Intervening in a volatile and brutal crisis, President Barack Obama said Friday he has dispatched 100 U.S. troops to central Africa to support a years-long fight against a guerrilla group accused of horrific atrocities. Obama said they were sent to advise, not engage in combat, unless forced to defend themselves.
In a letter to Congress, Obama said the troops will act as advisers in a long-running battle against the Lord’s Resistance Army, considered one of Africa’s most ruthless rebel groups, and help to hunt down its notorious leader, Joseph Kony.
A smaller group of U.S. military advisers assisted a previous Ugandan-led offensive against the Lord’s Resistance Army in late 2008 and early 2009. That operation backfired, however, as Kony’s group escaped and his fighters responded by committing a string of massacres against civilians.
Fewer than two dozen U.S. personnel were involved in that operation, in which they provided intelligence and guidance to a force of Ugandan and Congolese troops that were hunting Kony’s group in a remote area in northeastern Congo. Kony’s fighters slipped away and rampaged through nearby Congolese villages, killing several hundred people, according to human rights groups.
The complaints are similar: Many Ugandans say that their government is corrupt and that their president, Yoweri Museveni, who after 25 years has ruled Uganda for longer than more than half the country’s population has been alive, is dismissive of the people’s plight.
The government, in response, has accused opposition leaders of taking advantage of financial problems for political gain. Opposition leaders staged what they called “Egypt style” protests in April, and since then lawyers, teachers, taxi drivers and traders have held various strikes and demonstrations. Government forces have clamped down violently at times, killing at least nine demonstrators since April and arresting hundreds, including top opposition leaders.
That makes the timing of this quite suspicious, especially given the history:
Museveni periodically barks out a war cry against corruption, but usually with mixed signals. Last year, addressing a gathering of African journalists and business leaders, the president appeared to suggest the danger of corruption was overstated. He said he knew some African governments that were run with puritanical discipline but whose countries were still poor.
It also seems to part of the continuing problems of the area. Oil has now been found in Uganda and remember that the war in the DR Congo was mostly about resources. It would be nice if the LRA could be stopped, but the history of the region makes me think this will just lead to more problems.