The announcement that President Obama ordered an increase in U.S. Special Operations forces deployed to Uganda in the effort to hunt down warlord Joseph Kony has left some Americans scratching their heads.
The Washington Post reported 150 Air Force special forces personnel, in addition to at least four CV-22 Ospreys and refueling planes, are expected to arrive in Uganda this week.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma praised the White House for sending in resources.
“Joseph Kony’s reign of terror has gone on far too long, and we cannot go on another year without bringing him and the LRA to justice,” said Inhofe. “For the past three decades, Kony and his LRA have terrorized Africa, killing more than 100,000 people, displacing more than a million Africans and abducting tens of thousands of children for his army. Over the past several years, I have met with government officials and military leaders in Africa who have united around the goal to stop Kony’s brutality and end the havoc he has caused across Central Africa. On my most recent trip to Uganda in January, I spoke with one of Kony’s wives and her daughter. She made a daring escape earlier last year with her children, and she has become a voice for the many more women and children yearning to be freed from the LRA. I am glad to see the President respond to my requests as well as the requests of many Americans to support those in Africa working to stop Kony and eradicate the LRA.”
The military troops will assist African forces chasing Kony in remote regions of Central Africa. The additional troops could be a game changer in the manhunt for the fugitive.
Why is Joseph Kony sought, and how do his actions affect the U.S.? Below is a look at Kony, his actions with the Lord’s Resistance Army and a breakdown of U.S. involvement in the international manhunt.
Who is Joseph Kony?
Joseph Kony is the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, a guerrilla group that began in Uganda.
While initially claiming to fight against government suppression, the LRA turned against supporters, supposedly to "purify" the Acholi people and turn Uganda into a theocracy.
Kony proclaims himself the spokesperson of God and a spirit medium.
In 2005, Kony became the first suspect to be indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He has so far evaded capture.
Kony received a surge of attention in the U.S. in early 2012, when the 30-minute documentary “Kony 2012,” made for the watchdog group Invisible Children, was released.
What is the Lord’s Resistance Army?
The LRA is a now-infamous African rebel group that originated as a tribal uprising against Uganda’s president.
Ideologically, the LRA is a mix of mysticism, Acholi nationalism, Islam and Christian fundamentalism. It claims to be establishing a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments and local Acholi tradition.
The group first emerged in Uganda in the 1980s. Its fighters now roam between Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
LRA fighters (also known as rebels) are notorious for abducting children, forcing boys to become soldiers and raping and keeping young girls as sex slaves.
Boys are forced to kill their own parents, so they think they cannot return home. Some children who have escaped have done so only to return to burned-out villages and homes that no longer exist.
How many lives have been affected by the LRA’s actions?
Kony has been accused by government entities of ordering the LRA to abduct children to become sex slaves and child soldiers. An estimated 66,000 children became soldiers.
From 1986 until roughly 2009, at least 2 million people were internally displaced.
Why is the U.S. hunting for Joseph Kony?
The LRA poses no threat to the United States, but the administration sees assistance to the mission as a useful way to build military and political partnerships with African governments in a region where al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are expanding. Assistance also demonstrates adherence to human rights principles.
According to the Associated Press, National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said the lack of aircraft in the ongoing hunt for Kony has been identified by the African countries leading the hunt as one of their major obstacles in finding him and other LRA leaders.
The African Union-led forces will remain in charge of the operation, and the U.S. will maintain an advisory role, in addition to providing the aircraft.
How long has the U.S. been aiding in the search?
The U.S. first deployed 100 troops in 2011 to help African forces track down Kony. The deployment of 150 additional U.S. Special Ops personnel this week will boost the existing U.S. troops.
American troops are not authorized to engage in direct combat with LRA fighters except in self-defense.
The U.S. advisers are assisting about 2,500 African Union troops to chase LRA fighters in a jungle roughly the size of France.
Where is Kony and the LRA now?
Watchdog groups say the LRA has shown a capacity to regroup over the years, as well as to take advantage of the region's porous borders to elude capture.
Kony himself is believed to be hiding in the border region between Central African Republic and Sudan's South Darfur region, according to the Ugandan military.
There are about 200 LRA fighters still active in the jungle, according to Ugandan military estimates. Amid an intensified manhunt, the LRA these days is no longer capable of mounting large-scale attacks that once could send whole villages fleeing in terror.
Ugandan officials last month reported that Okot Odhiambo — a fugitive rebel who was the LRA's No. 2 commander behind Kony — likely died of wounds he received late last year in an attack by African Union forces in Central African Republic.
How has Kony eluded capture?
Anti-Kony forces are not authorized to enter Sudanese territory, the reason some analysts believe Kony escapes to a Sudan-controlled enclave called Kafia Kingi whenever he is cornered by his pursuers.
What is a CV-22 Osprey?
CV-22 Ospreys are versatile aircraft that can land and take off vertically like a helicopter but fly like an airplane. Each can carry about 24 troops, and the aircraft are equipped with .50-caliber machine guns for self-defense.
The aircraft will be based in Uganda —whose military is leading the anti-Kony mission — but will be used in LRA-affected areas of Central African Republic, Congo and South Sudan, Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, told the Associated Press. The additional support will enable African forces "to conduct targeted operations to apprehend remaining LRA combatants," she said.
Information from the Associated Press, The Washington Post and BBC News Africa is included in this report.