On Joseph Kony’s influence:
Kony, against whom the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant, now heads a causeless, but lethal and exceptionally resilient band of guerilla fighters. Its endurance stems in large part from his leadership; he demands a mixture of strict military obedience and spiritual devotion.
On the importance of ‘political will’:
Lack of political will has deprived [US-supported Ugandan] Operation Lightning Thunder of the troops and equipment it needs to stop the LRA. Kony’s band has been far away from Uganda for so long that President Museveni no longer sees it as a major threat to his core interests. In mid-2010, he withdrew about half the forces engaged in the hunt so he could pursue tasks elsewhere that he considered more politically important.
Incentives to ignore the LRA:
Northerners have not seen an active LRA fighter since before the Juba peace talks began in 2006 and no longer regard the movement as a threat. Capitalising on this, Kampala’s presentation of the fight against the LRA shifted. In late 2009 and early 2010, the army regularly published the growing kill and capture count. But with little change in the numbers to celebrate subsequently, it has encouraged people to forget about the LRA.
In mid-2011, Foreign Minister Oryem Henry Okello said the LRA is “not a force to be reckoned with, they are very far away … and they are no longer a threat to the people of Uganda”. . . Museveni also withdrew troops from the LRA operation because he wanted sufficient manpower at home to ensure that parliamentary and presidential elections in February 2011 went his way.
Questionable incentives for continuing the hunt:
Maintaining the hunt, even at half-strength, also allows Uganda to obtain
additional military assistance from the U.S. Under some domestic pressure to end LRA atrocities, Washington had by September 2011 spent over $38 million on Operation Lightning Thunder, largely in logistics and intelligence support. There is a risk this steady aid flow has made Museveni more interested in prolonging the operation than finishing the LRA.
On Congolese resistance to the hunt:
The DRC’s deeply engrained suspicion of the Ugandan army’s intentions on its soil has become a major hindrance in the fight against the LRA.
The Congolese say the Ugandans attribute attacks to the LRA for which they themselves are responsible in order to justify their presence. This makes civilians mistrustful and reluctant to pass on valuable information about LRA activity.
Communities in crisis:
After almost three years since the LRA left its camps in Garamba Park, communities and inter-communal relations across the DRC/CAR/South Sudan tri-border region are under strain. The group’s violence and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people have created a widely reported humanitarian crisis and taken a heavy toll on the region’s social fabric.
The Home Guard [in South Sudan] has largely succeeded in protecting civilians from LRA attack. . . it enables civilians to go back to their home areas, farm and return to town after a few days to sell their produce. This reduces dependency on aid and boosts the badly hit local economy. However, as the Home Guard grows in size and stature, communities are becoming more militant and quicker to use force. . . Some self-defence units aspire to be military-style squads and are arming themselves with AK-47s as well as homemade shotguns.
On the potential of AU leadership:
The AU decided to join efforts to eliminate the LRA under pressure from both member states and the U.S. While Uganda feared an AU intervention would weaken its control on the operation and was, therefore, a reluctant
participant from the start, the DRC, the CAR and South Sudan hoped an AU intervention would broaden the pool of donors and beneficiaries. . . More generally, donors saw the AU’s engagement as an opportunity to pursue the long-term goal of building its institutional capacity in conflict management. This aligned with the principle, popular in Africa and among donors, that Africans should take ownership of and address their own security challenges – “African solutions to African problems”.
A conflict of expectations:
As negotiations progressed, it became clear the EU, the AU’s main donor, and African member states hold very different views on how the AU should intervene. While Brussels recognises the Ugandan military operation as the most feasible way to stop the LRA, it is unwilling to support directly the military aspects of the AU plan. . . In contrast, Uganda, the DRC, the CAR and South Sudan envisage the AU primarily as a fundraiser for their armies. . . . The AU is, therefore, caught between the conflicting demands of its main donor and member states. It must try to satisfy both, because to act it needs both money from the EU and political backing from its members. So far it has been unable to reconcile the two.
On the longevity of the U.S. commitment:
The Defense Department reassured the committee it would be a “short-term deployment” and that if a review “in a few months” found the advisers were having little effect, they would be withdrawn. Since Obama is up for re-election in November 2012, he will not want to extend the deployment longer than absolutely essential to achieve the result that would have bi-partisan support, namely removing Kony from the battlefield.