Thursday, May 31, 2012

Northern Mali groups look for an Islamic state - YouTube

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Obama embraces disputed definition of 'civilian' in drone wars MSNBC

Reuters, file
Tribesmen hold pieces of a missile at the site of a drone attack in Mir Ali, Pakistan, on Jan. 24, 2009 -- just days after President Barack Obama's inauguration.
Updated at 10:05 a.m. ET: LONDON -- Two U.S. reports published Tuesday provide significant insights into President Obama’s personal and controversial role in the escalating covert U.S. drone war in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
In a major extract from Daniel Klaidman’s forthcoming book Kill Or Capture, the author reveals extensive details of how secret U.S. drone strikes have evolved under Obama – and how the president knew of civilian casualties from his earliest days in office.
The New York Times has also published a key investigation exploring how the Obama Administration runs its secret 'Kill List' – the names of those chosen for execution by CIA and Pentagon drones outside the conventional battlefield.
The Times' report also reveals that President Obama "embraced" a broadening of the term "civilian", helping to limit any public controversy over "non-combatant" deaths.
As the Bureau's own data on Pakistan makes clear, the very first covert drone strikes of the Obama presidency, just three days after he took office, resulted in civilian deaths in Pakistan. As many as 19 civilians – including four children – died in two error-filled attacks.
Until now it had been thought that Obama was initially unaware of the civilian deaths. Bob Woodward has reported that the president was only told by CIA chief Michael Hayden that the strikes had missed their High Value Target but had killed "five al Qaeda militants."
Now Newsweek correspondent Daniel Klaidman reveals that Obama knew about the civilian deaths within hours. He reports an anonymous participant at a subsequent meeting with the president: "You could tell from his body language that he was not a happy man." Obama is described aggressively questioning the tactics used.
Yet despite the errors, the president ultimately chose to keep in place the CIA’s controversial policy of using "signature strikes" against unknown militants. That tactic has just been extended to Yemen.
On another notorious occasion, the article reveals that U.S. officials were aware at the earliest stage that civilians – including "dozens of women and children" – had died in Obama’s first ordered strike in Yemen in December 2009. The Bureau recently named all 44 civilians killed in that attack by cruise missiles.
'I'd have to go to confession'No U.S. officials have ever spoken publicly about the strike, although secret diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks proved that the U.S. was responsible. Now Klaidman reveals that Jeh Johnson, one of the State Department’s senior lawyers, watched the strike take place with others on a video screen:
"Johnson returned to his Georgetown home around midnight that evening, drained and exhausted. Later there were reports from human-rights groups that dozens of women and children had been killed in the attacks, reports that a military source involved in the operation termed “persuasive.” Johnson would confide to others, “If I were Catholic, I’d have to go to confession.”
Klaidman describes a world in which the CIA and Pentagon constantly push for significant attacks on the U.S.’s enemies. In March 2009, for example, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen reportedly called for the bombing of an entire training camp in southern Somalia in order to kill one militant leader.
One dissenter at the meeting is said to have described the tactic as "carpet-bombing a country." The attack did not go ahead.
Obama is generally described as attempting to rein back both the CIA and the Pentagon. But in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki – "Obama’s Threat Number One" – different rules applied.

An American-born cleric killed in Yemen played a "significant operational role" in plotting and inspiring attacks on the United States, U.S. officials said Friday. Anwar al-Awlaki was implicated in a botched attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound plane in 2009. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports.
According to Klaidman, Obama let it be known that he would consider allowing civilian deaths if it meant killing the U.S.-Yemeni cleric. "Bring it to me and let me decide in the reality of the moment rather than in the abstract," an aide recalls him saying. No civilians died that day, as it turned out.
In its own major investigation, the New York Times examines the secret US 'Kill List' – the names of those chosen for death at the hands of US drones. The report is based on interviews with more than 36 key individuals with knowledge of the scheme.
The Times' report says:
"[Obama's] first term has seen private warnings from top officials about a 'Whac-A-Mole' approach to counterterrorism; the invention of a new category of aerial attack following complaints of careless targeting; and presidential acquiescence in a formula for counting civilian deaths that some officials think is skewed to produce low numbers."
It is often been reported that President Obama has urged officials to avoid wherever possible the deaths of civilians in covert U.S. actions in Pakistan and elsewhere. But reporters Jo Becker and Scott Shane reveal that Obama "embraced" a formula understood to have been devised by the Bush administration:
"Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent."
So concerned have some officials been by this "false accounting" that they have taken their concerns direct to the White House, according to the New York Times.
The revelation helps explain the wide variation between credible reports of civilian deaths in Pakistanby the Bureau and others, and the CIA’s claims that it had killed no "non-combatants" between May 2010 and September 2011 – and possibly later.

Msnbc terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann discusses why the death of Anwar al-Awlaki  is a big blow to future al-Qaida operations in America.
The investigation also reveals that more than 100 U.S. officials take part in a weekly "death list" video conference run by the Pentagon, at which it is decided who will be added to the U.S. military’s kill/ capture lists. "A parallel, more cloistered selection process at the CIA focuses largely on Pakistan, where that agency conducts strikes," the paper reports.
But according to at least one former senior administration official, Obama’s obsession with targeted killings is "dangerously seductive." Retired admiral Dennis Blair, the former US Director of National Intelligence, told the paper that the campaign was:
"The politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no US casualties, gives the appearance of toughness. It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term."

Clarification: An earlier version of this story said that President Obama "personally authorized the broadening of the term 'civilian'" and attributed the redefining of "civilian" to his administration. However, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism now understands that the Obama administration instead embraced a pre-existing policy introduced under President George W. Bush.The Bureau apologizes for this error.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ethiopian Government, Muslims Clash about Ideology

A protester holds up a copy of the the Koran during a demonstration in front of the US Embassy Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 2012.
Peter Heinlein
ADDIS ABABA - Unofficial committees within Ethiopia's 30-million strong Muslim community are organizing demonstrations to protest what they say is government interference in Islamic affairs. Tensions are rising as the government tries to preempt what it sees as the rise of a hardline strain of Islam.

Worshippers arriving for Friday prayers at Addis Ababa's Awalia mosque found a notice posted at the entrance, which read: "They managed to get in through the back door before. Let's make sure it doesn't happen again."

The notice was signed by a mosque committee opposed to what it says has been a quiet government takeover of Ethiopia's Islamic Affairs Supreme Council.  The committee is demanding elections for new council members, to be held in the city's mosques.  They rejected a suggestion that the vote be held in neighborhood government halls called kebeles.

Standing at the entrance to the mosque, Ibrahim Hassan who teaches computer science at the Awalia Mission School, says holding the election in kebele halls would open the door to mischief.

"It should be inside the mosques, not in the kebeles because if it carried out in the kebeles there will be corruption, or some of the government authorities may participate.  That is not fair.  It is related to religion.  There must not be interference of government in such tasks," he said.

Awalia mosque has been at the center of protests against what many Muslims see as government efforts to ban the teachings of the conservative Salafist sect of Islam.  The Islamic Supreme Council recently fired several teachers at the Awalia mission school and shut down an Arabic language teaching center.

Teacher Ibrahim accuses the council of trying to indoctrinate Ethiopian Muslims into the little known al-Abhash sect that preaches non-violence, as opposed to the more militant Salafist brand of Islam.

"They think that the committee may be terrorists," he said. "They consider us terrorists, but it represents all the Muslim communities.  They said that [some] Salafists are members of al-Qaida, but in Ethiopia all of the Muslims are not members of al-Qaida, they are simply regular Muslims."

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi last month signaled a crackdown on those he accused of “peddling ideologies of intolerance."  In a speech to parliament, he said a few Salafis had formed clandestine al-Qaida cells in the southern part of the country.

Days later, four protesters were killed and many others injured in the southern state, Oromia when they tried to prevent police from arresting a Muslim cleric accused of promoting a radical ideology.

Last week, five men, including one Kenyan national, were arraigned in Addis Ababa's federal court on charges of operating an al-Qaida cell out of a mosque in Oromia.

In another incident this month, Ethiopian authorities expelled two Arab men said to have been visiting from an unnamed Middle Eastern country.  The two were detained after making what police called “inflammatory statements” and distributing materials at Addis Ababa's main Anwar mosque.

