Most bleeding hearts around the world have now seen the viral video “Kony 2012” by Invisible Children. The group claims that it wants to “make Joseph Kony so famous he is infamous,” so that more pressure will be put on the United States and Ugandan governments to do something to stop his rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Their goal is admirable, but ignores the benefits of allowing Kony to remain at large.
The LRA is accused of kidnapping over 30,000 children, which they use as soldiers and sex slaves. The LRA is also responsible for the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in Uganda and its neighboring countries. Invisible Children wants Kony to be arrested for the war crimes he has committed over the past 26 years. According to some intelligence sources, Kony has been operating out of one of Uganda’s neighbors since 2006. This is quite plausible, since the LRA has been very active in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and the Central African Republic (CAR) in recent years. The attacks in the eastern DRC and southern CAR are primarily supply raids, not massacres, though atrocities still occur frequently.
In 2010, Congress passed the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, which put into motion a plan to apprehend LRA leaders. The Ugandan military, in combination with UN peacekeepers and U.S. Special Forces, has been able to corner some of Kony’s lieutenants since this plan was put into action. Last year, 100 U.S. Army special operations troops were sent to Uganda to train Ugandan soldiers how to create better strategies to stop the LRA. A senior Pentagon official assured the media that this foray into Uganda would “not be an open-ended commitment,” though.
Invisible Children believes if Kony is not captured soon, the United States will withdraw its support, which is not an unreasonable assumption after reading the quotation above. However, if one does any research on the topic of U.S. interests in central Africa, one might realize that it is in our best interest to keep the manhunt for Kony going as long as possible. This is because comprador diplomacy – a system in which the international bourgeoisie issued mandates to the African bureaucratic bourgeoisie, who complied without protest – is a thing of the past, as China has proven with its no-interest loans and infrastructure projects strategy, which has yielded it access to the resources of multiple African countries in recent years. Instead, we must use a new approach that I like to call clientele diplomacy – a system in which Western powers and African leaders are both clients and share power, meaning that any deals that are made have to be mutually beneficial to both sides – in order to gain access to the materials we need. This would not be necessary if dictators were still in power, but in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has to please his constituents, meaning that any deals we make with him have to have lasting benefits for his country.
To clarify why I believe Kony is more valuable to us as a free man, I will now explain in some detail what interests Uganda and the United States both share in the training of the Ugandan military, for whatever purpose. In 2009, the African Union deployed 9,000 Ugandan and Burundian soldiers to Somalia to fight Al-Shabaab. The private security firm Bancroft Global Corporation, which trains soldiers and also participates in combat zones, was used to train the Ugandan soldiers for the fight in Somalia for the small fee of $7 million. The United States government has been funneling money into Uganda to cover the cost. As long as the United States is providing this money, which is being used to better equip Museveni’s soldiers for fighting insurgents, like the LRA, Uganda will be willing to continue the fight in Somalia. This is good for the U.S. because it serves the purpose of disrupting a safe haven for terrorists and protecting the Horn of Africa from pirates. Off-shore oil production on the Horn is also opened to sabotage if the instability in Somalia is not kept in check. There is, however, a more important reason to not catch Kony, which is that reports have placed him in two countries which are of value to the United States.
The eastern DRC is full of gold, columbite-tantalite, cassiterite and LRA members, so if Kony is not in custody and is sighted in the Nord Kivu province of the DRC, then we have access to a region that American firms are clandestinely invested in. Furthermore, oil was discovered in Uganda and the DRC in the late 2000s. Congolese leaders have stated “that the oil flows from their country to Uganda,” causing Ugandans to fear attacks from local warlords. This is another reason why access to the DRC, via Kony, is beneficial to the United States.
Even more valuable are reports that Kony is residing in South Sudan, which became its own nation on July 9, 2011. South Sudanese freedom fighter John Garang and Museveni were close friends, so Uganda openly supported the independence of South Sudan from northern Sudan. This in turn led northern Sudan to fund and supply Kony in Uganda and South Sudan in an act of retaliation. The United States played a large part in securing independence for South Sudan, which contains around 80% of Sudan’s oil, and has been meddling in its affairs since at least the 1990s. In fact, Stephen Morrison, head of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s African policy department at the State Department in the late 1990s, acknowledged that C-130 transport planes were sent to the South Sudanese rebels. It is not too far of a stretch to say that the U.S. government would like to be able to look for Kony in South Sudan if the government of South Sudan begins to face hostile threats from northern Sudan or internal forces.
Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012” campaign is naïve and fails to grasp the bigger picture, but I’m sure most people won’t actually bother looking into the situation, instead begging the government to go into Uganda and save the poor villagers based on a 30 minute video. Ironically, these same people probably protested the War in Iraq. All things considered, Kony is much more valuable alive and on the run. Also, if the United States really wanted him captured, does anyone think we wouldn’t have already paid someone to do that for us; provider firms are very efficient, after all.