A Brief History of the LRA, and Why We Are in Uganda

With the news of President Obama sending one hundred troops into Uganda, people have begun asking: why? Why are we getting ourselves into another war-torn country's internal disputes? Especially when Uganda poses no threat to the USA? It's a complicated issue wih heated arguments from both sides. I can't presume to change your mind, but here is a quick history of Uganda's strife, and why the United States is intervening.

First, the role of the soldiers in Uganda should be made clear. They are not active combatants, and have orders to fire only when fired upon. Instead, they will be serving as advisers, helping the Ugandan army in an attempt to finally eliminate the LRA. Their mission is to train, assist, and gather intelligence. Eventually, soldiers will also deploy to Uganda's neighboring countries, where the LRA is still strong and causing havoc.

The LRA, or the Lord's Resistance Army, began in the late 80's as a spiritual movement which was eventually taken over by one Joseph Kony. Kony advocated violence and warfare to rebel against the Ugandan government. He claims to see many manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and is said to perform strange rituals in the name of the Lord. Still, he is a brilliant tactician, as evidenced by his continued survival. For the last twenty years, he has led the LRA in a bloody sweep across Africa, abducting thousands of children as sex-slaves and soldiers. He has uprooted hundreds of thousands more; the death toll is hard to count accurately. Unlike say, the Taliban, the LRA has almost no popular support from the locals and is relatively small. It is considered a terrorist organization by the United States government, which has been pitching in millions of dollars since 2009 to help quell the long-standing group.

The USA is seizing what appears to be a ripe opportunity to end the LRA for good. Reports show that the organization is at an all-time low with only a few hundred members remaining. The elusive Joseph Kony is the primary target, with authorities hoping his death will dissolve the ties that hold the remaining terrorists together.

But still: why? Why are we helping Uganda? It may be in part because Uganda has long been waging a war with the Al-Qaeda linked Shabib in Somalia, a country the United States has not had troops in since 1993. Because they are fighting, we don't have to. Is the US government rewarding Uganda for its assistance? A cynic might also point to the oil reserves lying unplumbed in Uganda, which need only some political stability and several million dollars to be added to the market.

Either way, there are those who say it should be a no-brainer to help an ally rid itself of a brutal and vicious parasite, while others advocate taking care of our own problems before sending even more troops into harm's way. There is a rising trend of US intervention in the name of global security that may make many people uncomfortable. Should the United States, as the world's most powerful military force, extend itself to ensure peace? What do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment.

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