And last Friday, dozens of young men were reported to have stood outside Anwar mosque with tape over their mouths in a silent protest.  Young men standing at the entrance to Awalia mosque at last Friday's prayers said another big demonstration is planned for this week.

More than half of Ethiopia's roughly 90 million people are Christian, while an estimated 35 percent are Muslim.  The Horn of Africa nation has long prided itself on its religious tolerance

British Hostage Judith Tebbutt Released in Somalia - Video Dailymotion

British Hostage Judith Tebbutt Released in Somalia par NewsLook

Monday, May 7, 2012

Muslim protests engulf Ethiopia; Gov't expels two Arab 'jihadists'

By Yuunus Hajji Mul’ataa
Posted to the web on May 7, 2012

ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopian Muslim protests spread across the country on May 4 when hundreds of thousands in the Ethiopian capital defied government threats and went on protesting against the “Ahbashism Campaign” instigated by the government and “Majlis”.
Observers agree the brutal killing of innocent people in Assasa town has fueled tension between the government and the Muslim community which has now drawn more towns into the strikes.
Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Government said on Friday night that it has expelled two Arabs who came to call for “Jihad” and incite violence at the grand Anwar Mosque of Addis Ababa. However, the report is dismissed by many Muslims as “a fabricated story”.

Protests and Silencing

Shocked by the mass uprising after the recent killing of seven innocent Muslims in Assasa town (Arsi province), government authorities were busy on defending the massacre and threatening the public through state-owned media. They were also mobilizing Ahbash adherents to deter the protests in the upcoming days. The imams of mosques have been told to take all actions to stop Muslims chanting “takbira (i.e saying “Allahu Akbar!”) and marching for protests after Friday prayer. On the other hand, more than 300 people have been reportedly arrested in Assasa and other towns of Arsi Province over the week.
On May 4 beginning early in the morning, thousands of police and civil security forces were deployed in Addis Ababa and other towns to scare off the people. But at midday, all of the preventive methods applied by the government were proved to be ineffective. And immediately after the completion of Friday prayer, hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Addis Ababa and other towns filled the sky with defeafening chants of: “Stop Ahbashism campaign! The people want to step down Majlis! Allahu Akbar!!”
Sheikh Mohammed Adem, a Muslim religious scholar living in Addis Ababa says, “The people are asking their basic right. We are asking for freedom of worship. We tolerated many repressive measures for more than 17 years. But this time, we say ‘enough’ to oppression. We won’t turn back until we attain our goal”.
The protest at the Anwar Mosque (the grand mosque of Addis Ababa) and over the nearby streets was so intense that Mercato - one of the largest open air markets in Africa - came to a standstill for hours. Witnesses say there have been similar protests in Dessie, Jimma, Assela, Agaro, DireDawa, Alaba, Assasa, Warabe, Jijiga, Robe and Shashemene.
The current tension between government and Muslim Ethiopians started in July 2011 when the government-backed “Majlis” launched a campaign to indoctrinate Muslims in the ideology of a newly arriving controversial sect called “Ahbash”. But Muslims came to direct protest at the beginning of this year when the leaders of “Majlis” sacked 50 teachers of Aweliya Islamic institute and tried to substitute them with “Ahbash” scholars. The government supported the action taken by “Majlis” and said “Aweliya had been a training center of terror ideology. ‘Wahhabis’ were arming the youth with fundamentals of extremism. So the Majlis has taken the appropriate measure”.
In spite of its open support for “Majlis”, the government continues to deny any interference in religious affairs. Through state owned media, it says “We are training Muslim scholars on the constitution and legal framework of the country. Apart from this, the government hasn’t interfered in spiritual affairs of the Muslims”.
Free viewers say “The government is highly terrorized by a continuing wave of protests. This week’s intensive media coverage about the Assasa massacre and the Muslim uprising are indications of government’s fear. In some occasions, some government authorities were expressing their worry about the ongoing condition”. These viewers point to what happened recently on a meeting conducted at Addis Ababa city hall where only selective pro-government imams and “Majlis” leaders have participated. On that meeting, sources say, the head of Addis Ababa Bureau of Justice and Security spoke to the attendants “The mass has turned against us. We couldn’t control the people. You have taken a mission to convince the people. But you did nothing. What were you doing until now? Our government is highly troubled by the Friday protests.” He also ordered the imams to stop any protests in and around mosques. Muslim scholars say “The authorities are disturbing themselves. We are asking for freedom of worship. We are asking them to stop imposing the ideology of ‘Ahbash’ on our people. We are asking them to apply what they have written on the constitution of the country. We didn’t ask them to share us political power.” They also say that the current media campaign can’t silence the people and add “Our faith is the only hope we have. It is the only rope that ties us to our God. They are going to cut out this rope. But that will never happen as long as we are alive”.

