January 2012

  • U.S. Government Lends More Hands To Help Fight Against LRA Humanitarian Crisis

    63089222She came into the meeting room, in front of important ministers, intelligence chiefs, permanent secretaries and other government people, to forgive him. Though his soldiers had cut her lips off, she was still prepared to offer the ultimate act of charity—to absolve him of this mutilation—for the possibility of peace.

    But Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed profit and leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, never showed.

    The government of Uganda had brought her to the 2006 peace talks along with its most important military and civilian leaders to show how serious they were about ending the decades of terror the LRA had been enacting on the villages in the north of the country.

    It turned out that Kony had only agreed to take part in the long peace process so that he could rest, rearm, and regroup his fighters.

    “To see this woman with no lips was really heartbreaking,” said ACSS community member, Colonel Leopold Kyanda, who took part in the failed peace talks as Uganda’s Chief of Military Intelligence and who is now the country’s defense attaché in Washington, D.C. “For the rest of her life anything—dust, wind, bugs—could get into her mouth and she won’t be able to stop it. Kony did that and she was still willing to forgive him.”

    The LRA has spread terror through Central Africa for more than two decades. Its weapons of choice against men, women, and children: driving villagers from their homes and burning their communities to the ground, hacking body parts, and torturing, killing, enslaving, and raping innocent people. LRA commanders force little boys to kill other little boys. They give some of the abducted little girls to Sudanese arms dealers who supply their weapons. Others are traded or sold. Kony himself is reported to have taken 60 as “wives.” Those who commit the atrocities are the group’s previous victims—abducted children forced to bury their own humanity.

    U.S. officials following the LRA say that the gang is one of Africa’s oldest, most persistent, and most violent groups—a distinction of infamy on a continent littered with ethnic fighting, terrorists, and separatists. Group members, themselves abductees, have  taken an estimated 66,000 children from villages in Northern Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Those children are forced into labor as fighters and sex slaves.

    Since 1988, when former Catholic altar boy and Acholi tribe member Kony founded the LRA, the group has displaced some 440,000 people from their homes. It has killed nearly 1,000 people since 2009, according to the NGO Invisible Children, and killed or maimed tens of thousands in its time.

    Kony launched the LRA in Northern Uganda from the ashes of his aunt’s insurgent Holy Spirit Movement and his own Uganda Christian Democratic Army, combining cultish spiritual rites and military organization.

    He tells his young abductees that he receives instructions directly from the Holy Spirit. He quotes scripture and requires strict adherence to rules and rituals to reinforce his image as a spirit medium connected to divine beings. His aunt, Alice Auma Lakwena, a former prostitute and founder of the Holy Spirit Movement, authored some of the LRA’s current rituals when she led the now-defunct organization, like anointment with “holy oil” to protect group members from the bullets of government soldiers.

    "When you go to fight you make the sign of the cross first. If you fail to do this, you will be killed," a young LRA escapee told Human Rights Watch. "You must also take oil and draw a cross on your chest, your forehead, and each shoulder, and you must make a cross in oil on your gun. They say that the oil is the power of the Holy Spirit."

    Kony’s initial professed goal for the organization was to overthrow the government in Kampala and install another based on the Bible’s Ten Commandments. He said that such a victory would usher forth an era of peace and a purification of his Acholi people. He found a friend in the Sudanese government, which provided funds and a safe haven for the LRA as part of its proxy war against the Ugandan government.

    Over time, military victories by Ugandan forces have weakened the group, driving down a core of hardened fighters from as many as 3,000 to the current estimated number of no more than 200.

    In its latest campaign against the group that began in 2008, the Uganda People’s Defense Forces have killed 450 LRA fighters and captured 69, while they have also rescued 820 abductees. As of October 2011, the UPDF reports, elements of the LRA have dissolved into parts of Uganda’s northern forest, and have scaled back activities in neighboring countries.

    But under continuous pressure, Kony changed his tactics to become harder to find or capture. Ugandan authorities released that Kony is the LRA’s center of gravity, and focused their operations on him. As a result, he moved his operations and bases out of Northern Uganda and into neighboring nations. The group currently ranges in a densely forested and inaccessible area about the size of California that encompasses the borders of Uganda, the DRC, the CAR, and South Sudan.

    “He goes into a place, kills people, then scatters,” said Kyanda. “When you take 200 people who are operating like this, and who aren’t holding ground, it becomes very difficult to seek and destroy them.”

    Kyanda added that the LRA now operates in an area that has few roads, infrastructure, or government authorities. “It’s not that they are such a big force, it’s because of the terrain and lack of government. Even if they were confined to a smaller area, under these conditions it would be difficult to track them down.”

    The heinousness of the LRA’s crimes have slowly garnered the world’s attention and the international community has been building consensus to demand an end to the group’s operations on humanitarian and regional stability grounds. The International Criminal Court indicted Kony in 2005 on war crimes charges. The U.S. Congress enacted the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 to help eliminate the organization and to rebuild from the destruction it has caused. Extending from that authorization, in October 2011 President Barack Obama sent 100 military personnel to advise Uganda and the other countries dealing with the LRA on how to dismantle the group. In November 2011, the African Union formally declared the LRA a terrorist group.

    Now the final push is on to rid Central Africa of the scourge. U.S. Special Forces soldiers have set up camps in the CAR and South Sudan near established Ugandan bases being used to hunt the LRA’s leaders, who move between countries to evade capture. The American soldiers, whose mandate is to provide training and technical support, have begun teaching the Ugandans needed skills—showing them on Dec. 6 how to package supplies for airdrops to frontline troops in remote and roadless areas. A majority of U.S. personnel are expected to work inside Uganda and have been told to fire their weapons only in self-defense.

    Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, said AFRICOM is developing the concepts underpinning the U.S. part of the operation and coordinating with the Ugandans and other governments in the fight.

    He told members of South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies that AFRICOM would work “to understand what the realities are with the LRA—what its impact is, how it operates, where its point of vulnerability might be, and to develop a plan by which U.S. assets—and in this case we're talking about a small number of special forces soldiers—go in to advise the Ugandan military, as well as the militaries of South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the DRC.”

    Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said the deployment is a continuation of the assistance the United States has been providing the region to deal with the LRA.

    “The LRA will use any reduction in military or political pressure to regroup and rearm,” Carson said during a Dec. 7 seminar on the group held at the U.S. Institute of Peace. “We made the strategic decision to continue to provide logistic support on condition that they remain focused on the mission and do not commit their own abuses. This deployment is focused on the LRA and the LRA alone.”

    Carson said the mounting pressure has already started paying dividends, with thousands of women and children being released from the LRA’s ranks in the last two months.

    Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.), Director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, said the fight against the LRA strikes him as remarkable in a number of ways. He said that there is a near universal belief that a military component is required to solve the problem. Also, the arrival of U.S. troops has been met with a “remarkable” degree of warmth by the population under siege.

    “There are not too many good precedents to use in describing this situation,” Bellamy said at the same seminar. “Whatever we decide to call it, this is an armed humanitarian mission.”

    Bellamy said success would require a sustained diplomatic mission, legitimacy imparted by African Union leadership, and structures to receive demobilized fighters and returning abductees.

    “We do have an overriding national interest, when we have a plausible role to play, in this type of humanitarian crisis,” Bellamy said.

    Those in the region are tired of the protracted war with Kony and his brainwashed followers, who will be damaged for life even if they are saved from the LRA’s clutches.

    “Even normal soldiers need to go through a transition out of service, otherwise they will be traumatized,” