I’m willing to bet a great deal that the vast majority of young American adults had no idea who Joseph Kony, or the Lord’s Resistance, Army was until roughly a week ago. Unless you’ve got a background understanding of the internal struggles of central Africa, it’s just not something people discussed with any discernable amount of voracity.
Call me a realist, a pessimist or whatever, but something here does not seem as it should.
I’ve seen tons upon tons of videos and call-to-arms over every issue under the sun, and most as virtuous and noble as the proposed disposal of Joseph Kony and the LRA. So when I finally watched the now famous “Kony 2012″ video after it was relentlessly tossed around Facebook and Twitter, I began to wonder what in particular got the masses so excited about this movement when similar causes have fell by the wayside.
For one, Kony is literally the manifestation of the Boogeyman right down to kidnapping children. That’s what I feel is the keyword to this movement’s popularity: Children. Whenever kids are involved in human tragedy, people tend to run to help with warmer hearts. The use of child soldiers is among the greatest of sins. War is the greatest perversion of humanity; literal Hell on Earth. To rape away the innocence of a child through the horrors of warfare is disgusting to the point of making me want to physically puke my guts out.
For years, been a hallmark of idealistic American youths to want to reach out and help African nations in need; the epitome of targets for aid being Uganda. Just say it: yew-GAHN-duh. The name itself sounds like it fits its own stereotype the tumultuously exotic central African nation that middle-class American kids would love to reach out and rescue.
This whole situation fits the bill of what young, energetic Americans want to step into for a humanitarian cause. Liberals, conservatives, Christians, Muslims, non-religious folk everyone can agree that this issue needs to be dutifully resolved. It’s a power-hungry and all-around evil African warlord and his roving band of thugs scooping up helpless children by the thousands in a distant and exotic land. You couldn’t have handcrafted a situation that would better light the fire inside thousands of American teens and young adults looking to change the world for good.
But here’s where I start to think.
As mentioned in the famous “Kony 2012″ video which ignited most of the momentum, the anti-LRA movement’s the great victory thus far was President Barack Obama’s signing of the LRA’s Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009. This piece of legislature “crystallizes the commitment of the United States to help bring an end to the brutality and the hallmark of the LRA,” according to President Obama. As a result, the U.S. has sent 100 special forces members to act in advisory and technical roles in central Africa as the Ugandan Army pursues Kony and the LRA.
A hundred troops without a permission to fire is nothing. It’s literally not even a crumb falling off the table of the U.S. annual foreign aid budget. If I was an activist seeking U.S. support against Kony and saw this as the final response given, I’d be furious. A hundred troops training Ugandans isn’t U.S. intervention, it’s a public relations move. This is nothing. I’d want a team of SEALS tracking Kony down and kicking in his door bin Laden-style.
And now skepticism is starting to fly around in my head.
A part of me doesn’t believe the U.S. government would send troops into a country because it’s the will of a grass roots organization full of college students. As far as U.S. involvement in central Africa goes, there is no precedent for this type of operation. We’ve never seen the government behave like this, and they’re seemingly letting grassroots operations dictate foreign policy. What I’m wondering is whether or not U.S. officials have any ulterior motives for establishing a presence in central Africa. Uganda has a copious amount of resources, including literally underground lakes of oil. That untamed area of the world also has the potential to become a bastion for terrorist organizations that would seek to harm the U.S., as we’ve seen with Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Shaabab in Somalia.
Whatever the case, I really, really hope killing Kony and dismantling the LRA is all we want in Uganda, or else the fervency of thousands of young Americans could be hijacked for not-so-noble causes.
There are so many moving parts that the United States and the Western World cannot possibly control no matter how much money or manpower is thrown at the issue. According the US Africa Command, Joseph Kony is likely not even in Uganda but rather the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sending US troops to train the Ugandan military is pointless if Uganda can’t even cross into the DRC without cutting through a ton of political red tape. As corrupt and weak as Congo’s government is, no country would allow foreign forces to pursue anyone within their sovereign bounds without being a little skiddish about soldiers running around their country.
And let’s not forget Uganda’s stance on this. Although it’s comparatively the strongest military in the region (not saying much), Uganda has the tendency to play both sides of the ball in situations like this. Although President Yoweri Museveni is widely considered an ally of the West, Uganda is still not exactly a bastion of stability in the region. Corruption, factionalism, and otherwise disregard for details often highlight dealing in the region, and countries similar to and including Uganda create such complex internal conflicts within their government at all layers. Issues such as the destruction of the LRA and bringing justice to men like Joseph Kony are often acknowledged, but frequently not acted upon.
The only certain way that Uganda would take decisive steps toward defeating Kony’s forces is if they threatened their national security. If the LRA is really laying low in the bush and in countries in dissary like the DRC, attempts to bring down Kony will likely take awhile no matter how many times that video is shared.