The two Arabs

On Friday night, The Ethiopian Television reported that two Arabs who came from the Middle East to incite violence in the main mosques was caught red handed and immediately expelled from the country. The government said that the two people were found while they make inflammatory statements and distribute materials calling for “jihad”. The two Arab came to Addis Ababa on Friday morning, says the government. Their name and nationality was not disclosed even though they were shown on TV screen.
The Muslims who attended the Friday prayer at Anwar mosque say “The government’s statement is completely false. It is fabricated to defame our peaceful struggle. No one has distributed inflammatory material at Anwar Mosque. If they caught two Arab “Jihadists”, why didn’t they disclose their name and nationality? How do people caught on such illegal activity expelled without being investigated and tried?”
One scholar rejects government’s statement and asks “How can a person that came to Ethiopia on Friday morning directly goes to Anwar mosque and distribute “Jihadi” papers in the midday? Why did the Ethiopian government authorities contented only in expelling them to their country? Why didn’t they bring the two Arabs to the court? They have to answer these questions”. To paraphrase his statement, this scholar mentions what happened to two Swedish journalists when they were caught in the remote region of Ogaden together with some fighters of Ogaden National Liberation Front.

After the “Assasa Killing”

After the deadly incident happened at Assasa, in the last week, many top leaders of the ruling party were undertaking a “silencing meeting” all over the country. In one of such meetings undertaken at Assasa town on Wednesday, Mr. Abdul-Aziz Ahmed, the Vice President of Oromiya regional state was heard in public media saying “In the name of asking for freedom of worship, some politically motivated groups have planned to overthrow the government. They have caused the death of civilians in this town. They have plotted similar deadly riots in all of the country. They government won’t allow them to continue in this way. We will stop them in all possible ways”.
Sheikh Aman Nure, an elderly scholar living in Adama town (originally from Assela town, Arsi province) rejects the official’s accusation and says “Last week, they said they have arrested a man calling for ‘Jihad’ and they killed his ‘Jihadi’ supporters. Now they say ‘political groups have plotted the massacre’. This has been their behavior for two decades. They can’t repeat what they speak today. Our country is governed by such liars who don’t care about the tradition and ethics of our people”.
The Assasa massacre was highly condemned by many religious scholars of the country. Ethiopian Diaspora communities of Europe, North America and the Middle East have sent strong statements to the government asking to investigate the actual cause of the massacre through an independent commission. Rebel political groups like Ogaden National Liberation Front and the Oromo Liberation Front have condemned the massacre and released statements in support of the peaceful struggle of Ethiopian Muslim Society.

Ethiopia expels 2 Arabs amid tension with Muslims -

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia—Ethiopia's government has expelled two Arabs who flew in from the Middle East after the pair went to a mosque and tried to incite violence, an official said Saturday.
The two men visited Addis Ababa's Grand Anwar Mosque on Friday and disseminated materials and made inflammatory statements, said Shimeles Kemal, state minister of communications.
"The Ethiopian government found them to be persona non grata and they were immediately deported," he said. The men's nationalities were not made public.
The deportations come one week after security forces arrested a Muslim religious leader in the Oromia region accused of radical statements. A group of Muslims tried to free the imam and clashed with police. Four of the demonstrators were killed and 10 police were wounded, Shimeles said.
"A number of suspects are in police custody. The elders in the community there have helped contain the situation and it remains peaceful since the incident," Shimeles added.
The country's Federal Ministry on Thursday issued a statement accusing the unnamed group of trying to declare jihad against the government and incite violence in a number of mosques across the country. The statement said a dozen suspects were recruited by the group from the country’s Oromia, Tigray and Amhara regions to carry out illegal activities are now in police custody.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on April 17 told the country's parliament that a few Salafis formed clandestine al-Qaida cells in the Arsi and Bale zones of the country's southeastern region and are trying "to erode the age-old tradition of tolerance between traditional Sufi Muslims and Christians in Ethiopia."
Ethiopia borders Somalia, where al-Shabab militants have pledged allegiance to al-Qaida.
More than half of Ethiopians are Christian. About a third are Muslim.

