The United States and the Lord’s Resistance Army

US President Barack Obama said on Friday 14 October 2011 that 100 troops would help Uganda track down Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel chief Joseph Kony and other senior LRA leaders. This is interesting, indeed, but it is not news. The US has been among those who have been fighting LRA for over 15 years without any discernible success. The fight against the LRA has brought together in the US Congress a consensus from all wings of the political process – from one extreme to the other. The legislation was sponsored by Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold and involved almost every humanitarian NGO and outraged citizen groups arrayed against the depredations of the LRA.

The US has a very poor track record in attacking the LRA. An earlier US military co-involvement with Uganda’s army – Operation Lighting Thunder – in December 2008, was a disastrous failure, leading to additional massacres of Congolese civilians. There’s not a single place in Africa where US military intervention has resulted in a favourable resolution and restoration of peace and stability. It is not for the want of trying. There are around 2,500 service personnel permanently stationed at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. The Camp supports approximately 2,500 US, joint and allied forces military and civilian personnel and US Department of Defense contractors. Additionally, the base provides employment for approximately 1,200 local and third country nation workers. Camp Lemonnier provides, operates and sustains and supports regional and combatant command requirements; and enables operations in the Horn of Africa and nearby.

There are around 320 additional Special Forces personnel operating in West Africa, including three teams in the Niger Delta. The upsurge of Boko Haram violence in Northern Nigeria has attracted more. Others are working, with the Marines, in training exercises across Africa. There are three ‘Psychops’ groups operating in East Africa, especially in Kenya’s Northeast Frontier. This is in addition to scores of private military corporations (like Dyncorp or the several companies formed by retired US brass).

THE US IS AT WAR IN AFRICA

The US is at war in Africa. It has been at war as an integral part of the Cold War. It has had practical experience in African wars. America has been fighting wars in Africa since the 1950s – in Angola, the DRC, Somalia, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Morocco, Libya, Djibouti to name but a few counties. In some countries they used US troops, but in most cases the US financed, armed and supervised the support of indigenous forces. In its support of the anti- MPLA forces in Angola it sent arms and equipment to the UNITA opposition. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Larry Devlin of the CIA was an unofficial Minister of Mobutu’s government; the US ran its own air force in the Congo at WIGMO. US airmen supported the South African forces in Kwando, Fort Doppies and Encana bases in the Caprivi from WIGMO. At these bases one could also find soldiers from Southern Rhodesia (in their DC3s) and German, French, Portuguese and other NATO troops.

One of the largest of these bases was at Wheelus Field, in Libya. Wheelus Air Base was located on the Mediterranean coast, just east of Tripoli, Libya. With its 4,600 Americans, the US Ambassador to Libya once called it ‘a Little America’. During the Korean War, Wheelus was used by the US Strategic Air Command, later becoming a primary training ground for NATO forces. Strategic Air Command bomber deployments to Wheelus began on 16 November 1950. Wheelus became a vital link in SAC war plans for use as a bomber, tanker refuelling and recon-fighter base. The US left in 1970.

Another giant base was Kagnew Field in Asmara. The base was established in 1943 as an army radio station, home to the US Army’s 4th Detachment of the Second Signal Service Battalion. Kagnew Station became home for over 5,000 American citizens at a time during its peak years of operation during the 1960s. Kagnew Station operated until 29 April 1977, when the last Americans left Kagnew Station.

However, with the end of the Cold War, the US has found itself fighting a much more difficult and insidious war; the war with Al Qaida. This is much less of a war that involves military might and prowess. It is a war against the spread of drug dealing, illicit diamonds, illicit gold and the sheltering of Salafists (Islamic militants) who use these methods to acquire cash which has sustained the Al Qaida organisation throughout the world. The political dichotomy between the Muslim North in Africa and the Christian/Animist South is not only a religious conflict. It is a conflict between organised international crime and states seeking to maintain their legitimacy.

There are now several ‘narco-states’ in Africa. The first to fall was Guinea-Bissau, where scores of Colombian cartel leaders moved in to virtually take over the state. Every day an estimated one tonne of pure Colombian cocaine is thought to be transiting through the mainland’s mangrove swamps and the chain of islands that make up Guinea-Bissau, most of it en route to Europe This drug trade is spreading like wildfire in West Africa, offering remuneration to African leaders, generals or warlords well in excess of anything these Africans could hope to earn in normal commerce.

