Africom to Work Lord’s Resistance Army Problem With Uganda

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Joseph Kony, leader of the rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army makes a rare statement to the media during peace talks on August 1, 2006 on the Congo-Sudan Border. (Photo: Adam Pletts / Getty Images)

WAPO and NYT reporting over the weekend that the US will send around 100 armed advisers to help the Ugandan military work the stubborn problem of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a beyond-its-expiration-date insurgency that’s terrorized rural populations across four states for a couple of decades now. These guys really are the worst of the worst, engaging in atrocities galore, mass rape as a tool of terror, and the forced recruitment of child soldiers. They check every box on war crimes.

No direct threat to cite here, and no linkages to transnational terrorism, so this is a pure humanitarian/regional stability play – exactly what Africom was initially sold as doing. Lately, Africom’s focus has shifted dramatically to killing bad actors as part of the long war against violent extremism, so this is a good image-enhancing move already being applauded by human rights groups. Nobody likes the LRA. They’re essentially an insurgency that outlived the civil war and they’ve been doing their crimes for so long that they don’t know how to stop, so the key here will be crafting some exit strategy for the rank and file while separating the leadership for prosecution. The longtime leader, Joseph Kony, is a true nutcase.

The nice upside of this move: it has Africom working with militaries and governments in Uganda, the D.R. Congo, Central African Republic, and fledgling state South Sudan – all states in real need of military mentoring. So this is the right subject, right sort of states, and helping in the way Africom was designed to work. It’s a nice move by the Obama administration that speaks to the reality that a lot of this work still needs to be done across Africa. China won’t do it, so it’s us or nobody.