African migrants’ Tel Aviv residences bombed for second time | JTA - Jewish & Israel News

African migrants’ Tel Aviv residences bombed for second time | JTA - Jewish & Israel News: "JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Two firebombs hit a residence in south Tel Aviv that is home to African asylum seekers.

It is the second such incident in the past two weeks.

No one was injured in Saturday night's attack, which targeted a home in the Hatikvah neighborhood, Haaretz reported.

On April 27, firebombs were thrown at four houses of migrants from Sudan and Eritrea in the Shapira neighborhood, as well as at a public park where some migrants sleep. No one was injured but structures were damaged. One of the apartments also was used as a day care center.

A 20-year-old resident of south Tel Aviv was arrested in connection with the April case.

Some 40,000 African migrants looking for work and another 20,000 asylum seekers live in south Tel Aviv, according to Haaretz, citing city officials. Tensions between Israeli residents and the African migrants have been on the rise in recent months."

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sudan Is Backing Joseph Kony's LRA, Says

London — The Sudanese government is providing support to the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) an insurgency that originated in northern Uganda but now operates in South Sudan, Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the Ugandan military.
Sudan has denied the allegation, which is the latest in a string of statements from South Sudan's neighbour against the Sudanese government in Khartoum.
Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni, a frequent critic of Khartoum, told an event in Ethiopia April 16 that Sudan's attitude to ethnicity, culture and religion was the prime example of how not to manage diversity in Africa.
On April 20, South Sudan welcomed the announcement made by the chief of Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF), Aronda Nyakairima, that Uganda would intervene if the current border conflict between Juba and Khartoum escalates into a full-scale war.
Khartoum responded on April 21 by accusing Kampala of issuing passports to senior officials from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), an armed group who have been fighting the government in the Sudanese states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile since last year. Kampala denied the allegation.
During the two-decade Sudanese civil war, which ended in 2005 with a peace deal granting South Sudan the right to seceded last year, Uganda sided with the SPLM rebels who now form the government in Juba.
In response, Khartoum is widely accused of backing the LRA, which began operating in South Sudan and elsewhere in Central Africa having been forced out of northern Uganda by the UPDF.
The LRA was founded by Joseph Kony in his Acholi community amid repression from the UPDF. Its stated aim is to overthrow the government in Kampala and install the Bible's Ten Commandments.
Across Uganda, CAR, DRC and South Sudan the LRA is accused of massive human rights abuses including rape, mutilation, murder and the recruitment of child soldiers.
However, the group is believed to only have a few hundred soldier's left due to desertions and combined regional attempts - recently backed by United States army advisors and African Union troops - to end the conflict militarily.
Uganda's accusations come as tensions between Sudan and South Sudan remain extremely high, with the conflict along their disputed oil-rich border passing the one month mark.
Sudan's president has said that the SPLM government must be overthrown, describing them as "insects" that must be crushed.
Such rhetoric may simply be playing to his right-wing support-base but are symptomatic of the depths to which relations have fallen less than 10 months after South Sudan's independence.
Juba already accuses the Sudan Armed Forces of supporting and fighting alongside Southern "mercenaries" along the border and supporting rebellions in Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei states. Khartoum denies this and maintains that the SPLM in Juba has not severed its ties with the SPLM-N north of the border.
During the six year period of Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the SPLM and Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP), allegations of Khartoum's backing of the LRA decreased out but have reemerged now hostilities have resumed.
Ugandan army spokesman Col Felix Kulayigye told the BBC Monday that its intelligence indicated that the LRA was now moving into Sudan's Darfur region from the Central African Republic (CAR), including areas controlled by pro-government militia the Janjaweed.
"Kony knows we can't enter that region, so when the pressure is high in Central Africa he crosses into the Sudanese border [areas]," Kulayigye said.
The Ugandan army colonel told the BBC that the UPDF had captured a LRA soldier wearing a uniform from the Sudan Armed Forces. He also alleged that his weapons and ammunition were the same as those carried by SAF personnel.
Sudan's ambassador to the UK, Abdullahi al-Azreg, told the BBC that Uganda's accusations were a "big lie".
"We are not helping and we will not help [Joseph Kony]. He's a criminal," he said.
The LRA has split into small groups that rarely use electronic communications and operate across a huge area of Central Africa, often in dense bush and forests that make them hard to track.
To survive the LRA raids villages for supplies and abduct young men to become fighters and young girls to become sex slaves.
The African Union announced in March that it was setting up a 5,000-strong force to hunt Kony and what remains of his group. The regional armies pursuing the elusive rebel leader are also being assisted by 100 US special forces working from four bases across Central Africa.
Since peace talks held in Juba broke down in 2008 - due to LRA fears that Kony and the group's leadership could not be granted immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court - the international community has opted to adopt a military rather than negotiated resolution for the two-decade long conflict that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Some analysts interpret the Juba peace talks as just a means to buy time on the part of the LRA to regroup and that Kony was never serious about signing a deal.

