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Obama Takes on the LRA
Why Washington Sent Troops to Central Africa
MAREIKE SCHOMERUS is Research Consortium Director of the Justice and Security Research Programme at the London School of Economics. TIM ALLEN is a professor in Development Anthropology at the London School of Economics, and KOEN VLASSENROOT is a professor in the Conflict Research Group at the University of Ghent. They are part of the Justice and Security Research Programme, based at the LSE.See more by Mareike SchomerusSee more by Tim AllenSee more by Koen Vlassenroot
As a United Nations staffer said recently, while attending an internal briefing on the Lord's Resistance Army, the violent central African rebel group, earlier this fall, "November is LRA month." Indeed, the LRA and its notorious leader, Joseph Kony, are suddenly everywhere: several non-governmental organizations have held advocacy briefings about it at the United Nations, and the Security Council met on November 14 to discuss them. Meanwhile, journalists in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere are suddenly seized with the mission of finding out what is really happening on the ground in central Africa.
Two events underlie the renewed interest. First, in October, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that he would be sending "combat-equipped troops" on a kill-or-capture mission to take out Kony. Second, on November 2, Hollywood released Machine Gun Preacher, a movie billed as the true story of an American missionary's Rambo-esque crusade against the LRA. Curiosity about the events depicted in the film will soon subside, if early reviews are anything to go by, but Obama's decision, which he pitched to the American public as a dramatic new development, is another matter.