The news broke yesterday that the Obama admin is sending 100 US troops to Uganda to root out the Lord’s Resistance Army and finally bring their leader, Joseph Kony, to justice. The American public, still reeling from the protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are notably suspicious.
A world without the LRA and Joseph Kony is a better world. Kony and his group have waged a war against humanity. Acts of violence, dismemberment, disfigurement, rape, child slavery and exploitation are just the top of the list of the horror story that the LRA have created in Northern Uganda,the DRC and the Sudan. Estimates vary, but it has been said that the LRA has abducted more than 100,000 children as child soldiers and killed tens of thousands more. Ostensibly, the LRA is a Christian group, though, though experts point out that there are heavy elements of Acholi mysticism and politics. They are similar to many charismatic groups in Africa, though they distinguish themselves though bloodshed and rape.
The LRA has been active since 1986, when mystic and spirit medium Alice Auma, created the Holy Spirit Movement to rid the Ugandan government of the influence of witchcraft and satanism and abate the spiritual crisis that had stricken Uganda. Truly, though, Kony and the LRA have used mysticism to achieve broader goals of power, control and terror. The LRA is little different from a widespread pattern of witchcraft accusations, which gel rural populations together against a common, and mystical, enemy.
The interest of the Obama admin and the United States is far too little, too late, almost 25 years too late. In some sense, the United States unwittingly created the conditions that produced a group like the LRA, through its long and protracted war with the Soviet Union and China that it fought by proxy in the DRC and Angola. The ideological fight between the two Cold War powers destabilized the entire region by providing a consistent supply of sophisticated weaponry and favoring the worst and most despotic of leaders, not the least of which was President Mobuto of Zaire. Presently, supplies for the LRA come from neighboring Sudan, though food and health care appear to remain scarce.
So why now? The second scramble for Africa is underway. Nigeria and Angola are both major suppliers of petrochemicals, and a recent oil find in Uganda has finally put this small and landlocked country on the map of speculators and oil investors. China has long sought to dig its claws into Africa’s vast resources and turn attention away from the west. China’s as yet untested relationship with Africa provide it a considerable advantage over the west long history of exploitation. The United States is therefore in a precarious position. In it’s search for new sources of petroleum, it can’t let Africa slip though it’s fingers. The cost of 100 well trained troops to stabilize Uganda’s rural, oil possessing regions, is far outweighed by the benefits of obtaining a new source of energy resources.
This could be a boon to the struggling, though emerging, country of Uganda. Finally securing the Northern region of Uganda could free up Uganda’s financial resources that it could invest into infrastructure and economic expansion. Sales of oil contracts could provide a solid source of income for a country with few options. It could also be a curse. Mismanagement and corruption could, at best, exacerbate inequality and at worst, finance even more conflicts.
Regardless, the US’s refusal to move on from petroleum will be its political downfall. Several years ago, discussion of alternative energy, efficiency and technology has been replaced by calls for expansion of dirty, though domestic, energy sources, and an ever expanding presence on the globe. Again, the Obama admin has disappointed by falling into this trap and continuing the same old pattern that the previous administration set.