Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Last week the US announced it was sending more personnel and materiel to beef up the African Union regional army’s hunt for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

This time around an extra 150 personnel will be flown in, to assist the 100 Special Forces already in place from the previous assistance. Officially these elite units will not see any action, use high tech equipment to ferret out the elusive Joseph Kony and his band of murderous cronies.

Kony, down to a few bad men is holed up somewhere in the Central African Republic near the south Sudan border,  it is thought, a lawless hell hole with several other outlaws roaming around.

"Thankfully the terror the LRA meted out on Ugandan soil is a fast fading memory. Kony probably played his last hand in 2002 when after a year’s lull in activity attacked the border town of Agoro in Kitgum and triggered Operation Iron Fist, a foray into Southern Sudan by the UPDF...

Subsequent attacks in Uganda like the bloody massacre in the Barlonyo in 2004  or attacks into eastern Uganda were attempts by the LRA to disperse the concentrated action on their camps in South Sudan.

A major turning point in the war against the LRA was the gazetting of the rebel group as a terrorist organisation by the George W. Bush administration in 2001, the listing of Sudan as part of the axis of evil, which prompted Khartoum to cut off overt support for the LRA and allow Uganda to pursue the rebels deep into southern Sudan. 

At around the same time the government was released from the arbitrary cap on military spending imposed by the donor community for almost a decade.

Kony was also the first individual to be indicted by the newly created International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2005.

Incidentally former ICC prosecutor Mario Ocampo was around last week hawking his services as a special prosecutor to the war affected communities of northern Uganda and Barlonyo in particular.

More than a decade later the White House reacting to mounting pressure from powerful constituencies at home to help in shutting down the LRA and the desperate need for some foreign policy victories, have set their sights on the remnants of the LRA.

To put a final nail in the LRA insurgency would be to put a stop to one of the most intractable conflicts on the continent.

The conflict which started as a last stand by retreating soldiers of the UNLA, overthrown by the NRA in 1986, was hijacked by Joseph Kony and transformed into an orgy of bloodletting, large scale kidnappings of children for use as soldiers and sex slaves and the forced displacement of up two million of the northern Uganda’s people.

The NRA and later the UPDF did not always acquit themselves with distinction, leaving a sore taste in the mouth that is yet to be expunged.

So Kony’s prospects going into the future are decidedly bleak. But we have heard that all before.
This time things may be different. 

Among the reasons the LRA have been able to hold out so long is that they recruited by abduction and were therefore difficult to infiltrate. A few people who presented themselves for recruitment met very nasty ends.

With a badly depleted force and now operating in a foreign land far from the Acholi heart land in South Sudan the LRA must be feeling truly like fish out of water. 

Secondly the LRA’s low technology approach to war means they still run around on foot shunning vehicles and most recently telecommunications -- unnecessary if you are not interested in controlling territory, but problematic if your generals are getting older. Kony according to records will 53 this year.

And finally Khartoum for fear of alienating itself further probably can’t touch their former ally with a ten foot pole.

"In a strange way the capture or demise of Kony will only be good for political back slappers. Believe it or not there are still some who sleep with one eye open, in mortal fear of the return of the son of Odek village but  reactions to Kony’s end will be mooted probably more relief than jubilation....

New York Times correspondent Thomas Freidman coined the word the super-empowered individual, loosely defined as a person who by leveraging force – physical, mental or another against a system is able to cause ripples through society for better or for worse. 

At the time he came up with the term the internet was not in widespread use and the Osama bin Laden’s Al Queada had not flown planes into the World Trade Center, but could have been referring to Kony.


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