US Senator Defends US Troops in Central Africa

Posted October 17th, 2011 at 6:45 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

A U.S. senator who has long called for greater U.S. engagement in Africa is defending the deployment of 100 U.S. troops to central Africa to help fight a notorious guerrilla leader.

Senator James Inhofe said Monday the Lord's Resistance Army, and its leader, Joseph Kony, have for 25 years been oppressing people in Uganda, Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Inhofe called Kony a “monster” and a “maniac” and showed pictures of young men whose ears, noses, mouths and hands had been cut off when they refused to join the LRA.

A number of U.S. politicians and commentators have criticized President Barack Obama for sending the troops. Former presidential candidate John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sunday, warned it could be dangerous to get involved. He cited the October, 1993 killing of 19 U.S. soldiers who were tryinhg to help the federal government of Somalia fight an insurgency. Several of the soldiers were dragged through the streets of the capital Mogadishu.

But Inhofe says the U.S. troops in central Africa are explicitly forbidden from participating in any combat operations, and will advise and support the local forces well away from the fighting.

Inhofe also reminded the senators that they passed a law a year ago calling on the U.S. government to fight the LRA. The law called for the U.S. to provide political, economic, and intelligence assistance to help central African nations apprehend and remove Kony, to disarm and demobilize the LRA rebels, and to protect civilians from further attacks.

The Lord's Resistance Army is accused of killing, kidnapping and mutilating tens of thousands of people across central Africa during a campaign that began in the late 1980s. Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

President Obama informed Congress last week that he had authorized the contingent of U.S. forces to help remove Kony from the battlefield. He said the U.S. soldiers will not engage the rebels directly, except in self-defense.