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U.S. under fire over Ugandan rebel hunt

February 13, 2009

A multinational offensive aimed at wiping out Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels – and planned and equipped with U.S. support during the dying days of the Bush administration - has scattered fighters who have unleashed a wave of massacres on Congolese villages.
LRA fighters have killed nearly 900 people in reprisal attacks in northeast Congo since Ugandan troops, together with Sudanese and Congolese soldiers, launched a military operation in December against fugitive rebel leader Joseph Kony, whose two-decade insurgency has killed tens of thousands of people and uprooted 2 million. (See Alertnet briefing for more)
Reuters reported on the U.S. involvement in December. The New York Times said recently that the Pentagon’s new Africa Command (Africom) had contributed intelligence, advice and $1 million in fuel. The Washington Post argues the operation has been so unsuccessful it amounts to little more than “throwing a rock at a hive of bees”.
Foreign Policy magazine said that the LRA, who failed to sign a planned peace deal in April, would be hard to stamp out and that the operation was putting the Pentagon’s reputation at risk.
There are sceptical voices in the blogosphere too.
“One of the first publicly acknowledged Africom operations has turned into a general debacle, resulting in the death of nearly a thousand civilians and sending untold numbers of children into sex slavery and military servitude,” Dave Donelson says on his Heart of Diamonds blog.
Writing in Uganda’s Monitor, Grace Matsiko said the offensive was proving a real test for officers of Uganda’s army (UPDF).
“Uganda should brace itself for a protracted war, should Kony and his top lieutenants continue to evade the UPDF dragnet,” the journalist wrote.
Meanwhile, aid agency MSF has accused the United Nations force in Congo, the world’s biggest, of failing to protect civilians from Ugandan rebel attacks – accusations the world body has rejected as totally unfounded. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has also accused U.N. peacekeepers of inactivity and of living alongside the LRA for three years and doing nothing about the guerrillas.
While expressing his horror at the what he called ‘catastrophic’ consequences for civilians from the offensive, U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes has said the joint force still needs to see the operation through.
Should the offensive continue or is it time to halt it? If so, what should be done about the rebels? How big an impact should the conduct of this operation have for the U.S. Africa Command’s future role?


Please see my new book on Kony and the LRA, titled First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army, now available at See more at and follow the issue at
Enjoy Uganda.


What exactly can the UN Forces do? Are they not allowed to intervene? I can’t see any good in leaving the LRA free to roam the area. What’s the argument in favor of leaving them alone?


hi, i think the operation just need more logistic and intelligence officers to localise koni. the bush administration did planify the operation but they didn’t have much time left in the office to carry on, i think the new administration is not puting to much attention to its since they all focus on the economy. so the ugandan army and allies find themselves in a difficult position with not mush intelligence on the field and now that the LRA is operating in different small group it’s making things worst. to overcome those type of guerrilla takes a lot of time like in iraq and afghanistan. the UN need to interven with air support and other intelligence to localise koni or why not put a reward for koni’s head dead or alive.


Without any vision, President Kabila has left every single Congolese apart from his fanatics and cronies that he can not be trusted to lead a country. As we are heading toward the end of February 2009 that he promises frantically that Rwandan troops will leave the country, he must be questioning his advisers whether or not did trap him in an empty promise that they could not evaluate. In western world, failure to honour the promise results in resignation, a habit which not not common in African world. All the guarantees offered by Joseph Kabila are baseless. But what is known is that he will reppear to give more excuses to why Rwandan troops will still be there after his failed promises.
What saves Congo from balkanisation is not the leadership of the country, but the people who can not alloew it to happen.


This war is yet another failed attempt to corral the LRA. War is not the answer, as over 20 years of a failed military solution has shown. The other question one might ponder is what are the real motives of Uganda and its allies?

If a force of LRA estimated to be 1,000 cannot be quelled by the forces from three nations, what are the armies really engaged in? Helicopter gunships and fighter jets were used and still not much success.

The stated plan of “pushing Kony to the negotiating table” also has been proven to be a false statement by the allied forces.

AFRICOM’s reputation as a non-military force is being tarnished heavily here.


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