Obama sends troops to help fight LRA

2011-10-15 14:37

Washington - US President Barack Obama said on Friday he is sending 100 combat troops to central Africa to help and advise forces battling the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebels accused of gross human rights abuses.

"These forces will act as advisers to partner forces that have the goal of removing from the battlefield Joseph Kony and other senior leadership of the LRA," Obama said, but warned they would not lead the fighting themselves.

The mostly special operations forces could deploy in Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo, subject to approval of regional governments, Obama said in a message to Congress.

LRA rebels are accused of terrorising, murdering, raping and kidnapping thousands of people in the four nations, and tens of thousands of people died in their 20-year war with security forces in northern Uganda.

"Although the US forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice and assistance to partner nation forces," the president said.

"They will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defence. All appropriate precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of US military personnel during their deployment."

A small group of troops deployed to Uganda on Wednesday and additional forces will deploy over the next month.

Pentagon officials said the troops would travel to regional capitals to work with government officials, military officers and peacekeeping missions.

"There is a clear end state - to enable local forces to render the LRA ineffective," Pentagon spokesperson George Little said, adding that US forces would offer training in tasks like tracking, intelligence assessment and conducting patrols.

Complicated operation

He said that the required US forces to fulfill the long-standing request had not been available until now.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Washington has provided more than $40 million in logistical support, equipment and training to counter-LRA operations by armies in the region since 2008.

Heading a movement based on a mix of religion and brutality, Kony a self-styled mystic and religious prophet, claims to be fighting on divine orders to establish theocratic rule based on the Bible's 10 Commandments.

The civil war effectively ended in 2006 when a peace process was launched, but Kony and his top lieutenants, commanding forces including child soldiers, continue to commit atrocities.

General Carter Ham, head of US Africa Command, said last week his best estimate was that Kony was probably in the Central African Republic.

Helping central African nations in hunting down the LRA leadership was a "worthy goal" given the "unspeakable atrocities" committed against civilians, women and children, Republican Senator John McCain said.

But he recalled that previous humanitarian deployments in Lebanon and Somalia had resulted in tragic US losses and called on Obama to consult Congress about deployments, a step he said was not taken regarding the African mission.

Eliminate threat to civilians

Richard Downie, deputy director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the operation to hunt down LRA leaders would be "an incredibly difficult and complicated operation."

"They are experienced fighters divided into small groups and spread across an incredibly wide, ungoverned part of the world," he said.

Obama said in his message that the LRA had "murdered, raped, and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women, and children in central Africa."

In 2009, Congress enacted a law expressing support for increased US efforts to mitigate and eliminate the threat posed to civilians by the LRA.

And a year ago, Obama unveiled a plan to disarm the LRA and increase humanitarian access to affected communities.

Human rights and anti-genocide groups welcomed Obama's decision.

"President Obama is showing decisive leadership to help regional governments finally bring an end to the LRA's mass atrocities," said Paul Ronan, director of advocacy at Resolve.

John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, said the US troops could play a catalytic role if they were used as part of a wider multinational strategy.

"Missing elements include more capable forces dedicated to the apprehension of Joseph Kony and protection of civilians, and an intelligence and logistics surge from the US to help those forces succeed," he said.


  • fishycraig - 2011-10-15 16:03

    Those damn "imperialistic" and "oil-hungry" Yanks sending over troops to save lives in Africa. I somehow don't see the Africa apologists and certain youth league leaders bringing this up...

  • Wilbert - 2011-10-15 16:25

    This is good decision and full marks to President Obama. This is the first thing I can think of which President Obama has done for black Africa ever since he moved into White House. Many of us had hoped to see President Obama would address the thorny issue of democratic change; the single biggest thing holding back Africa's development!

      Francois - 2011-10-15 18:19

      Wilbert, you should read more widely. The US is one of the biggest contributors to Africa and is also provided support to Nato in ridding Libya from a tyrant. Agoa was kept on track with Obama. Maybe he should send another plane to Zim?

      Wilbert - 2011-10-16 12:56

      @Francois I applaud what America did in Libya and Egypt but these countries are not considered part of black Africa. Yes the USA has contributed billions of dollars in aid to Africa and has been doing so for ages; we thank the American people for it. The aid has helped those pushed over the cliff by Africa's corrupt and tyrannical rulers. We need help to stop the madness at the top of the cliff, to remove the tyrants and to foster democracy and rule of law. What have the Americans ever done to show their disapproval of Museveni’s autocratic rule in Uganda? No doubt Museveni will consider this help as a ringing endorsement of his rule. The targeted sanctions imposed of Zimbabwe’s dictator Mugabe is but a slap on the wrist. He has made a mountain out of a mole hill of the sanctions blaming them for the country’s economic melt down and refusing to implement democratic reforms until they are lifted. No one is expecting President Obama to send the Marines to Kampala or Harare, all he has to do is condemn Africa’s tyrannical rulers and mean it. The American could make the targeted sanctions, for example, hurt if they really wanted!

