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Troops Continue U.S. Commitment To Uganda

Special Forces To Help Find Kony

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President Barack Obama's order to send troops to help track down Ugandan guerrilla leader Joseph Kony is part of a larger U.S. foreign policy commitment to Uganda. Obama notified Congress on October 14, 2011, that he was sending 100 U.S. Special Forces troops to help the Ugandan army find and capture Kony, who for 25 years has raided the countryside murdering, raping, and kidnapping children for military service and human slavery.

Critics contend that Obama is simply rewarding Uganda for help in an African coalition combating the Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group Al Shabab in Somalia. Nevertheless, Obama stressed his action was part of a longer policy relationship with Uganda.

Uganda and Kony

After years of political unrest that included the eight-year regime of terror under Idi Amin Dada in the 1970s, Yoweri Museveni and the National Resistance Army (NRA) led an insurgency in 1985-86 that took control of Uganda. Museveni remains Ugandan president.

Kony then began an insurrection against Museveni. He formed the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which has operated ever since.

Kony, born in 1961, was an altar boy in the Catholic church. His movement retains Christian overtones as he has proclaimed his intent to restore order to Uganda under the Ten Commandments. He also has suggested that he is a spiritual medium, and that he must destroy enemies of God.

Kony's tactics, however, are brutal. The LRA uses guerrilla tactics and lives off the land. Kony and his followers have kidnapped an estimated 66,000 children, impressing them into service as soldiers or sex slaves. The LRA is also responsible for the displacement of up to 2 million people in Uganda.

In 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted Kony and five of his lieutenants on 33 charges including crimes against humanity, murder, slavery, and rape. Kony has terrorized portions of South Sudan and Congo, where he has also kept a protected headquarters. He briefly entered into peace talks with leaders of those countries and Uganda, but he ultimately refused to sign any treaty because, as perceived instruments of God, he believes he and the LRA have done nothing wrong.

U.S. Foreign Aid To Uganda

Uganda is a regular recipient of American foreign aid. USAID, the State Department subdivision that administers foreign aid, reports that Uganda received $431.2 million in aid in 2008; $416.9 million in 2009; and an estimated $456.8 million in 2010. Requested disbursements for 2011 total $480.3 million.

In 2009, 12% of total aid went to help Ugandan economic growth; 7.5% to humanitarian assistance; .6% to peace and security measures; 1.1% to helping Uganda ensure democratic government; and 78.8% to a category called "Investing in People," which includes health and educational areas.

U.S. Help To Fight Kony

While Obama's October 14, 2011, commitment of troops to help find Kony seemed sudden, it really was not. Obama has pledged support for Uganda's fight against Kony since the first year of his administration. The United States Congress has also backed Obama in that support.

In 2008, the U.S. Treasury put Kony on a list of global terrorists, sanctioning whatever assets he may have within American reach. In early 2010, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009. The Act codified an American policy to help Uganda capture or kill Kony and put the LRA out of operation.

Obama sees the current U.S. mission in Uganda as a "furtherance of the Congress's stated policy." He said, "I believe that deploying these U.S. Armed Forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa." The Special Forces, which began deploying October 12, will go to not only Uganda but also South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Criticism Of Troop Commitment

Obama has taken criticism for the troop commitment. Some Republicans (presidential candidate Michelle Bachman, for example) have charged that Obama's letter of intent to Congress was not sufficient to comply with the War Powers Act of 1973. (They made similar charges against his force commitment in the first stage of the NATO Libyan intervention in March 2011.) Others say he waited until Congress was out of session to make the announcement to avoid repercussions.

Other critics question Obama's motives for the troop commitment. They believe the measure is simply to reward Uganda for commitment its own troops to a central African coalition fighting terrorist group Al Shabab in Somalia. Regardless, the arrival of American troops in Uganda to help find Kony is part of a longer alliance between the two countries.

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