Obama Vows To Deal With Joseph Kony; What About Gen. Museveni?

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[Publisher's Commentary] 

Crimes of Impunity In Africa

President Barack Obama today in remarks before the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum vowed the U.S. will help track down Lord's Resistance Army chief Joseph Kony in Central Africa and end its brutal legacy. 

"It's part of our regional strategy to end the scourge that is the LRA and help realize a future where no African child is stolen from their family and no girl is raped and no boy is turned into a child soldier," President Obama said.

The remarks are welcome. Yet, capturing or killing Kony is only one half of the equation. To begin with, Ugandans, especially those in the war affected zones would welcome negotiations as well. More importantly, any number of Ugandans would add that in addition to Kony, the tyrannous Ugandan regime, whose brutality has helped sustain Kony, would also have to go in order to realize President Obama's and their own hopes for peace in East and Central Africa. Joseph KonyIt's no coincidence that both Kony and Uganda's dictator and U.S. ally Gen. Yoweri K. Museveni have both been on the scene for 26 years.

Kony and Museveni are two sides of the same coin. Both rely on violence and brutality; their hands are drenched in the blood of Ugandans, Congolese and people in the Central African Republic.
It's admirable that the U.S. has made a pledge to help Uganda apprehend or eliminate Kony. But it's completely abysmal for the U.S. to partner with Gen. Museveni and thereby legitimize his dictatorship.

Kony was rightly indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his crimes in the Uganda's northern region -- kidnapping children; mutilating civilians who resisted his violence; and, large-scale of civilians. Between 2004 and 2006 Kony had started negotiations with the Ugandan regime to end the war between his Lord's Resistance Army and Gen. Museveni's equally brutal army, which also recruited child soldiers. Museveni himself pioneered the forced recruitment of child soldiers in Uganda when he was a rebel leader between 1980 to 1986, frequently raiding schools to capture children.

When Kony delayed the signing of a final peace deal in late 2008, the outgoing George W. Bush administration assisted Uganda in launching a military operation (Operation Lightning Thunder) against the LRA. It failed, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,000 civilians through reprisal killings and scattered the LRA into the Central African Republic (CAR).

According to a recent report in The Washington Post, both Kony's army and Museveni's continue to commit atrocities in the CAR.

Ugandans aren't surprised that Gen. Museveni's army, as is the LRA, has also been committing crimes in the CAR. Atrocities by the Ugandan People's Defense Forces (UPDF) in Uganda's north are well documented; including massacres and mass rapes of both men and women.

The regime's worst crime was when 2 million ethnic Acholis were confined in concentration camps euphemistically called "internally displaced people's camps" for 20 years. The "displacement" was by an order issued by the Ugandan military in 1986. People who refused to abandon their homes and move into the squalid camps were to be shot; their homes were razed and food granaries and live stocks looted.

In the camps, The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that there were more than 1,000 excess deaths -- beyond normal mortality -- per week. People died mostly of planned neglect: lack of food; lack of hydration; lack of sanitation and toilets, and, lack of medical facilities allowed treatable diseases to fester and kill tens of thousands. Over a 20-year period this translates to more than one million deaths.

Military adventures led Uganda to invade the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1997; it occupied parts of Congo until 2003, looting resources and presiding over massacres and mass rapes. Over an estimated six million  Congolese have died since the Ugandan invasion and occupation. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Uganda liable for what amounts to war crimes in Congo; the court agreed with Congo that $10 billion was a reasonable amount for compensation. Not a dime has yet been paid.

When the International Criminal Court (ICC) under Louis Moreno Ocampo started its own investigation, The Wall Street Journal reported on June 8, 2006 that Gen. Museveni contacted then U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and asked him to block the criminal investigation. Although Annan reported that he had no powers to block the probe, it's possible there has been some interference on behalf of Gen. Museveni. As a result, although Kony was correctly indicted, the other side of the coin, Gen. Museveni still presides over tyranny in Uganda.

One glance at Ugandan newspapers and online news sites show that Ugandans today are engaged in a struggle against a regime that has lost legitimacy after 26 years in power. Only this morning, women pro-democracy activists were arrested after they demonstrated to protest against the sexual assault by police last week against Ingrid Turinawe, leader of the Women's League of the opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).

Police last week violently grabbed and pulled Turinawe's breast, in full public view, while arresting her as she drove to a peaceful demonstration. Her breasts were reportedly punched repeatedly once inside a police van. Part of the assault was caught on video.

One of the women arrested today was my own sister, Barbara Allimadi. Recently, the regime in Uganda banned A4C, a civic group that had organized the Walk-to-Work protest campaign to protest against rampant inflation and government corruption in Uganda.

So while Ugandans welcome the U.S. Administration's vow to help get rid of Kony, they also would welcome an explanation as to why Washington has chosen to partner with a tyrant like Gen. Museveni who might have been indicted by the ICC had there not been interference; he is still eligible for prosecution once the obstruction is lifted.

Ugandans are equally amazed that the so-called NGO, Invisible Children, would side with the Ugandan regime, to the extent of even helping with intelligence gathering for the arrest of perceived regime opponents. Would it not have been better for Invisible Children to use it's skills in disseminating information through viral videos to show how Ugandans are victims of both Joseph Kony and Gen. Museveni's tyranny?

Ugandans would welcome some answers.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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