The world spotlight is once again on Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony after the video Kony2012 garnered more than 76 million views on the Internet following its debut March 5. While the video calls for viewers to petition American congressmen to commit more resources to help catch Kony, it is important to remember that the United States has allocated more than $50 million toward that very goal, and at least 100 U.S. Special Forces members have been in Central Africa since October 2011 training Ugandan troops to apprehend the international criminal.
Kony and his followers, organized under the name "Lord's Resistance Army" (LRA) have terrorized Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic for more than 25 years. They wage their biblically inspired revolution through murder, rape, and kidnapping for military- or sex-slaves. Reports claim that Kony's people have kidnapped between 30,000 and 60,000 children.
The organization Invisible Children produced the video. Posters, t-shirts, and an extensive social media campaign preceded the video's release. The video became especially viral among college students.
American Efforts To Capture Kony
U.S. President Barack Obama, as part of his commitment to central Africa and multilateral actions, announced in October 2011 that he was sending Special Forces to Uganda to help find Kony. Neither the White House, Department of Defense, nor the State Department have released details about the progress of the mission.
Obama's action was a follow-up to the Lord's Resistance Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act he signed in May 2010, which reaffirmed U.S. help to the nations of central Africa. According to the State Department, elements of the Recovery Act include:
- Protection for civilians by helping local governments "reduce the vulnerability of LRA-affected communities" through projects such as the construction of communications networks.
- Improve local efforts to nab LRA officers by using the U.S. military advisers to help strengthen communication, information sharing, and operational planning between the central African countries.
- Encourage the defection of LRA members and use USAID money to rehabilitate, repatriate, and reintegrate them.
- Provide humanitarian assistance to the central African regions, again through U.S. foreign aid. USAID has provided millions of dollars for food assistance, food security, medicines, and displacement help.
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson has said that those for elements of American assistance stem from lessons learned in the battle against Kony.
Integral to making all the elements work is constant pressure against Kony. Between 2006 and 2008, the U.S. supported peace talks between the LRA and Uganda, but Kony only used the lull in violence to replenish his forces and kill members of the LRA who supported peace.
Carson said in December 2011 that "[the] LRA will use any reduction in military or diplomatic pressure, or the provision of safe haven by any actor, to regroup and rebuild its forces. . . . Joseph Kony will use any chance he gets to kill, abduct, and loot in order to regenerate his ranks and capabilities."
Carson acknowledged the problems of jungle terrain and inter-governmental "differences" between the LRA-affected countries in stopping Kony's army. "For our part," he said, "the United States will continue to stand with the people and governments of Africa as they stand up and work together to end the LRA's reign of terror, and establish sustainable peace and security. Doing that is on the right side of history, on the right side of our values, and on the right side of our strategic interests."