The Great Kony Con-Southern Times

But Kony’s has two other figures in the background: Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden, clearly suggesting that Kony is the latest spawn on evil’s evolutionary plane.

Their mission?

To make the egregious Lord’s Resistance Army leader “famous” and thus sustain public support of the US military’s deployment in central Africa ostensibly to help capture Kony and bring him to justice.

This is the footage from a newly released controversial 30-minute documentary produced by the American charity Invisible Children.

It has since gone viral, accounting for more than 85 million views on the video sharing site Youtube.

Unsurprisingly, many reviewers have roundly condemned it as a psychological operations piece for US military intervention in central Africa.

Invisible Children is fronted by 33-year-old Jason Russell, whose work with children traumatised by LRA raids among the Acholi communities of northern Uganda inspired him to set up the charity.

Using slick production techniques and a simplistic narrative riding on good guy-bad guy binaries, the film invokes the default paternalism of some western humanitarian agencies towards “helpless” Africa.

Agency for the resolution of the identified crisis is exported to the West, and Africans appear only as victims and advocates offering plaintive calls for help.

The heartrending story of its Ugandan child protagonist, Jacob Acaye, who was abducted into Kony’s army and forced to watch his brother killed, is the big stick with which the film clobbers the moral conscience of its youthful viewers.

It then challenges them to assuage their assaulted sense of humanity by taking “social action to end the use of child soldiers … and restore LRA-affected communities in central Africa to peace and prosperity”.

There are other founded criticisms levelled against the film, which was both narrated and directed by Russell.

The first is that it inaccurately lays all the blame for the atrocities committed against northern Ugandan civilians on Kony’s LRA alone and totally absolves President Yoweri Museveni’s government of any wrongdoing.

Human rights campaigners have documented and highlighted the atrocities of Museveni’s government against the Acholi people, including his policy of forcibly herding them into “protective camps”, where many of them fell sick and died.

“Young adults recall the time from the mid-90s when over 80 percent of the total population of three Acholi districts was forcibly interned in camps – the government claimed it was to ‘protect’ them from the LRA,” wrote world renowned Ugandan academic and Makerere University professor, Mahmood Mamdani.

“But there were allegations of murder, bombing, and burning of entire villages, first to force people into the camps and then to force them to stay put.”

According to figures from Uganda’s own Health Ministry, the excess mortality rate in these camps was approximately 1 000 persons per week, a staggering statistic comparable to those killed by the LRA in the worst year.

Secondly, the campaign to get Kony appears anachronistic given that conflict in northern Uganda has largely quietened and Kony himself is widely believed to have long since left Uganda.

The country’s Prime Minister, smarting from the negative publicity generated around the image of his country, adopted the same social media techniques employed by Invisible Children to issue a rebuttal of their claims.

In a nine-minute Youtube video, Amama Mbabazi said, “The ‘Kony2012’ campaign fails to make one crucial point clear. Joseph Kony is not in Uganda.”

