African Villagers Welcome U.S. Role In Hunting Kony

viagra 60mg geneva; font-size: small;”>Outside, this a baby chimpanzee plays on a green rope, and three local policemen lounge in a pickup truck. Inside, up to 30 U.S. Special Forces plot the demise of one of the world’s most elusive and sadistic rebels.

The U.S. troops arrived two months ago and by most accounts have yet to undertake any military actions.

But their mere presence has transformed this tattered out-of-the-way enclave of Congolese refugees, Ugandan soldiers and traumatized local residents into an upbeat cluster of newfound hope.

At night, energized locals bang homemade 8-foot-long xylophones and straddle voluminous bass drums, crooning new tunes to celebrate their good luck.

“The Americans are here/Our saviors are here/Let’s dance” goes one such song.

“Americans are favored by God wherever they are in the world,” said Bassiri Moke, a local chief.

“We asked God to save us, and the Americans came. We hope we won’t have to die like before.”

The American deployment here forms the core of a new plan constructed in Washington to end the violent cross-border marauding of Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony and his band of 200 hundred or so fighters known as the Lord’s Resistance Army.


Masters of survival, they slink through thick equatorial forests and brush-littered plains in Uganda, the Democratic Republicof Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, preying on the civilian population for food and new conscripts, killing and abducting as they go.

Thousands have died in their wake.

That the U.S. has joined the hunt for a group that horrifies millions of Americans but poses no direct threat to the United States is testament to the influence of human rights campaigners, who, together with evangelical Christians, lobbied Congress to pass a law requiring renewed U.S. efforts against the

Congolese refugee Longbango Jean-Claude, 38, lost six family members to the Ugandan rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army LRA.

The Obama administration responded by dispatching 100 special operations troops to help find Kony.

Most of the U.S. troops are based near the Ugandan capital, Kampala. But this outpost in Obo – a town of 15,000 in the far-eastern obscurity of the Central African Republic, an impoverished former French colony of 4 million people – is the true heart of the effort.

Kony and his core followers are believed to be living off the surrounding forests, always on the run.

Expectations among those who live in the rebels’ vicious shadow are sky high.

“Kony will die now that the Americans have come,” bellowed Longbango Jean-Claude, a 38-year-old Congolese refugee who had three family members killed and three more abducted by the LRA in 2009. “Don’t put him in prison like a child. Just kill him.”

Not long ago, life here slogged away as it had for centuries. But in early 2008, as peace talks over South Sudan collapsed, Kony’s men, who had been operating largely within the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, began venturing further north and west.

On March 6, 2008, they struck here.

Moke was the town mayor at the time. There was a huge funeral party. He warned everyone not to stay out late. He went to bed at 8 p.m.

“They didn’t listen,” he said. Around 2 a.m., the music suddenly stopped. The villagers realized they were surrounded. “They took them all,” Moke recalled.

About half of the abductees were released after a few days, but 30 or so others remained. Boys and young men became LRA fighters; girls and young women, “wives.”

Most have since escaped and found their way back, scarred with searing images of brutality and cruelty.

When asked how he is adjusting to life after a year in the hands of the LRA, the eyes of one abductee darkened.

“The images are always flashing in front of my eyes. It’s like I’m projecting my own movies,” said Emmanuel Daba, who was turned by the LRA into a soldier before he fled in South Sudan. “I doubt I can ever escape it.”

What exactly the Americans have in mind is unclear.

There are differing opinions among officials about whether killing or capturing Kony would be enough to end his movement, which originated in the marginalized Acholi tribe of northern Uganda and offers an ideology that is a cult-like mishmash of Christianity and traditional mysticism, held together by the force of Kony’s charismatic and cruel leadership.

Kony and two of his top lieutenants have been charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court and theoretically would face trial if captured alive.

The U.S. says it is here to provide logistical support, bolster intelligence sharing and improve the coordination among the four nations’ armies now fighting the LRA.

“Our intent is to supplement host nation military efforts with advice and assistance that maximizes the flow of information to, and synchronizes the activities of, host nation units in the field,” said Maj. James Scott Rawlinson, a spokesman for U.S. special operations forces in Africa. “The end state for this mission is to enable local forces to be able to render the LRA ineffective.”

Although local residents are impatiently expecting a major new military operation soon, they say they have seen little American activity, and the troops themselves keep a low profile. Obo’s acting mayor said he hasn’t met any of the U.S. troops. The one identifiable U.S. project is the construction of a bigger broadcast tower for the local radio station.

Ledio Cakaj, a researcher who has interviewed 200 former LRA fighters, women, and abductees over the past several years, is openly skeptical that the U.S. involvement will make any difference in a battle that has gone on for decades.

“The so-called military solution has not worked for over 25 years,” he said, noting that the LRA is far more organized and rational than it is often portrayed in Western media. “It is not practically possible to kill them all.”

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