America Joins Uganda's Civil War
In January, the New York Times' Jeffrey Gettleman broke the story that the U.S. military had helped plan and fund a Ugandan military attack against an infamous rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), in eastern Congo. The attack was poorly executed, allowing the rebel leaders to escape and murder 900 civilians in retaliation. It was the first time the United States had directly participated in actions against the LRA, which is designated a terrorist group by the United States. The LRA's religious fundamentalist leader, Joseph Kony, has abducted tens of thousands of children to serve as fighters and sex slaves in his decades-long guerrilla war against the Ugandan government.
The United States' new Africa Command (Africom) defended its role in the mission, saying that the Ugandan attack would have happened anyway and that it was "too early to bring a final judgment" about U.S. support. But if some members of the U.S. Congress get their way, Africom's role in the conflict may expand. A pending bill co-authored by Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and enjoying wide bipartisan support would commit the United States to "eliminating the threat posed by the Lord's Resistance Army ... through political, economic, military, and intelligence support."
Although few disagree with bringing Kony to justice -- he has refused to leave his jungle hideout since the International Criminal Court indicted him for crimes against humanity -- the bill raises questions about the proper role of Africom, which has thus far functioned in a mostly advisory capacity, and commits the United States to involvement in one of Africa's bloodiest and most complex conflicts. Some debate is probably warranted.
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