Proving as much a social media literate as Invisible Children itself, Mbabazi then took to Twitter to call out the same celebrities the charity had targeted in its campaign – the likes of Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Ryan Seacrest - and invited them to ‘visit our proud nation and see the peace that exists”.

As if spurred by the “Kony2012” campaign, the African Union late last month announced the deployment of a 5 000-strong force into central Africa to hunt for Kony and his LRA militants.

The force, comprising troops from Uganda, the DRC, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, will be under Ugandan command.

Francisco Madeira, the AU’s special envoy for the LRA, was quoted by Al-Jazeera as saying that the force would be based in the South Sudan city of Yambio, close to the border with the DRC.

In response to questions about how long the mission would last, Madeira said: “When we capture Kony or he hands himself in or we neutralise him in some way; that will be the end. That’s the timeframe.”

But what is the LRA that it should merit such an open-ended military campaign akin to the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, obviously at huge cost?

Mamdani says the LRA is now no more than “a raggedy bunch of a few hundreds at most, poorly-equipped, poorly armed, and poorly trained. Their ranks mainly comprise those kidnapped as children and then turned into tormentors.

“It is a story not very different from that of abused children who in time turn into abusive adults. In short, the LRA is no military power”.

He argues that addressing “the problem called the LRA does not call for a military operation”.

Indeed, many observers have queried the basis of the proposed rapid military mobilisation in the central African region and feel strongly unconvinced that the LRA is the reason for it.

President Barack Obama’s deployment late last year of 200 US special forces to the region to assist this would-be AU force in the hunt for Kony under the aegis of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) casts a dark shadow over this Kony brouhaha.

It is in this context that Invisible Children’s role in the get-Kony-campaign becomes less a naïve and innocuous action than it is a deliberate call for military intervention on the pretext of humanitarianism.

Adam Branch, a senior research fellow at Makerere, said because of the charity’s “irresponsible advocacy, civilians in Uganda and central Africa may have to pay a steep price in their own lives so that a lot of young Americans can feel good about themselves, and a few can make good money”.

And money does loom large in Invisible Children’s profile.

The Guardian revealed the charity to be a “cash-rich operation” whose annual income in 2011 tripled to nearly US$9 million from foundations as well as personal donations.

A quarter of this was spent on travel and film-making, US$1.7m went to US employee salaries, US$850 000 in film production costs, US$244 000 in “professional services”, and US$1.07m in travel expenses.

Branch described Invisible Children as “useful idiots” who are being used by “those in the US government who seek to militarise Africa, to send more weapons and military aid to the continent, and to build the power of states that are US allies”.

“The hunt for Joseph Kony is the perfect excuse for this strategy — how often does the US government find millions of young Americans pleading that they intervene militarily in a place rich in oil and other resources?”

American writer F William Engdahl wrote recently that the Joseph Kony crusade “appears to be a flank in a major AFRICOM and US State Department campaign especially to undermine Chinese influence in central Africa - now that they have successfully driven the Chinese oil companies out of Libya, and carved out a new ‘republic’ of South Sudan containing much of the oil that fuels China’s economy.”

“That splitting of South Sudan and its oil, for those who did not follow it closely, was a consequence of sending in US and NATO special forces to ‘stop genocide’ in Darfur,” he claimed.

Branch said the most serious problems northern Ugandans face today have little to do with Kony.

“The most pressing are over land. Land speculators and so-called investors, many foreign, in collaboration with the Ugandan government and military, are grabbing the land of the Acholi people in northern Uganda, land that they were forced off a decade ago when the government herded them into internment camps,” he said.

The US has reason to be impressed by the progress of its military and strategic objectives so far in Central/East Africa.

Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya have all been willingly conscripted into American proxies in its war on terror.

All three countries have sent their armies into Somalia to battle Islamic extremists.

Uganda in particular, has recently received US$45m in military support from the US, with the promise of more.

AFRICOM is keen to move its headquarters from Germany to the continent where its strategic objectives include ensuring supply lines for energy and other materials from the continent, and to checkmate the rise of China in Africa.

Africa is now a region of vital importance to national security in the US.


Innocent Chofamba-Sithole is a Zimbabwean journalist based in the United Kingdom. This article was first published in March on his blog,

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