A way forward in Uganda 2

Joseph Kony. Zeit.de photo.

The internet has erupted over the Kony2012 video, produced the advocacy group Invisible Children. It has gone viral instantly, collection over 75 Million views until now, but has also drawn vicious criticism from other NGOs, researchers and (perhaps most importantly) Ugandans. While everybody agrees that the video is an incredible piece of marketing, the critics argue that it distorts the realities on the ground, advocates for a military (non)solution and disregards Ugandan agency.

I’m squarely on the side of the critics after seeing the video. But this won’t be another post explaining you what’s wrong with this publicity stunt (others do this just fine).

Instead, I want to ask what an alternative strategy to end this misery might look like. Mahmood Mamdani is certainly right in arguing for a peaceful solution. I myself have argued as well, with respect to Somalia and al Shabaab, that demonizing an enemy and escalating violence against him has the potential to make the situation much worse instead of better.

But the fact remains that Kony is on the loose in the Central African Republic and in Congo. While we can be happy for the people in northern Uganda that they got rid of him, we shouldn’t forget that he is still a threat to many people in other countries.

And in difference to Mahmdani, I’m not a fan of a general amnesty for Kony and his inner circle. These guys have committed unspeakable atrocities and if there is any way that they could be brought to justice (before an impartial judge and with the benefits of due process, of course), one should take it.

And such a way exists, I think. It is more complicated and expensive than taking Kony out with a drone and will take more time than sending in the SEAL team six, but I think it will be worth it.

The general idea would be to approach the problem from two sides: 1. provide meaningful security to the population living in areas with LRA presence and 2. degrade the operational capacity of Kony and the LRA by peaceful means.

The first part of the strategy would require a peacekeeping force with sufficient resources to deny the LRA easy attacks on civilians. As others have pointed out, the LRA is neither well equipped, nor highly trained. Their main advantage is the remoteness and inaccessibility of the area they are active in. Taking away this advantage will require a far more sophisticated and better equipped force than the current peacekeeping mission in the Congo has to offer, but maybe Invisible Children could convince the US government to pick up the tap for this …

The second step would be to pick the LRA apart, but not by killing as many of its members as possible. The rank and file of the LRA are probably mostly abducted minors and as much victim as perpetrator. Instead, one could take demobilization efforts like the one targeting the FDLR in the Kivus as inspiration to convince the normal fighters of the LRA to come out of the bush voluntarily. Once the rank and file lays down their weapons, Kony himself will be a much smaller threat and much easier to catch alive.

What do you think? Is this a strategy that could work?

  • http://twitter.com/schneiderhome James Schneider

    Part 2 yes. Good idea. Part 1 implausible. There are no roads in the massive area the LRA operate. A lot of it is jungle. You would need a very large force to effectively act as security for every village. The LRA could just continue moving elsewhere. It would in effect require the militarisation of the entire area which is not only impractical, but would come with its own problems.

    • http://www.peter-doerrie.de Peter Dörrie

      Thanks for your feedback James.

      I agree that it would be very expensive and a logistical nightmare, but it must be possible to provide at least baseline security, doesn’t it? Otherwise we are back at the “some places are just ungovernable” argument.
      Probably part 1 of the strategy also hinges on the development of “local” security capabilities, e.g. local police and national army. This is something Uganda has done well (even though these forces tend to be abusive in some cases) and what the DRC and CAR are lacking.