This week, Uganda withdrew its forces from the Central African Republic and officially resigned its search for warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, reports the Economist. They have done so based on their belief that he no longer poses a significant threat to the region. Similarly, U.S. official General Thomas Waldhauser earlier this year announced that “Kony’s not an issue… he’s irrelevant… this thing is coming to an end.” This has been posed as a success story, where the formerly 3,000-strong LRA has been brought to a state of near-irrelevance. However, Kony himself was never apprehended and, as such, speculation has occurred as to whether the lack of meaningful international support for the search has played a role in Uganda’s decision.
Brought to infamy by a viral video campaign by the group Invisible Children in 2012, Kony and his army were responsible for significant crimes against humanity. By 2012, The Guardian reported that he and his forces had kidnapped upwards of 500 children from their homes, who were forced into lives as either child soldiers or sex slaves. That year, U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon submitted a report detailing the crimes against children committed by Kony’s forces in general. This report stated that “children reported that they were used in various capacities, as cooks, porters, guards, spies or directly in hostilities as combatants or human shields… [and that] girls who spent a substantial period of time associated with the group reported having been subject slavery and exploitation, including by being forcibly ‘married’ to combatants.” Kony’s crimes attracted worldwide condemnation and since he gained notoriety in 2012 reports of abuses have decreased in frequency but markedly continued.
Brig. Richard Karemire, a spokesperson for the Uganda People’s Defence Force, has said that “as far as we are concerned, we’ve already achieved our mission… the L.R.A. no longer poses a threat to us as Uganda.” But with Kony potentially still the on loose, does the withdrawal of forces searching for him represent a failure of the humanitarian ethic in favour of political isolationism?
According to NPR, both the U.S. and U.N. have expressed concern that the withdrawal of Uganda’s forces from the CAR might leave a power vacuum, creating more conflict in the region. This represents an alternative concern; neither of these scenarios seems to point towards a peaceful and stable immediate future for the CAR.