U.S. support for the anti-LRA war has not been an unmitigated success. The National Security Council authorized training and financial support for the December 2008 Operation Lightning Thunder, a joint Uganda-Congolese-South Sudan campaign. This resulted, however, in major casualties among Congolese civilians, with 200,000 people displaced and the LRA escaping to fight another day.Worth watching.
Somewhat puzzling about the new U.S. deployment “to protect civilians” — as stated by the U.S. Embassy in Kampala on October 17, 2011 — is the fact that the Ugandan army announced that the Kony/LRA problem is no longer a threat in Uganda, but a regional problem. So, apparently the UPDF is joining the U.S. in an African regional conflict. Uganda has been a leader in the African Union’s battle against the al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia, and suffered a retaliatory bombing in Kampala by them in July 2010.
So does this new operation mean a wider U.S. regional military action in East Africa in support, however reluctant, of Kenya’s incursion into Somalia against al-Shabaab? Is this part of an expanded role for AFRICOM, the U.S. military command in Africa?
Is this connected to an anti-piracy campaign off the Somalia coast just north of the Kenya border? Rumors also abound about a Kenya military effort to seize the southern Somalia port of Kismayo, to thwart the increasing dangers of piracy to vital sea traffic and to deal with the expanding refugee problem of Somalis fleeing into Kenya. Perhaps the U.S. need for Museveni’s political and military help in the widening anti-terrorist campaigns in Somalia and off its coast is involved.
There is one other possible factor inspiring this new U.S. effort. The geographic areas in which the LRA operates are in the middle of recent discoveries of oilfields. The finds are substantial. Three companies have bought the drilling rights. Heritage sold its interests to Tullow, Tullow sold 30% of its interests to Total and CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corporation, which is state-run). This deal is being help up by the Ugandan government.
The Obama administration’s motives are still not clear. Given this list of possibilities, the way the campaign develops should provide some answers.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Why are we fighting the Lord's Resistance Army?
Recently I came out in support of Obama's escalation of US involvement in fighting the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. Nevertheless, I do no pretend to be fully versed in Obama's reasoning behind the move. Harvey Glickman provides some possible reasons: