Yesterday, several media outlets covered the announcement that the US government will be deploying military aircraft, refueling aircraft, and about 150 support personnel to assist in the hunt for the remnants of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which is thought to be fragmented and hiding somewhere in Central African Republic.
The announcement of increased support in counter-LRA efforts comes at an opportune time for the Obama administration to receive harsh backlash. This would of course be based on a superficial reading of the situation. In the same month that the administration announced it is reviewing development assistance to Uganda as a result of the recent Ant-Homosexuality Bill, it is also announcing increased military assistance.
I would argue that this is not an Obama phenomenon, but rather a demonstration of the status quo in American foreign policy. The US government makes condemning statements (or even blanket threats) when policies are passed that do not comply with the liberal democratic agenda. At the same time, it will continue to pursue collaboration on security interests regardless of the country’s human rights record.
The reality is, hunting down the LRA is important. Mutlilateral efforts since 2006 (or perhaps even earlier) have decimated the group, leaving it fragmented, disorganized, and on the run. Attacks from the LRA have become increasingly rare. At this point, the task of the counter-LRA mission is a mop-up job including disarmament, prosecution of known war criminals, and reintegration of former child soldiers. While this might seem simple, in reality, looking for the LRA in the dense jungles of central Africa is no easy feat. It requires technology and professionals.
Thus, while the US sending new troops and equipment to Uganda might seem a bit contradictory for the administration, in reality both the increased military assistance and review of development assistance fall in line with the broader US agenda. Both promote human rights in their own way.
For more on this, see the US Department of State’s public announcement from yesterday.