This burgeoning drug business was an offshoot of the political, economic and military connections which were made by Al Qaida in pursuit of their takeover of the ‘blood diamond’ business in West Africa. During the civil wars in Sierra Leone the Revolutionary United Front (‘RUF’) took over the diamond fields in the country; initially at Kono. The diamonds were mined by RUF rebels, who became infamous during Sierra Leone’s civil war for hacking off the arms and legs of civilians and abducting thousands of children and forcing them to fight as combatants. The country’s alluvial diamond fields, some of the richest in the world, were the principal prize in the civil war, and they were under RUF control for years. Small packets of diamonds, often wrapped in rags or plastic sheets, were taken by senior RUF commanders across the porous Liberian border to Monrovia, where they were exchanged for briefcases of cash brought by diamond dealers who flew several times a month from Belgium to Monrovia, returning to Pelikaanstraat in Antwerp.

Now the battle is with Al-Qaida in the Maghreb (AQIM) which combines drug and diamond smuggling with terrorist acts. This battle has required a lot of troops on the ground, as advisers and trainers, as well as teams of DEA agents across West Africa.

BACKGROUND TO AFRICOM

These are not unique examples. According to a US Congressional Research Service Study[1] published in November 2010, Washington has dispatched anywhere between hundreds and several thousand combat troops, dozens of fighter planes and warships to buttress client dictatorships or to unseat adversarial regimes in dozens of countries, almost on a yearly basis. The record shows that US armed forces intervened in Africa 47 times prior to the current LRA endeavour.[2] The countries suffering one or more US military intervention include the Congo, Zaire, Libya, Chad, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Rwanda, Liberia, Central African Republic, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea.

Between the mid 1950’s to the end of the 1970’s, only four overt military operations were recorded, though large-scale proxy and clandestine military operations were pervasive. Under Reagan-Bush Sr. (1980-1991) military intervention accelerated, rising to eight, not counting the large scale clandestine ‘special forces’ and proxy wars in Southern Africa. Under the Clinton regime, US militarised intervention in Africa took off. Between 1992 and 2000, 17 armed incursions took place, including a large-scale invasion of Somalia and military backing for the Rwanda genocidal regime. Clinton intervened in Liberia, Gabon, Congo and Sierra Leone to prop up long standing troubled regimes. He bombed the Sudan and dispatched military personnel to Kenya and Ethiopia to back proxy clients assaulting Somalia. Under Bush Jr. 15 US military interventions took place, mainly in Central and East Africa.

Most of US African outreach is disproportionally built on military links to client military chiefs. The Pentagon has military ties with 53 African countries (including Libya prior to the current attack). Washington’s efforts to militarise Africa and turn its armies into proxy mercenaries in protecting property and fighting terrorists were accelerated after 9/11.[3] The Bush Administration announced in 2002 that Africa was a ‘strategic priority in fighting terrorism’.[4] Henceforth, US foreign policy strategists, with the backing of both liberal and neoconservative congress people, moved to centralise and coordinate a military policy on a continent wide basis forming the African Command (AFRICOM). The latter organises African armies, euphemistically called ‘co-operative partnerships’, to conduct neo-colonial wars based on bilateral agreements (Uganda, Burundi, etc.) as well as ‘multi-lateral’ links with the Organisation of African Unity.[5]

A typical building-block is the annual ‘Operation Flintlock’ exercises. In the midst of a major drive to increase security in Africa’s Saharan and Sahel nations, American, African and European military forces combine to engage in a version of Operation Flintlock; a series of multinational military exercises designed to foster and develop international security cooperation in North and West Africa. The latest exercises came at a time of growing concerns over large-scale drug trafficking in the region and kidnappings carried out by elements of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The manoeuvres are conducted as part of the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP).

