Reporting from an American outpost in Central African Republic
This article in McClatchy is one of the best articles that I’ve read about the Lord’s Resistance Army. The author, Alan Boswell, so well describes the mixture of simplicity and complexity in the case of the case of the LRA and Joseph Kony, who he aptly describes as “one of the world’s most elusive and sadistic criminals.”
Boswell reports from Obo, Central African Republic. The community was attacked in March 2008 (while the LRA was supposedly in peace talks). After a funeral service, around 2am, the village was surrounded and everyone who was still out was abducted. While many of those abducted escaped or were let go, some have never returned. And those who managed to return still suffer from the trauma of what they were forced to do. The community has been through much pain in the last 4 years, but morale was recently buoyed by the establishment of a base for the American advisers. Obo community members believe that American involvement spells the end of the LRA.
The article is written in such a way that one paragraph is local color and the next is hard-hitting journalism. In the process, Boswell underscores a few points that are especially important to make.
First, he writes that America’s involvement truly appears to be a purely humanitarian mission, not directly tied to any national security interests.
That the U.S. has joined the hunt for a group that horrifies millions of Americans but poses no direct threat to the United States is testament to the influence of human rights campaigners, who, together with evangelical Christians, lobbied Congress to pass a law requiring renewed U.S. efforts against the LRA. The Obama administration responded by dispatching 100 special operations troops to help find Kony…
There is little here of international economic interest, though the land itself is so fertile that even refugees have no problem growing their own food. There are vast mineral deposits in eastern Congo, and the U.S. government recently has changed sanctions laws to open South Sudan’s oil industry to U.S. companies. But those are hardly factors in hunting down Kony.”
Boswell also underscores the remote and difficult nature of the region:
“The area where Kony operates gives new meaning to “middle of nowhere.” A sequestered and ungoverned land with few roads, the area lies near the intersection of three of the world’s most failed states and one of the remotest points on the continent.”
Boswell says that the American presence in Obo has not translated into any significant changes as of yet—apart from a helipad and a boost of morale.
My teammate Paul is currently in the region looking more closely at what the American military advisers have accomplished so far. We hope that he will be encouraged over the course of the next five weeks.
This article is definitely worth a read.
(Photo Credit: Alan Boswell)