thoughts on the U.S. troop deployment in Uganda

I am gathering here some opinions regarding Obama’s announcement that 100 U.S. troops will be/have been sent to Uganda to help fight the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group who have been operating for the past several years in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan and in northern Uganda before that. There seems to be a dearth of good analysis on this topic (I realize the news just came out yesterday), but I will try to add more as they become available/are brought to my attention. Anyone have any additions?

US deploys special forces in Uganda, but why? Angelo Izama

Obama’s troops in Central Africa to fight LRA; will they deliver? Rosebell Kagumire

Did Obama make the right call on Kony? James Lindsay

And here is a very neat link to the US cables mentioning the LRA. It’s interesting that there were practically no cables on the LRA before 2006, despite the fact that the group was most active in Uganda from the 1990s to around 2005. (h/t Washington Post*)

*I should note, however, that in general I feel this post doesn’t really capture the politics or even essence of the LRA.


A new one not to be missed: Rush Limbaugh “Obama invades Uganda, targets Christians“. Foreign Policy post on Limbaugh’s blindly ideological and shockingly uninformed statements here.

NYT article here. US has provided $33 million in the region to fight the LRA since 2008.

all the president’s men

…Museveni has increasingly become a drag on the ability of the country to move to the next state of consolidation. He has stabilised the political dispensation, sustained growth, tamed the army, facilitated the growth of a large and diversified private sector, a large and educated middle class and thereby laid the structural foundations for transformation. Yet his politics has remained unchanged in the face of this structural change, largely pandering to old social forces and unable to bring the new ones to the centre of his politics.

The political crisis in Uganda is therefore a product of the tension between an emerging new society and the prevailing political institutions and practices. If Museveni has successfully modernised Uganda, his biggest failure has been inability to modernise his politics.

That is Andrew Mwenda writing in the East African this week on how Museveni’s success is bringing him down. I largely agree with his analysis, but I think the role of those surrounding the president has been somewhat underplayed.

There has been a lot of hoohahing about the spilling of beans by the likes of John Nagenda, among many others, courtesy of Wikileaks. I personally enjoyed the final paragraph of Nagenda’s Saturday column (I can’t seem to find it on the New Vision website, which could use a redesign):

When I recall the whiskey-fuelled nights with various Ambassadors, Good God I shudder to imagine when and how I will be leaked!

All of this should tell us that many would-be advisors of the President are for whatever reason unwilling or unable to be frank with Museveni. Management of information to and from government, and the presidency in particular, is riddled with the same corruption and incompetence as is pervasive elsewhere. Who is the winner in this situation?

Perhaps Museveni’s success, as Andrew notes, is in many ways a major contributor to his demise. But many of those who surround him haven’t helped him “modernize his politics” either.

reading: the cables

Who isn’t? I have to say though, the wikileaks site is not user-friendly. I consider myself reasonably computer-literate, and I’m embarrassed to say it took me no less than 4-5 minutes to find the cables on Uganda from the main wikileaks page. I was busy searching for “Uganda”, until it dawned on me that the operative word was “Kampala.” I hope you’ve all struggled less than I, but just in case, the link to the Uganda (I mean, Kampala) cables is here.

I’m writing in the car from the parking lot of Nakumatt, with a low battery, looking sketchy*, so this will have to be a short one, but there is a lot to be discussed. Perhaps most interesting about the cables is not what they say, but what they do not say.

There are plenty of resources at the fingertips of the U.S. government, but information gathering is a people-based endeavor that requires the building of relationships and trust. I don’t admire those who have only two years to not only get their bearings, but also develop the kind of relationships that allow for the analysis of complex situations. But I guess that’s why I didn’t join the foreign service. When a foreign service officer begins referring to “Bugandans”, you know you’re in trouble.

More on this soon…battery is in the red.

*this is actually a happening spot for the young and restless of Kampala, in case you didn’t know. Its charm eludes me, but I guess that is a sign of the times. I’m getting old!