Twelve hundred soldiers participated in the latest manoeuvres, including 600 US Marines and Special Forces, units from France and Britain and smaller European contingents from Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. African countries with military representation included Mali, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania, Nigeria, Chad, Senegal, Tunisia and Morocco. The exercises were headquartered out of a Multinational Coordination Centre set up at Camp Baangre in the Burkina Faso capital of Ouagadougou. Malian Special Forces received training in responding to hostage-taking operations (as carried out by AQIM). Many of the Malian participants were veterans of fighting Tuareg rebels in northern Mali. These ‘Flintlocks’, or the model, are replicated in Central Africa. The new AFRICOM program, of which the LRA initiative is a part, combines many of the US military programs from the past, including the JCET training and co-operation programs and the various ‘Operation Flintlock’ joint exercises.

– Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative/Partnership (formerly Pan Sahel Initiative) (TSCTI): targeting threats to US oil/natural gas operations in the Sahara region: Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Libya.

– Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance Program (ACOTA) (formerly African Crisis Response Initiative, or ACRI, a part of ‘Global Peace’ Operations Initiative, GPOI): Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.

– International Military Training and Education (IMET) program: brings African military officers to US military academies and schools for indoctrination: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa.

– Africa Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS) (formerly Africa Centre for Security Studies) and part of National Defense University, Washington: provides indoctrination for ‘next generation’ African military officers. This is the ‘School of the Americas’ for Africa. All of Africa is covered.

– Foreign Military Sales Program: sells US military equipment to African nations via Defense Security Cooperation Agency. The top recipients are: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe.

– African Coastal and Border Security Program: provides fast patrol boats, vehicles, electronic surveillance equipment, and night vision equipment to littoral states

– Combined Joint Task Force: Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Military command based at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. It is aimed at putting down rebellions in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Somaliland and targets Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

– Joint Task Force Aztec Silence (JTFAS): targets terrorism in West and North Africa. It is a joint effort of EUCOM and Commander Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean). Based in Sigonella, Sicily and Tamanrasset air base in southern Algeria Gulf of Guinea Initiative, the US Navy Maritime Partnership Program trains African militaries in port and off-shore oil platform security. It involves Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Sao Tome & Principe and Togo.

– Tripartite Plus Intelligence Fusion Cell: based in Kisangani, DRC to oversee ‘regional security’, i.e. ensuring US and Israeli access to Congo’s gold, diamonds, uranium, platinum, and coltan. It involves Congo-Kinshasa, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the United States.

– Base access for Cooperative Security Locations (CSLs) and Forward Operating Locations (FOLs): provides for US access to airbases and other facilities in Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Tunisia, Namibia, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia and Algeria.

– Africa Command (AFRICOM): Headquarters for all US military operations in Africa and involves negotiations with Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Djibouti, Kenya, and Libya. Only Liberia has said it would be willing to host AFRICOM HQ.

– Africa Regional Peacekeeping (ARP): liaison with African ‘peacekeeping’ military commands in the East Africa Regional Integration Team (Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania); North Africa Regional Integration Team (Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya) and Central Africa Regional Integration Team (Congo [Kinshasa”>, Congo [Brazzaville”>, Chad).

– South Africa Regional Integration Team: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola. West Africa Regional Integration Team: Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Niger, Western Sahara.

– Africa Partnership Station (APS): port visits by USS Fort McHenry and High Speed Vessel (HSV) Swift. Part of US Navy’s Global Fleet Station Initiative. Training and liaison with local military personnel to ensure oil production security in Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, Sao Tome & Principe.[6]

UGANDA, THE DRC AND THE LRA

The African territory which includes Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC has been in virtually a state of war since 1995; that is at war with each other. This has engaged the national armies, militias, ‘civil defence’ groups, looters, pillagers, child abductors and abusers, rapists and murderers. This list is not mutually exclusive. Virtually every category contains most if not all of the sociopathic designations. One can add to this the United Nations Peacekeepers, whose range of social debilities accurately mimics those whose peace they are purported to be keeping.

Many legitimate questions have to be raised concerning this announced US deployment in Africa. Why now? Why is the US suddenly interested in being militarily involved in the pursuit of the LRA’s Joseph Kony, when in fact the most vicious period of LRA rampage are years behind? Why now when in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) worst atrocities occur daily; committed by militias far more brutal than the LRA, which were created and sustained by Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame. These two US-backed dictators have been able to siphon billions of dollars of Congo’s wealth by sponsoring mayhem – massacres, mass rapes, and mutilations – in the vast country through their allied militias. Rwanda still harbours one of the most sadistic of these killers, Laurent Nkunda.

Long considered one of Africa’s most brutal rebel groups, the LRA began its attacks in Uganda more than 20 years ago. But the rebels are at their weakest point in 15 years. Their forces are fractured and scattered, and the Ugandan military estimated earlier this year that only 200 to 400 fighters remain. In 2003 the LRA had 3,000 armed troops and 2,000 people in support roles. Their history is brutish, violent and criminal.

Uganda is divided into several ethnic areas. For much of its political and colonial history the political elite have been drawn from the South and Central areas of the country. During Uganda’s colonial period, the British encouraged political and economic development in the south of the country, as part of its divide and conquer policy, in particular among the Baganda. In contrast, the Acholi and other northern ethnic groups supplied much of the national manual labour and came to comprise a majority of the military, creating what some have called a ‘military ethnocracy’. The rise of Idi Amin delivered power to the North, mainly to the Acholis and Langas and the Southerners suffered. The North remained in power until the overthrow of Tito Okello regime in 1985, which came to a crashing end with the defeat of Okello and the Acholi-dominated army by the National Resistance Army led by now-President Yoweri Museveni in January 1986.

The Acholi are known to the outside world mainly because of the insurgency of the LRA led by Joseph Kony, an Acholi from Gulu. The activities of the LRA have been devastating within Acholiland (though they spread also to neighbouring districts and countries). In September 1996 the government of Uganda put in place a policy of forced displacement of the Acholi in the Gulu district into displacement camps. Since 1996 this policy has expanded to encompass the entire rural Acholi population of four districts – one million people. These camps have some of the highest mortality rates in the world with an estimated 1,000 people dying per week. The LRA has derived most of its support from the displaced and dominated Acholi people who have been driven from their homes and whose families remain in displacement camps.[7]

Joseph Kony (born 1961) is the head of the LRA. He has declared that the LRA will conduct a political, military and spiritual campaign to establish theocratic government based on the Ten Commandments in Uganda. The LRA say that God sent spirits to communicate this mission directly to Kony. The LRA has earned a reputation for its untrammelled violence against the people of several countries, including northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan. The LRA has abducted and forced an estimated 66,000 children to fight for them, and has also forced the internal displacement of over 2,000,000 people since its rebellion began in 1986. There were many international attempts at peace and an end to the abduction of children by the LRA between 1996 and 2001. All of them failed to end the abductions, rape, child soldiers, and civilian casualties including attacks on refugee camps. After the September 11th attacks, the United States declared the LRA a terrorist group and Joseph Kony a terrorist.[8]

On 6 October 2005, it was announced by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that arrest warrants had been issued for five members of the LRA for crimes against humanity following a sealed indictment. On the next day Ugandan defense minister Amama Mbabazi revealed that the warrants include Joseph Kony, his deputy Vincent Otti, and LRA commanders Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odiambo and Dominic Ongwen. On 28 August 2008, the US Treasury Department placed Kony on its list of ‘Specially Designated Global Terrorists’, a designation that carries financial and other penalties. In May 2010, US President Barack Obama signed into law the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act,[9] legislation aimed at stopping Kony and the LRA. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate on 11 March 2010 with 65 senators as co-sponsors, then passed unanimously in the House of Representatives on 13 May 2010 with 202 representatives as cosponsors.[10] In November 2010, Obama delivered a strategy document to Congress, asking for more money to disarm Kony and the LRA.

Following the breakdown of peace talks in late 2008, the National Security Council authorised AFRICOM to support a military operation (one of the first publicly-acknowledged AFRICOM operations) against the LRA, which was believed to be in the Congo at the time. AFRICOM provided training and US$1 million in financial support for ‘Operation Lightning Thunder’ – a joint endeavour of the Ugandan, Congolese and South Sudan forces in Congolese territory launched in December 2008 to ‘eliminate the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)’. According to the United Nations, the offensive ‘never consulted with partners on the ground on the requirements of civilian protection’. Stretching over a three-month period, it failed in its mission and the LRA scattered and retaliated against the Congolese population; over 1,000 people were killed and up to 200,000 displaced.

