By Steve Paterno
August 31, 2008 — The US government newly additional sanctions imposed on Joseph Kony, the leader of Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is an encouraging effort, which in concert with other measures will ultimately bring peace in the regions devastated by the LRA. For two decades, the LRA is causing havoc in at least four countries of Uganda, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Central African Republic (CAR). In addition to these latest sanctions, which carry severe penalties and also specifically targeting LRA finances—the LRA has for long time been designated by the US government as a terrorist organization—a label that puts the LRA out of favor from dealing legitimately with anyone. The International Criminal Court (ICC) even went further by issuing arrest warrants against five of the top leaders of LRA, which included Kony who is awaiting extradition to The Hague for trial on crimes against humanity.
Despite terroristic designation, international arrest warrants, wide condemnations, and brutal nature of the LRA, the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) about two years ago erroneously decided to engage in what it dupes as negotiation with the LRA. This so called negotiation proven to be a total failure since the LRA continues with its brand of brutalities and in the process resulted into LRA reorganization, relocation, reequipping, retraining and refusal to settle peaceful.
However, the latest measures taken by the US government in specifically targeting LRA finances and increasing severe penalties against or in dealing with the LRA can add more pressure so as the LRA menace is eventually eliminated. The US under the Treasury Department have been tremendously performing outstanding job in combating rogue states, global terrorism, international traffickers, and other illegal international transactions involving US dollars. The Treasury Department is equally doing a superb job against illegal international transactions processed through financial systems connected with the US. As for Joseph Kony, his name is now prominently featured in the US government list of “Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT)” along infamous internationally wanted terrorists like Osama Bin Laden, Khalid Shaikh Mohamed, Abdul Rahman Yasin and many more others of the same kind. Kony may not have much finances or assets like his international jihadists counterparts to be directly targeted; nonetheless, those who support and sponsor him automatically become primary targets of the US Treasury Department.
Among those LRA supporters who become automatic targets are GOSS, Khartoum Regime, and some individual Ugandan Diaspora. For the last two years and so, GOSS, under the leadership of its Vice President Riek Machar has been supporting the LRA financially and materially; managing a multimillion dollar fund for peace with LRA; accommodating the LRA; and facilitating the LRA movements and travels, both regionally and internationally. With these stringent measures now in place, the financial dealings of GOSS, particularly the financial dealings among some individuals within GOSS such as Riek Machar are going to be thoroughly scrutinized by the US Treasury Department. Such may not only block further supports for LRA, but can also help in combating the much publicized practice of corruption in GOSS. The process in a long run will result into LRA losing any financial and material support coming from GOSS. Even though it will not eradicate the practice of corruption in GOSS altogether, it will at least result into severe penalties against some individuals from GOSS who will be caught in the act of corruption.
Another target is going to be the Regime in Khartoum. Khartoum has been the long supporter and major sponsor of the LRA, molding the LRA into a brutally renowned terrorist that it is today. However, since then, Khartoum has lost its strategic position to deal with LRA directly and effectively as the regime lost the control of the Southern Sudan territory where the LRA is based. Khartoum dealings with LRA become logistically difficult with the LRA further isolated in remote parts of the country and pushed in hiding at the DRC national park alongside the animals. Not only that, Khartoum is already suffering great deal on similar sanctions imposed on the regime for its involvement with the global Islamic fundamental terrorists. Therefore, the members of US Treasury Department have most of their jobs already cut out for them as they will be required to exert only little effort in cutting off LRA supports coming from Khartoum.
And then there are those individual Ugandan Diaspora who have for long time been providing financial, moral, and advice to the LRA. Since the so called LRA peace talk began two years ago, those individuals have already been fragmented along their ambitions, with some returning back to Uganda to settle down; others getting discouraged from the whole LRA affairs; and few still sticking around with LRA. Hence, there are going to be only few individuals to be targeted, making the job of the US Treasury Department easier to execute. Targeting these individuals is going to be significantly important, because it will not only deny the support for LRA, but it will also expose corruption within those entities that deal with the LRA, mainly Khartoum Regime, Government of Uganda, GOSS, and some NGOs. This is so because corrupt officials from within those entities use individual LRA members as covers for money laundering and also bribing them at times. There are already several allegations of bribery by these LRA handlers on some of the LRA Diaspora members—the allegations which have partly contributed to the collapse of the LRA peace talks in Juba and resulted into the death of some LRA top leaders. If the US Treasury Department measures are executed perfectly, in a long run many of the LRA Diaspora supporters will quit dealing with the LRA as they will fear facing corruption charges on their newly found foreign lands. They will also fear the risk of associating with a terrorist outfit, because the penalties of which are severe. Otherwise, those who will continue supporting the LRA will do so at their own perils. This eventually will mean that the LRA will not only lose one of its financial bases, but that it will also be deprived of its moral support from the Diaspora.
In conclusions, these measures will serve many noble purposes among which, the measures will exert much pressure against LRA by denying them their much needed supports as well as the measures will combat corruptions within the entities that deal with the LRA. The measures will also help in holding accountable those who in one way or another assist with advancing impunity by supporting lethal terrorist groups like the LRA. If other measures such as drawing regional strategic military operation plan are added along these measures, it will mean an end to the LRA menace. Nonetheless, as of now, the measures in place are good enough to inflict as much damage to the LRA and its handlers, but short of eradicating the LRA once and for all, meaning the LRA though will be seriously weakened, they can still cause havoc in regions they operate in until a comprehensive strategic plan is drawn to eradicate the threat altogether.
Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at [email protected]