President Obama's Deadly Choice In East and Central Africa
On January 20, 2009, as he stood alongside Pastor Warren, two paths for Africa lay before Obama: addressing human rights abuses, or maintenance of the status quo
Neoliberals, Multinationals, and Evangelicals United in “Hunt Joseph Kony”
In pushing for further United States military involvement in Central and East Africa, the Invisible Children nonprofit serves the convergent goals of the United States and Ugandan governments, neoliberals, predatory multinational corporations, and evangelical Christians seeking to stamp out religious diversity and spread their version of the faith in Africa.
The official reason for the October 2011 introduction of 100 U.S. military advisers in the region, to aid in the hunt for LRA head Joseph Kony, has been the furtherance of human rights. But as is sadly often the case, human rights considerations seem to be no more than an excuse for military geostrategy and securing natural resources.
Last fall in Uganda, government troops and police evicted an estimated 20,000 people in the central part of Ugandan from their lands, burning their homes in the process. The Museveni regime’s persecution of political opponents has intensified, and the demonization of Uganda’s sexual minorities, from the highest levels of Uganda’s government, continues.
While President Barack Obama swept into office with soaring rhetoric that promised to make human rights a primary consideration of his administration, the spectacle of the new president alongside Saddleback Church megapastor Rick Warren, who has publicly praised the dedication of the followers of Hitler, Lenin, and Mao, was a harbinger of things to come.
Why did President-Elect Barack Obama’s choose homophobic Pastor Reverend Rick Warren to pray at his Inauguration on January 20, 2009?
Team Obama set off sirens when it attempted damage control, in response to Rachel Maddow and the rest of the gay community's outrage, by insisting that Reverend Rick Warren had worked wonders with his AIDS charities in Africa, most of all in Rwanda and
Uganda. We both knew that Reverend Rick Warren's principle accomplishment regarding AIDS in Africa had been twisting President George W. Bush's arm to create PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, lobbying Congress to fund the venture to the tune of $15 billion dollars, and then channeling the funds to faith-based groups that promoted abstinence-only-until-heterosexual-married-monogamy-for-life as the best way to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa.
And we knew that the consequence in Uganda had been a reversal of that country's exemplary progress in reducing its AIDS infection rate. We knew that Warren had said he would not tolerate homosexuality in Africa, that he likened abortion to the holocaust, and that he urged women to remain married for life - regardless of the personal cost. We knew that he had launched Rwanda and Uganda as his first two "purpose driven" nations, in accordance with his own bestselling manual, “The Purpose Driven Life.”
We knew that Rick Warren was a close ally of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, but that he was unconcerned with their invasion and plunder of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its resources, beginning in 1996, which has included mass rape and the use of child soldiers. The conflict left six million war dead, and created the largest internally displaced persons (IDP) population in the world.
Warren seemed unconcerned with the 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2008 findings of the UN Panel of Experts on Illegal Minerals Trade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo - which reported that militias fighting in Congo were closely allied with and backed by Rwanda and Uganda, and that these militias were smuggling Congolese minerals across the eastern Congolese border into both countries.
Nor did Warren seem to care that the UN Experts had declared, in 2001, that Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni were, "on the verge of becoming the godfathers of illegal resource exploitation and ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”, where, the experts wrote, they have "indirectly given criminal cartels a unique opportunity to organize and operate in this fragile and sensitive region."
Despite his lofty rhetoric on the importance of universal human rights, Warren seemed untroubled by the UN Experts report on the complicity and/or collaboration of donor nations, foreign corporations, cargo companies, private banks - and the World Bank which, the UN Experts said, gave the impression of rewarding both Rwanda and Uganda for plundering the Congo by proposing them for a new debt relief program. According to the UN, this included direct and indirect involvement by embassy staff and cooperation agencies from developed countries, particularly the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, Denmark, Germany and the U.S., the main
bilateral donors to Uganda and Rwanda.
Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren was so comfortable with all of this, it seemed, that on September 6, 2010, roughly a month after a leaked UN Mapping Report suggested that Uganda and Rwanda might be implicated in genocide in the Congo, and about one year and nine months after Warren gave the invocation at President Barack Obama's Inauguration, he gave an inaugural invocation for incumbent Rwandan President Paul Kagame - after a Rwandan presidential campaign which had included the arrest,
assassination, or flight into exile, of all real political challengers and all journalists who dared to criticize Kagame in Rwanda.
On January 20, 2009, as he stood alongside Pastor Warren, two paths lay before the new President: honest and substantive efforts to address human rights abuses, and human needs, in East/Central Africa, or maintenance of the status quo - which serves economic, geopolitical, and foreign policy objectives and involves massive application of advertising and public relations acumen, not to mention outright deceit, to paper over and hide the greatest human catastrophe of our age from the American people.
President Obama has chosen the latter path.
This week, when we finally had the chance to meet and share thoughts on our parallel research investigations, we agreed first, as all honest and serious observers have, that government and corporate plunder of the region’s enormous natural resources drives the conflict, creating vast human suffering.
And, that liberal American politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and neoliberals who have signed on with Invisible Children KONY 2012 campaign are supporting on-the-ground developments in Central/East Africa that violently contradict their espoused support for LGBT rights, women’s rights, and human rights.
The Ugandan Army, in its most recent “hunt for Kony” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has again been accused, by human rights groups, of looting and rape. Meanwhile, the Anti Homosexuality Bill again looming before Uganda’s parliament threatens to legalize the execution of LGBT Ugandans. The Anti Homosexuality Bill has received more media, and Western legislative attention than any human rights issue in East/Central Africa since its introduction in 2009, prior to the viral video KONY2012.
We agreed that the gay rights movement has everything to gain by speaking out for the rights of all Ugandans, and East Africans, not solely for those of sexual minorities. As it is now, many East Africans suffering horrific human rights abuse at the hands of U.S. and EU backed governments, are left wondering why the West is suddenly so concerned with the rights of one endangered group, sexual minorities, above all others, even as their taxes are spent to collaborate in wholesale human rights abuse including massacres, mass rape, dislocation, and disinheritance. If the international LGBT community were to reject this singular Western focus, and speak out for the human rights of all Ugandans and their East/Central African neighbors, they would win hearts and minds in social justice communities there and around the world.
The looming menace of the Anti Homosexuality Bill, and the homophobic hysteria whipped up to make it possible, is, in the end, yet another chapter in a horrific series of human rights abuses perpetrated by African governments supported by the United States. None of these specific human rights abuses, atrocities, even genocides in the East/Central African region can be discussed in isolation; they stem from a common disdain for the human rights of all.
We’ll be discussing these issues on WBAI's Afrobeat Radio hour on Saturday, April 14th, between 4 and 5 pm, at 99.5fm-New York City, and streaming online at wbai.org.
We don't have the whole hour, only a quarter of it, but we'll try to secure a future hour, with time for call-ins, especially from Black Star News readers, who’ve been informed as to the implausibility of Invisible Children’s crusade long before KONY 2012.
Ann Garrison is an independent journalist who contributes to the San Francisco Bay View Global Research, the Black Star News, and her own website, anngarrison.com, and produces radio news and features for Pacifica’s KPFA and WBAI AfrobeatRadio.
Bruce Wilson co-founded the website Talk To Action, which covers the politicized religious right. He also contributes to the Huffington Post and is working on a book.