      Mthuthuzeli - 2011-10-16 13:25

      You two should be doing a lot of reading on Western aid to the third world. You have missed the ball entirely.

      Francois - 2011-10-16 17:52

      Let us just for a moment consider the logic here: Firstly Wilbert says that Obama's support to fight the LRA was the first thing he could think of that Obama has done for Africa. I said that he has done more and that Wilbert should take this account to which he replies that he is grateful for it. Then he qualifies his previous statement (something to which he is entitled to) stating that he is opposed to Museveni's autocratic rule, which is a bit different from doing nothing at all. I also have a problem with the Yanks prescribing to the whole world what it should do and not apply the principle equally. The suggestion of having targeted sanctions hurt more is a good one, but it will still not solve the problem in totality. Now you Mthuthuzeli falls out from nowhere with no substance to your rhetoric about western aid and mention something about missing the ball. With all dus respect, I think you have missed the whole comprehension of the debate - add to it with some point that can be proved or disproved or go and join Zanu PF, the LRA, or the ANC.

  • Sterling - 2011-10-15 21:03

    Why the AU nevers apeak about this group of killers that take eight years old girls and used them as wives for their soldies?

      Francois - 2011-10-15 21:07

      Because they cannot understands yours wrotten Englesh?

      munyaradzi.ncube - 2011-10-16 11:37

      I believe, what Sterling was trying to say is, whay is the AU mum about this Joeph Kony guy and his militia who are busy taking 8 year old girls to be their wives. But honestly, this guy is getting what he deserves. He was once given the opportunity to reform and avoid prosecution and he refused. Let the Amerians eliminate him. Stupid killing bastard!!

      Juan - 2011-10-16 12:28

      Even better why does the AU not take action? Maybe they are nothing more that hot air

      Wilbert - 2011-10-16 13:14

      @Juan You are right, AU is nothing but "hot air"!

      Mthuthuzeli - 2011-10-16 13:29

      The AU has been using its available limited resources to where it can effect change or a difference. The AU doesn't sit over a budget of billions of dollars for its operations. It is helping where it can and is learning valuable lessons along the way. It is just like the rest of my continent in its development.

      John - 2011-10-16 14:53

      Mthuthuzeli My continent? How ignorant are you? When a SA tv crew went to North Africa, they found that the arabs do not see themselves as " africans ". You have no share of North Africa. Recently Gadaffi used african machine gunners, and they were immediately called mercenaries. There you are a mere Slave - the word which they use for blacks! As far as the OAU, tell us how much did these members spend on guns? And why are they not willing to help the African People? They have bought the guns, why dont they use it to defend the People? Because they themselves are Genociders!

  • Simon - 2011-10-15 21:59

    How about sending a reconstituted Executive Outcomes under the guise of the AU. The LRA are the worst that Africa has to offer and Kony should be dealth with as such. Sending a foreign army of advisors, offering advice and assistance is like sending Bryce Lawrence to a rugby reffing workshop. Sort Kony out once and for all (IRB to sort out Btyce)

  • John - 2011-10-15 22:01

    This Officially buries the Western dream of South African intervention in African conflicts. While they saw the Arms Deal as selling good items to SA at a good price to enable SA to intervene as a democratic country in Africa, Mbeki and the ANC saw it simply as a big bribery and corruption opportunity, and stuff the intervention and stuff the corvettes, submarines and fighter planes.

  • Michael - 2011-10-15 22:49

    wherever there is injustice, human rights abuses and bloodshed, WE, AMERICA, will bring it some more. Hooray for Bush and Iraq and now Obama and Africa. Everything else is allotted, allocated, tied up and accounted for, so it's on to carving up Africa now. GOD SAVE AMERICA, the righteous country that WILL involve themselves in other's problems to "help" them. Thanks Obama. PS, don't worry, we know you're just a puppet following orders. The last president who didn't play along was JFK.

  • John - 2011-10-16 14:33

    "fishycraig" Where are the corvettes? the submarines? the fighterplanes? South Africa ( ANC ) has refused to intervene in Africa. Let the Idi Amins kill the People! Let the arab muslims kill the black muslims in Sudan! Let the South African victims be killed by the Somali pirates! The ANC does not know how to operate corvettes, submarines, fighter planes! They only know how to spend bribes and set up corruption!

      fishycraig - 2011-10-17 11:51

      Errrr, John - why is my name linked to all these atrocities? Damn, I am a warlord and I didn't even know it. And where are my bribes?

  • Todd - 2011-10-22 21:13

    I am an American citizen and I am not pleased with my country's government trifling around in other countries' affairs. We bring nothing good and what these countries end up with after US involvement is; 1. Enslavement to the IMF. 2. a 'democratic' plutocracy. and 3. Worse conditions in regards to human rights than previously if not amenable to the newest regime. Do yourselves a favor foreign nations, kick the United States of America the hell outta your business. Just because USAID provides help to your government doesn't entitle the US to tell your government what to do.

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