- April 20, 2011
- News & Analysis
On April 14, Johnnie Carson, the State Department’s top Africa official, testified before the Senate subcommittee on Africa regarding President Obama’s 2012 budget request for Africa. With some members of Congress looking to slash foreign aid, Carson had the unenviable but critical role of ensuring that some of the world’s most ignored and overlooked crises – such as LRA violence – don’t fall victim to overzealous budget slashers.
In his opening testimony, Carson briefly mentioned the way the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continues to target communities throughout central Africa. As he said, “Uganda and its neighbors are struggling to eliminate the Lord’s Resistance Army, which still threaten civilian populations in northern DRC and the Central African Republic (CAR).”
But, for those of us who have been following the issues of the LRA and the United States’ involvement, where it really got interesting was more than one hour into Carson’s testimony. At that point, Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE), the presiding member of the panel hearing testimony, asked, “Secretary Carson, if I might, the Lord’s Resistance Army is one other topic I wanted to get to before I’m going to have to leave. The LRA has terrorized a wide range of communities over many, many years. I’m just interested in what your implementation plans are for the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, in particular, the appointment of a Great Lakes Coordinator. Sort of, what you see as the best and most likely to be successful path forward in dealing with the enduring challenge to the region and to human rights and security of the LRA?”
Secretary Carson responded:
Mr. Chairman, thank you. We have worked very closely with the Ugandan Government to do as much as we possibly can to disable the LRA and to capture Joseph Kony. We have provided the government of Uganda substantial millions of dollars to provide them with logistical support to travel into northern Uganda, into the eastern part of the Congo, and into the Central African Republic. We have shared information and intelligence with them as we have acquired it, and we have provided them with additional communications and logistical and administrative support in their efforts. We have encouraged them to work closely with the governments and militaries in the DRC and also in the Central African Republic.
As a part of our renewed efforts to assist them we are in the process of providing them with some U.S. personnel who will provide them with additional training and technical support. Our efforts have, in conjunction with the Ugandans, have not resulted in the capture of Joseph Kony, but we believe that we have done an effective job of reducing the size of his militia, capturing of a number of the senior leadership, and reducing their threat to the communities in which they are operating. We are committed to working with the Ugandans on this effort, because we believe that Joseph Kony remains one of the most serious threats to stability in the central African region.
You can watch the whole hearing here.
Most this information is not new, but the statement that the U.S. is in the process of providing the Ugandan military with “U.S. personnel” did turn some heads here at Resolve HQ. Such personnel could potentially help the Ugandan military overcome some of the intelligence and logistical obstacles that have allowed Joseph Kony and other top LRA commanders to escape apprehension so far, and could also help U.S. officials ensure Ugandan forces are not committing human rights abuses against civilian populations in Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic. However, more support to the Ugandan military also risks throwing all our cards behind a military force that has been unable to capture Kony for 25 years, has been responsible for gross human rights abuses in northern Uganda, and has in the past few weeks again aroused anger in northern Uganda by violently cracking down on political opposition supporters in the town of Gulu.
Stay tuned for more analysis on these developments as we learn more in the coming weeks.