Thursday, 8 March 2012

Kony 2012: what are the facts?

I’ve done some digging and it’s not looking good unfortunately. Multiple sources indicate that US forces have been in Uganda and Central African Republic in various strengths for upwards of 6 years already. 

While they’ve been active in a group of raids, they haven’t managed to apprehend any of the key leadership of the LRA. In fact, it appears that every time a raid fails the reprisals by the LRA militants can be severe.

Currently, the fresh contingent of US troops have been assigned in a strictly advisory role based in the confines of Kampala. They won’t participate in any of the raids due to the cross-border nature of the LRA. They’ve been there since mid November. It is strange to get advanced information of special forces activity.

It’s been suggested that Obama’s recent deployment of troops is political. Getting another bad guy in cuffs in an election year would be good publicity and would cement his position as someone who can ‘get things done’. 

The November plan had 4 objectives that supported regional and multilateral efforts: (a) increase protection of civilians; (b) apprehend or remove from the battlefield Joseph Kony and senior commanders; (c) promote the defection, disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of remaining LRA fighters; and (d) increase humanitarian access and provide continued relief to affected communities. 

Alexander Vershbow, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the deployed forces were expected to remain in the region for months, not years.

I’m also gathering that the Ugandan military, who the Invisible Children (IC) support, aren’t such a bunch or roses themselves. Reports have emerged over the last 10 years of some pretty brutal paramilitary type actions, including rape and murder and internment of IDPs in what can only be described as concentration camps. The problem for the US advisors is that it’s not just some splinter groups among the military, it appears to be endemic in many levels of the Ugandan military. 

The images of the children exiled in their own country is basically old news. There are no longer huge amounts of these children without homes, wandering the streets in fear of LRA snatch teams. In fact, these kids don’t need US troops to go after a militant leader anymore, they need to have an education.

The LRA itself has dispersed over the last decade to not be a threat for the Ugandan government. In fact the cross border raids into southern Sudan by the Ugandan military against the rebels may have stretched government forces too thin. 

The attacks in Kampala by the Islamist group formerly known as Al Shabaab were not intercepted probably because of this Ugandan military overreach. In the beginning of 2011, the LRA were responsible for increased violence in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, primarily directed at civilians there. Attacks were also directed at those working with NGOs.

On top of this Kony himself has been reported to be in very poor health and could well be terminal. The LRA itself doesn’t seem to have an organised succession so may splinter if Kony dies. Indeed, attacking Kony in an armed raid could have bad publicity. 

His bodyguards consist almost entirely of the child soldiers IC claim to be saving. Any strike will likely result in child deaths. Is there a ‘greater good’ thing here that IC are willing to swallow? I don’t know the answer to that.

As the years have progressed, the LRA lessened their attacks in Uganda and began to attack other regions. They spread to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and the Central African Republic. The LRA continued to move between these 3 regions and evaded capture despite the efforts made by joint military operations of the countries. 

The LRA continued to plague these regions with their only goal being survival. They performed raids on remote locations to gather food, money, or people which would help sustain their rebellion.

Essentially, Kony’s removal would likely not have any palpable effect on Ugandan society. Coupled with relative stability for the last few years and the dispersal of Kony’s forces from any centralised threat in Uganda, Kony is now a marginalised criminal with little power. While action today may appear to bring Kony down, his power has been declining fairly rapidly for the better part of a decade.

Some websites are claiming the LRA ceased all militant activity in 2006. This is incorrect. In May 2008, the LRA renewed abducting children in southern Sudan, the DRC and the CAR.

On 18 September 2008, suspected LRA elements allegedly attacked a Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) detachment in South Sudan. One SPLA soldier and 3 LRA rebels were killed, villagers were abducted and houses had been looted and burnt.

Between 25 and 27 December 2008, the LRA reportedly struck the village of Faradje in the DRC, killing 40 people. 149 more people were killed by the LRA after they attacked 2 more villages, Doruma (89 reported deaths) and Gurga (60 reported deaths). 

The death toll included 45 civilians who were hacked to death in a Catholic church near Doruma. Approximately 20 children were abducted from Faradje, 120 houses were set on fire, and numerous buildings, including the hospital and the police barracks, were looted.

For instance: The human rights group said LRA rebels attacked at least 10 villages during a 4-day rampage in December 2009, killing at least 321 people. It said the dead included 13 women and 23 children, which included a 3-year-old girl who was burned to death.

And between 20 March and 6 May of 2010, the LRA carried out at least 10 raids in Haut-Mbomou Province in the far east of Central African Republic, which claimed 36 lives. Some 10,000 people were uprooted, and more than 400 fled across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo.

So yeah, the LRA are still pretty active since 2006. Although it does appear they're not as powerful as they used to be.