- November 9, 2011
- News & Analysis
A few weeks ago President Obama announced that he was sending 100 military advisers to central Africa to assist in regional efforts to apprehend Joseph Kony and senior LRA commanders while protecting civilians and encouraging LRA fighters and abductees to defect. As you may have noticed, we’ve been talking about this deployment quite a bit: explaining how the advisers can contribute to President Obama’s comprehensive LRA strategy, debunking Rush Limbaugh’s nonsense, and monitoring Congress’s reaction to the decision.
Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to examine more closely what US advisers should be doing as part of this new effort to achieve an end to LRA violence. Based on our analysis, here are 5 essential tasks for these advisers:
1. Take seriously the mandate to keep civilians safe and help LRA fighters escape:
As President Obama has made clear, the US advisers’ mission is multi-dimensional. In addition to bringing Joseph Kony and LRA commanders to justice, they are charged with improving civilian protection and encouraging LRA defection. This emphasis on a holistic approach needs to be concretely translated in the field. To help protect civilians, US advisers can assist regional forces plan operations that will minimize the possibility of rebel reprisal attacks on surrounding communities – something that has been a major shortcoming in the past. This should include ensuring that military intelligence about LRA movements is fed into civilian early-warning networks so that vulnerable communities can respond before it’s too late. Additionally, US advisers should develop innovative ways to encourage LRA fighters escape, including by getting military forces to place “come home” leaflets along LRA bush paths and broadcasting radio messages when they are out on patrol.
2. Seek out and listen to civilian voices:
The US advisers, who will be deployed primarily with military units, must make sensitive efforts to seek the opinions of local civil society leaders, aid workers, and government leaders. By doing so, they can help repair tense relationships between military and civilian representatives and ensure they are taking the concerns of local communities seriously.
3. Keep a close watch on the Ugandan military:
US advisers should use their deployment in the field to closely monitor the behavior of Ugandan military forces. Many communities in Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan welcome the deployment of Ugandan troops, who are better behaved and more proactive against the LRA than other national military forces. But many local communities see the Ugandans’ failure to capture any senior LRA commanders in nearly two years as an indication that they are no longer trying to defeat the LRA. Isolated cases of human rights abuses and reports of Ugandan exploitation of natural resources are also causing tensions. US advisers can deter bad behavior, help keep soldiers accountable for any abuses, and ensure that Ugandan forces are as proactive as possible in stopping LRA violence.
4. Make apprehension operations more targeted and effective:
US advisers should use their expertise to improve the collection of intelligence on the location of Joseph Kony and senior LRA commanders, and then turn that intelligence into effective operational plans. They should also help the Ugandan military plan operations to specifically target LRA commanders and minimize the risk to women, children, and other innocent civilians being held captive by the LRA.
5. Improve collaboration between different military forces:
US advisers should actively seek to improve collaboration between the Ugandan, Congolese, CAR, and South Sudanese military forces. Recently Congo decided that the Ugandan military could no longer operate in its territory, which could transform northern Congo into an enormous safe haven for LRA commanders and give them free reign to attack and abduct civilians there. The ability of US advisers to help mediate disputes at the field level should be matched with more robust US and international efforts to cool tensions and strengthen the fragile regional coalition.
*Photo courtesy of Foreign Policy