US President Obama has sent 100 special forces soldiers to east Africa to help stop the LRA.
The President says this deployment is the fulfillment of an obligation in the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, and that the goal is to remove the LRA leader, Joseph Kony, and other senior commanders from the battlefield.
It is claimed that the soldiers will merely be helping local forces with intelligence, and will not engage the LRA unless they themselves are fired upon.
This makes me wonder whether or not these troops will “coincidentally” end up in the path of Kony, sparking a showdown that will see him captured or killed.
But is this the right thing to do?
Non-profit organisation Invisible Children, who raise awareness of the conflict, seem to think so.
But others have argued, with some reason, that because the LRA is largely made up of abducted children, it isn’t right to send soldiers after them.
On another note, some think that President Obama has ulterior motives that are not humanitarian when it comes to this deployment.
It has been speculated that taking out the LRA is America’s reward to Uganda for its participation in the fight against the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab in Somalia.
Elizabeth Allen thinks that America would like to remove the LRA as a possible tool of the Sudanese government in destabilising the newly formed South Sudan.
Even when considering these other issues, I would still support the President’s move.
Every other method to try to stop the LRA has so far failed, and people on the ground with the technology and expertise to actually find Kony can only be a good thing.
And if this means that America get some by-products that they might welcome?
Well, who dares wins.
There is one major caveat to this of course.
Previous military action against the LRA failed to protect the civilian population, leaving Kony’s gang the freedom to kill hundreds of innocent people in retaliation.
This cannot be allowed to happen again.
It was celebrated as a decisive victory in the war on terror – the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the man behind the 9/11 attacks on America.
Osama bin Laden: no longer a threat
The circumstances were extraordinary.
He had been found in a compound far inside Pakistan, a supposed ally of the U.S, not more than minutes away from a major Pakistani Army facility.
A team of American Navy SEALs crossed the border from Afghanistan in stealth helicopters, undetected until well after they had taken out their target and made good their escape.
If they can do this in Pakistan, how hard could it be to do the same to take out an African warlord in a country that would welcome such an intervention?
It could even be argued that America has committed itself to capturing or killing Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, to a further extent than they had with bin Laden.
It should not be forgotten that President Obama signed that goal into law.
Ask a Black Bloke
So what lessons can be learned from the bin Laden raid to help with capturing Kony?
The most important must be the impact of having people on the ground, actively searching.
Bin Laden’s compound, it is understood, was watched by CIA agents for months before the raid.
Yet little or no effort seems to have been made by American forces to locate Kony.
When she asked the UK Foreign Office if they knew where Kony was, they had no idea.
Yet local people did, and no-one had asked them.
Bussman knows this is critical.
In an interview with CNN, she calls it the “ask a black bloke” strategy.
Pretty simple really.
A new campaign involving the non-profit Invisible Children could help with this.
They are raising funds to build radio towers in the affected area, so that communities can warn others of an LRA attack and share intelligence on where the group actually is.
Another piece of technology that was probably used in the hunt for bin Laden was the unmanned aerial vehicle known as the Reaper.
They’ve mainly be used to strike targets in Somalia and Yemen, but could be a good option in the skies over the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the LRA are hiding.
For example, if an LRA attack was reported (perhaps through the radio towers) a Reaper drone could be used to follow the rebels back to their base, potentially where Kony could be hiding.
Special forces could then be used for a similar operation as the one that killed bin Laden.
While this seems like an easy solution, it, as ever, comes down to question of will.
Perhaps now that the U.S. have taken down public enemy number one, they’ll have the focus to remove a man who still terrorizes a huge swathe of the African continent.
It just so happens that my constituency MP is Jim Murphy, the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence.
It proved to be a mixed result.
Mr Murphy was already aware of the havoc being caused by the LRA and sympathised with those who are suffering at their hands.
However, he explained that due to “longstanding parliamentary protocol”, members of the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet do not sign EDMs.
He did say though that he would try to raise awareness among his fellow Labour MPs and followers on Twitter.
He has yet to tweet about it…
Mr Murphy has taken other action.
In a letter to me, he says:
“I have written directly to the government on your behalf regarding the actions of the LRA and to ask that pressure is applied on the Ugandan government to bring Joseph Kony and the LRA leadership to justice.”
This support is welcome, but crucially he failed to mention anything about the UK supplying any assistance to the governments of Central East Africa to track down and apprehend the LRA leadership, resources that are desperately needed.
On the other hand, Mr Murphy does mention that he would be in touch again when he receives a reply from the Government.
I, along with hundreds of thousands of suffering Africans, wait to see what they will say.