Kony, The Invisible Guerrila Soldier
Joseph Kony, one of the world’s most wanted men, is hidden in one of the most inaccessible and dangerous regions of the planet, among thousands of kilometers of dense forests and a hard geography that encompasses at least five Central African countries, several of them with their own internal conflict and a long line of atrocities and displaced.
Religious leader and Commander, Kony is a global superstar: the protagonist of a famous (but doubtful) documentary which, in 2012, made him one of the most recognized faces on the internet. All a contradiction in terms if you consider his most popular photography dating from 2006, when his militia, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), left Uganda to take refuge in an area located between the Republic of the Congo and the Central African, leaving behind a war fought largely by child soldiers: rapes and mutilations were a main part of the repertoire of the LRA in his days in Uganda.
Kony, is charged with 33 war crimes and crimes against humanity raised by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Finding him is a joint force from the African Union of Nations seeking him with the help of the United States, a country that has tried to take him down since 1991. In 2002 and 2008 two more operations were performed to find the Commander, both without results and that ended up generating local retaliations by the LRA, according to reported Salym Fayad to this newspaper in 2012.
This month, the Obama administration decided to raise their participation in the hunt for Kony to authorize the deployment of at least four aircrafts, as well as 150 uniformed soliders, who will join an existing force of 100 soldiers and military advisers that, from 2011, provide training and logistics to find Kony.
The aircraft delivered for this task are CV-22 Osprey, having the facility of taking off vertically, like a helicopter, but fly as a wing aircraft fixed conventional. With a capacity to carry 24 people, this resource aims to be the strategic advantage that allows them to catch the elusive guerrilla.
While U.S. soldiers may not engage in combat, at least not officially, its presence in the region is interesting for several reasons. The first is the increase in U.S. troops in Uganda after the proclamation of a law that criminalizes gays in that country, a fact that the Obama administration condemned and that it would put on the table a possible revision of the help that the US offers to the Government of Uganda ($400 million).
The one that stands out in the case of Kony is that both he and his army are not a direct threat to the interests of the United States: the military agenda of Kony has been, primarily, overthrow the Government of Uganda. And in the achievement of this purpose, the LRA ended up being one of the primary players in the political imbroglio in a complicated region, to say the least.
In the 1990s, Kony and his LRA served the interests of the Government of Sudan, which was then fighting against the army of liberation of the people of Sudan (SPLA in English) in the South of the country, region that ended up acquiring independence in the new nation of the South Sudan in 2005. In chess in the region, Uganda supported the SPLA and this explains the collaboration of Kony with the Sudanese Government.
The support of the Sudanese Government has not ceased at all but the field of action of Kony in Sudan was reduced with the 2005 agreement.
His next area of influence was the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whose President Joseph Kabila, holds a long rivalry with his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni. “This can be traced to the end of the 1990s, when Uganda occupied part of the Congo. (…) Kabila prefers officially ignoring the LRA because it serves as a counterweight to the Ugandan influence in the East of his country”, in the words of Izama.
Today, Kony is in the Central African Republic, the new setting for death in Africa: half a million dead, according to UN figures, more than two million people needing urgent attention and 400,000 displaced. The clash between Muslim and Christian militias has forced a million people to take refuge in the interior of the country, in areas where the LRA holds influence.
In this scenario, the hunt for Kony can be a strategic asset in a volatile area, as his detention or death would leave out a militia that, always playing against Uganda, has further tangled the complex network of Central Africa. Apprehending Kony may bring some stability to a region that, in the midst of conflict and institutional weakness, can become a territory for the extremism of different trends, as happened in Somalia.
Military activity by the LRA has decreased by 75%. The number of fighters is estimated between 200 and 300, and five of the most important commanders have left the field of battle; There are even reports that would indicate that the second in command, Okot Odhiambo, was dismissed last year.
The capture or death of Kony would be a blow of popularity for the African Union, but also for their U.S. military advisers at a time in which China seems to be the dominant force in Africa: trade between both parties was estimated at more than $166,000 million and Chinese investment in the region is calculated at, at least $40 billion. The new building of the African Union of Nations, for example, was donated by the Beijing Government.