Despite the severe civilian casualties and the Ugandan government’s poor human rights record, Resolve Uganda, the Enough Project and Invisible Children have been lobbying Congress for a renewed military operation to help the Ugandan government ‘finish the job’. ‘Given the close US relationship with key actors in “Operation Lightning Thunder” – in particular Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir – the United States is uniquely placed to support better targeted military efforts,’ wrote Enough and Resolve Uganda in a joint policy brief in January 2009.

In October 2011, Obama authorised the deployment of approximately 100 combat-equipped US troops to central Africa. They will help regional forces ‘remove from the battlefield’ Joseph Kony and senior LRA leaders. ‘Although the US forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense,’ Obama said in a letter to Congress.

There is no doubt that the LRA is a vicious, sociopathic organisation which engages in brutal behaviour. However, the people who are fighting the LRA have committed and continue to commit equally outrageous crimes and attacks of a similar nature, especially among the displaced wanderers of the Eastern Congo, but are feted and rewarded by the US Government for their willingness to provide mercenaries for the US War on Terror and the protection of the newly emerging oil industry in their countries. Unfortunately, the area in which the LRA conduct their atrocities is exactly where major new finds of oil have been discovered.

A brief timeline of developments in Uganda may assist in understanding the role of Yoweri Museveni and his brother, Gen Salim Saleh, especially in their wars against the DRC.

1962: Uganda gained independence from Britain, maintaining membership of the Commonwealth.
1966: Milton Obote becomes President of Uganda under the UPC.
1971: Obote is overthrown in a coup led by his military protégé Idi Amin.
1976: Amin declares himself President for life.
1979: Amin is toppled by a coalition of Ugandan rebels and Tanzanian troops.
1980: Obote wins elections and is once again President of Uganda.
1985: Obote is deposed and replace by General Tito Okello.
1986: Okello is deposed by the National Resistance Army (NRA), led by Yoweri Museveni. Museveni is declared President. Late 1980s: LRA is formed and begins rebellion against Ugandan government.
1996: Museveni wins presidential election with 75 per cent of vote.
1997: Ugandan troops support Laurent Kabila and help depose Mobutu Sese Seko of Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire).
1998: Ugandan troops intervene again in DR Congo, this time in support of rebels seeking to overthrow Kabila.
2001: Museveni again wins Presidential elections, this time with 69 per cent of the vote.
2002: ‘Operation Iron Fist’ is launched by Museveni aimed at wiping out the LRA for good.
2002: Government signs peace deal with Uganda National Rescue Front.
2003: Ugandan troops pull out of Eastern DR Congo.
2004: Government and LRA hold first face-to-face peace talks.
2005 (July): Presidential term limits are abolished. Results of a referendum are overwhelmingly supportive of a return to multi-party politics.
2005 (October): ICC issues arrest warrants for five LRA commanders, including Joseph Kony.
2005 (December): International Court of Justice in the Hague finds Uganda guilty of violating the sovereignty of DRC and orders them to pay compensation.
2006 (February): Museveni wins multi-party elections with 59 per cent of the vote, defeating Kizza Besigye, who receives 37 per cent of the vote.
2006 (August): LRA declares ceasefire, further peace talks are held throughout 2006 and 2007.
2008: LRA and government sign permanent ceasefire in February, in Sudan, however Joseph Kony fails to attend the signing of a peace agreement in November.
2008 (December): Uganda, DRC and Sudan launch joint military offensive against LRA rebels in DRC.
2009 (January): The LRA appeals for a ceasefire and in March Ugandan forces begin to withdraw from DRC.
2009 (December): Uganda prepares to send 4,000 more soldiers to Somalia. This follows a decision by the UN Security Council to increase the number of peacekeepers supporting the transitional government against al-Qaida-inspired rebels from 8,000 to 12,000.
2009 (December): According to a Wikileaks cable; the US told Uganda to let it know when the army was going to commit war crimes using American intelligence – but did not try to dissuade it from doing so, the US embassy cables suggest.
2010 (February): The anti-homosexuality bills and campaigns which propose to execute those caught in homosexual acts are continually and heatedly discussed in Uganda and the rest of Africa.
2010 (May): A proposed government bill which allegedly severely curbs press freedoms is debated.
2010 (11 July): At least 74 people were killed in the twin bombings in Kampala. The Somali Islamist movement al-Shabaab today took responsibility for the bombings.
2011 (February): Museveni wins another term in the February elections with 68 per cent of the vote, causing the opposition to declare the elections unfair after claims of voter bribery.[11]

