President Obama has authorised the deployment of further US military forces to Uganda to help track notorious rebel warlord, Joseph Kony. Under the War Powers Act, the President informed Congress of the decision on Sunday night as the deployments began. At least four CV-22 Osprey aircraft are scheduled to arrive in the country by the middle of this week, alongside a contingent of 150 Air Force Special Operations troops, pilots, and maintenance forces. The new War Powers Act notification sets the approximate total for all US forces in Uganda at 300.
The US Congress passed the War Powers Act, also known as the War Powers Resolution, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War to provide a set of procedures for both the President and Congress to follow in situations where the introduction of the U.S. military abroad could lead to their involvement in armed conflict. The Resolution ensures “that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities” and requires the President to consult with Congress before introducing US armed forces into hostilities or situations where hostilities are imminent, and to continue such consultations for the duration of U.S. military involvement in such situations.
The Washington Post was the first to report on the deployment of US military assistance to Ugandan forces searching for Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), who are thought to be hiding in the jungles bordering Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It reported that the most recent deployment of US forces will “provide information, advice and assistance” to the already 5,000-strong African Union force searching for Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.
The troops are “combat-equipped,” but are barred from fighting the LRA themselves except in self-defence situations, upholding the original rules of engagement for US forces stipulated when President Obama first sent 100 Special Operations troops to aid in the search for Kony in October 2011. The Osprey aircraft, meanwhile, will be used purely for troop transportation. According to Amanda Dory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for African Affairs, the deployment is temporary, but there is no current estimate of how long the troops will remain in Uganda.
Joseph Kony is the subject of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The UN website states that “throughout its history, the LRA has been known for its atrocities – including the abduction and forced recruitment of children, rape, amputations and murder.” Since the late 1980s, the LRA had terrorised Ugandan civilians. When it was forced out by the Ugandan national army in 2004, this terror spread to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, as well as to the Central African Republic. In a letter to Congress in 2011, President Obama wrote that “For more than two decades, the Lord’s Resistance Army … has murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women and children in central Africa. The LRA continues to commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security.”
In the 20 years that the Ugandan government has been at war with Kony and the LRA, around 10,000 children have been abducted. The boys are turned into soldiers and the girls into sex slaves. Young men and boys are forced to kill their own parents so that they believe that they can never return home. The LRA are accused of intentionally directing attacks against civilian populations and employing amputation of limbs and facial mutilation as tools of fear and punishment. Millions of people have been displaced and many are still at risk of violence as a result of the continuing presence of the LRA.
Since 2010, the LRA’s attack presence has dwindled by 75 percent. In recent years, its numbers have come down to only 500 through military action against it and defections by its members. There have been no recent sightings of Joseph Kony. However, hundreds of women and children are still being held captive by the LRA and thousands more live every day with the nefarious effects of his catalogue of war crimes. Invisible Children, the charity behind the Kony 2012 campaign, which aimed to raise awareness of the atrocities committed by Kony and to pressure international governments to support regional efforts to stop the LRA with their now record-breaking viral video, have commented that “this increase of US commitment is undoubtedly a positive step”.
Hopefully, this move by the USA will come to be seen as a mere fait accompli in bringing the war criminal Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army to justice. From there, it will importantly allow for further rehabilitation and restitution for those whose families, lives, and livelihoods have been decimated by such reprehensible acts of brutality, illegality, and violence over the past two decades.