News / Africa

US Military Involvement in Uganda Yields Mixed Results

In this April 20, 2011 file photo, U.S. Army soldiers are seen with Uganda People's Defence Force soldiers at the closing ceremony for operation ATLAS DROP 11, an annual joint aerial delivery exercise, in Soroti, Uganda. While putting few U.S.
In this April 20, 2011 file photo, U.S. Army soldiers are seen with Uganda People's Defence Force soldiers at the closing ceremony for operation ATLAS DROP 11, an annual joint aerial delivery exercise, in Soroti, Uganda. While putting few U.S.
KAMPALA — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be in Uganda Friday to talk with President Yoweri Museveni about regional security and American-Ugandan military cooperation.

The U.S. State Department describes Uganda as a "key U.S. partner," particularly in the fight against the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army and in Somalia.

Fighting al-Shabab

Ugandan troops make up the bulk of the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, AMISOM - conducting operations against the militant Islamist group, al-Shabab. The United States pulled its own troops out of Somalia in 1993 after 18 American soldiers were killed. But U.S. Embassy spokesman Dan Travis in Kampala says America has been helping finance the Ugandan operation in Somalia for years.

"We’ve supported that effort since 2007, by providing funding for training, equipment, transportation and to sustain Ugandan and Burundian forces serving with AMISOM [the U.N. peacekeeping force in Somalia]," he said.

US military involvement

American military involvement in the region dates back much longer than that. During the Clinton administration, the African Crisis Response Initiative was set up to train the militaries of certain African countries, including Uganda. And, more recently, the United States has provided logistical support and military trainers in Uganda’s war against Joseph Kony and his rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Travis says military cooperation between the two countries has been beneficial to both.

"Uganda is one of America’s key partners in Africa and has established itself as a leader advancing efforts to resolve conflicts throughout the region," he said. "Countering violent extremism, especially organizations like the Lord’s Resistance Army or al-Shabab, is vital to a stable, secure and prosperous future for Uganda as well as the African continent."

Lord’s Resistance Army

The LRA terrorized northern Uganda for two decades and has now moved into neighboring countries. But according to Paul Omach, professor of security studies at Kampala’s Makerere University, defeating the LRA - which is estimated to be several hundred militants strong - is not the main reason why the United States is involved.  Omach says the Islamist government of Sudan has been accused of supporting the LRA, which makes Joseph Kony and the LRA part of the global war on terror.

"Kony is a proxy in a bigger war," said Omach. "The bigger war is with international terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism and all that.  And, for a long time, accusing fingers had been pointed at Sudan. That accusation still keeps on coming up."

Museveni - a valuable partner

Omach says one of the main reasons the United States has chosen Uganda as a military ally is because of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.  The professor says his personal control over the army, as well as his willingness to use his soldiers,  make him a valuable partner.

"Museveni is one who is ready," he said. "He looks at himself as a revolutionary. He has actually said these things - 'We are revolutionary, we are going to change the region.' He takes the risk. But you see, he also doesn’t have these democratic encumbrances when the body bags start coming."

Ugandans are taking note of the losses. In 2010, Somali suicide bombers killed 74 people in Kampala watching a broadcast of the final match of the soccer World Cup. Al-Shabab claimed the attack was retaliation for Uganda’s involvement in Somalia.

Popular reluctance

For many Ugandans, the war in Somalia has not been worth the cost.

“I think it’s hurting Uganda," says a woman in Kampala. "Al-Shabab has tried to hit us so many times. They hit us after the World Cup, about 80 people died. Why should we have so many of our soldiers out in Somalia? I really don’t see what we are gaining from that war."

Omach says U.S. military assistance has strengthened the Ugandan army, making it more capable of defending the country. But, he adds, such capacity building has an opposite side as well.

"The paradox of external military assistance in authoritarian states is that it ends up supporting authoritarianism, either intentionally or unintentionally," he said. "The countries with military means at hand will always use military means to resolve political disputes, even at home. So that is possibly one of the unfortunate impacts of the U.S. military involvement. I think it has given the government and Museveni’s leadership a lease on life."

Ugandans may prefer to focus on domestic issues, but the hunt for Kony continues and al-Shabab - though weakened - remains a threat in this part of Africa. Hillary Clinton’s decision to visit Uganda is being seen as a sign that the United States intends to stay involved in this volatile region for the foreseeable future.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More