While the US lobby groups characterise LRA leader, Joseph Kony, as the spoiler who refused to sign a final peace deal, they fail to acknowledge that the Ugandan government itself has not yet signed the agreement. President Museveni has consistently thwarted peace efforts (1985, 1994, 2003) when he sensed that they did not serve his interests, which centre primarily on maintaining power. He has used his close ties to Washington to build and maintain a favourable image, hiring the DC lobby firm The Whitaker Group (TWG) to do his bidding. Between November 2006 and June 2007, Museveni paid the firm US$75,000 to publicise the government’s commitment to peace. Jendayi E. Frazer, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under Bush, now works for TWG under a US$1 million contract with the Ugandan Ministry of Finance. In an August 2009 Wall Street Journal editorial entitled ‘Four Ways to Help Africa’, she called on President Obama to ‘galvanize US efforts to end the militia violence of Rwandan and Ugandan rebel groups still operating in the Congo.’ As a paid consultant for the Ugandan government, Ms Frazer is clearly suggesting Museveni’s preference for a military solution.[13]

In Acholiland, the heart of the conflict in northern Uganda, where the ethnic Acholi people have suffered attacks from both the LRA and the government’s army, the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative expressed strong concerns about the military component of the bill and called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. ‘We applaud the commitment of the bill [in the US Congress”> to bring about stability and development in the region,’ said the leaders in June 2009. ‘However, we as the Acholi religious leaders whose primary concern is the preservation of human life, advocate for dialogue and other non-violent strategies to be employed so that long term sustainable peace may be realised.’

THE RISE OF THE OIL BUSINESS

In 2009 Heritage Oil discovered oil in Uganda. The head of Heritage Oil is Anthony Leslie Rowland Buckingham, with an estimated £565m fortune. He’s also a former mercenary provider who hates being called a mercenary. In the 1990s he was a ‘security consultant’ and partner of private military provider Executive Outcomes. Executive Outcomes was founded in South Africa by Eeben Barlow, a former lieutenant-colonel of the South African Defence Force. The company claimed to provide military support to officially recognised governments only – or acted for corporations with the approval of these governments. Mr Buckingham is also a former associate of Simon Mann – the mercenary and heir to the Watney Mann brewing fortune who was jailed for more than 34 years for leading an attempt to oust Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the president of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. He was granted a presidential pardon on humanitarian grounds in November 2009.[14]

Heritage sold off its oil interests in Uganda the next year and made £84m from selling Heritage’s oil its fields in Uganda to rival Tullow Oil for $1.45bn (£930m). Having offloaded its stakes in the Lake Albert fields, Heritage declared it would not be paying $404m capital gains tax due on the deal. Buckingham then cleared his men out of Uganda with military precision, leaving the problem for Tullow. Tullow had sold 30 per cent of its interest to a consortium of Total and China CNOOC, which has been blocked by the Ugandan authorities. The Ugandans have seized as ransom a field now owned by Tullow – the Kingfisher discovery area – and vowed to keep it until the tax bill is settled. No decisions have been made but the Ugandans have refused arbitration. The size of the Albert Graven discovery has proven to be much bigger than originally thought. The Ugandans are re-doing their oil code before the end of the year, upping their take on the oil revenues, and are preparing to allow more foreign oil companies to participate in the exploration. According to reports, Ugandan lawmakers opened debate on a motion to compel the government to stay the approval of the $2.9 billion sale of two-thirds of its stakes in Block 1, 2, and 3A.

