beheaded, and Kony was nowhere to be found.
Over the years; negotiations with the LRA have taken place. Though Kony normally sends David Matsauga, his chief negotiator and fall down drunk; Kony himself has attended these talks on occasion. This begs the question: Why not simply capture him during these talks? When then assistant secretary of state for African affairs asked that very question, Museveni replied “We don’t ambush people. If we’re in the bush and somebody’s back is turned, before we’ll strike, we cough.” Are you kidding me? Not only do they refuse to “ambush” him; they provide food for what Kony claims to be his 5,000 troops. More credible sources estimate the amount to be 800. Is anyone else bewildered by all of this?
The International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Kony’s arrest in 2005. The reason for why it took that long escapes me. I assume that would have given the Ugandan government the right to apprehend him and hand him over to the ICC to stand trial for his crimes against humanity. Apparently, my assumption was wrong. While the name binLaden strikes fear in governments throughout the world; Kony remains an enigma. I went through a text from college (2007) which focused on terrorism worldwide and there was not one mention of Kony or the LRA. One critic of Museveni, Norbert Mao, stated “I suspect the incompetent management of the military may be deliberate.” That is a very bold accusation but considering Kony’s ability to evade capture for 23 years; it may very well be a valid one.
All information was derived from the May 25th issue of Newsweek. The article is entitled Hard Target: The Hunt For Africa’s Last Warlord written by Scott Thompson.