Viral web campaign Kony 2012 has shone a light on atrocities committed by Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in east Africa.
But the campaign has an agenda beyond human rights. It is run by Invisible Children, a US charity that supports US military intervention in the region.
Invisible Children is demanding that US military advisers “support the Ugandan army until Kony has been captured and the LRA has been disarmed”.
The LRA emerged 26 years ago from a guerilla campaign demanding rights for the Acholi people in the north of Uganda. But it descended into banditry and mysticism.
It terrorised parts of the country, often relying on kidnapped children to bolster its forces.
But the Ugandan government has long since defeated the LRA’s main organisation.
Even the Ugandan military which Kony 2012 appears to help acknowledges this. “It is the right message but it’s 15 years too late,” said Colonel Felix Kulayige about the campaign.
Only around 300 LRA fighters remain—and they are not in Uganda. For the past eight years they have been in the bush region on the borders of the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.
The US sent 100 special forces troops into the region last year to help hunt for the LRA. But why intervene so long after the organisation ceased to be a threat?
The US is torn over its role in Africa. It launched a unified military command for the region in 2008, dubbed Africom.
This was meant to be part of a reassertion of US power in the continent. The US wants to maintain itself against competition from China.
But the US military is already overstretched around the world.
Even Africom’s chief General Carter Ham talks about how the organisation can only afford a “small footprint”.
Africom is scaling down its direct intervention but continuing to push US imperial interests.
It has recently helped Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Kenya build occupation forces capable of operating inside Somalia.
The situation in this region is very complicated. There are 1.3 million internally displaced refugees in Uganda alone. The government operates camps for them in the north of the country.
Many of the local Acholi people accuse the Ugandan government of forcing northerners into these camps as an excuse to get control of their land.
The Ugandan military has itself twice invaded neighbouring DRC. The DRC war it played a role in was the bloodiest since the Second World War and has been responsible for more than five million deaths.
Yet it has led to remarkably few calls for intervention. That is because the war has not halted the extraction of valuable minerals.
This war-ravaged land is where the remnants of the LRA survive. They are just one of several militias exploiting the local population.
Western military intervention can only make this situation worse—just look at the disastrous US invasions of Somalia, Afghanistan or Iraq.
Neither the war criminals in the Pentagon nor their British supporters have a right to travel enforcing their “values”.
And neither do they or their proxies have the right to moralise about the murder of civilians.