The latest debate is still focused on tax disputes and graft allegations claiming that Tullow made extraneous payments to Ugandan government officials to sway key decisions in its favour. Tullow has vigorously denied the allegations. A vote on whether to delay the sale and for a moratorium on all new petroleum deals until a petroleum law has been enacted is currently before Ugandan lawmakers. The Ugandan lawmakers have voted to dismiss Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, foreign affairs minister, Sam Kutesa and internal affairs Minister Hillary Onek because of corruption. Museveni has told the Parliament that the documents proving the graft are ‘forgeries’ but they do not believe him. Moreover the Parliament is voting, despite party lines, against the Museveni efforts to take a personal share in the oil revenue. His suspension of term limits and the farce of the election in February have irritated many. He is under a great deal of pressure from his own party, not the LRA.

A wealthy official like Kutesa, who claims innocence, is inevitably named in most corruption exposes as is Mbabazi, who is widely despised but retains Museveni’s favour. Whatever the case might be, and even if the documents were forged, there seems to be agreement that money changed hands. Some experts say these bribery scandals are the inevitable result of competition among the various oil companies looking to invest in Uganda, one of which is the Italian firm ENI. Although it won no contract with the government, it made news for its willingness to give incentives to Ugandan officials in exchange for a deal. Defending himself against the allegation in a WikiLeaks cable that ENI bribed him, Museveni said he had personally vetoed the ‘small’ Italian firm because a bigger company from China was on the horizon. Still, it has been said that well-connected officials in Museveni’s circle were bribed to act as fronts for foreign oil companies or to peddle their influence with the president.[15]

Underpinning the Western interest in the region is the discovery of oil in Uganda and Mozambique, which have similar geological structures to Kenya, provoking interest by major foreign oil for exploration. In its latest report, ‘A Dash for Gas and Oil in East Africa’, Citi Group noted, ‘We have seen an acceleration in industry activity recently with multiple seismic programs being acquired, more intensive drilling campaigns planned over the next 12 months, and continued deal activity. Total also recently agreed on a farm-in with Anadarko and Cove for five offshore blocks, which highlights the interest of large-cap oil in the region. We see continued interest from the larger players to gain access to the region with a number of smaller players establishing interesting acreage positions.’

So despite the fact that Museveni has provided many of his troops as mercenaries in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and received hundreds of millions of dollars from the US Treasury for his efforts, the Uganda people are turning against him. The oil issue has become key in this dispute. Despite being a ruthless and corrupt dictator the US has decided to anoint his head with oil; perhaps hoping that Museveni will share the oil with the US. The situation with the LRA will never be solved militarily. It may be done through negotiations. The problem is that the US, throughout its history in Africa, has never actually tried diplomacy. If your only weapon is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* This article first appeared on Ocnus.net.
* Dr Gary Busch is editor and publisher of the web-based news journal of international relations, www.ocnus.net.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

NOTES:

[1] Lauren Ploch, Africa Command: US strategic Interests and the Role of the Military in Africa, Congressional Research Service. 16 November 2010.
[2] Richard Grimmett, Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad 1798-2009 (CRS 2010).
[3] Source: Prof. James Petras, Global Research, 16 April 2011
[4] The White House, National Security Strategy of the United States (September 2002).
[5] Lauren Ploch, op cit esp pp19-25.
[6] Wayne Madsen, Africom, Opednews 3/1/08
[7] Branch, A. 2008. Against Humanitarian Impunity: Rethinking Responsibility for Displacement and Disaster in Northern Uganda. Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 2(2): 151-173
[8] Philip T. Reeker (December 6, 2001). ‘Statement on the Designation of 39 Organizations on the USA PATRIOT Act’s Terrorist Exclusion List’. US Department of State.
[9]’LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009’. Resolve Uganda. 24 May 2010.
[10] Kavanagh, Michael J. (25 November 2010). ‘Obama Administration Asks for Funds to Boost Uganda’s Fight Against Rebels’. Bloomberg.
[11] Uganda Conflict Profile, Peace Direct 9/11/09
[13] US legislation authorises military action against the LRA in Uganda, Samar Al-Bulushi, Pambazuka News 28/2/10
[14] Tony Buckingham, chief executive of Heritage Oil, Garry White, Telegraph 26/1/11
[15] Ugandan Parliament Blocks Foreign Oil Deals Amid Corruption Controversy, Rodney Muhumuza, Think Africa 14 October 2011

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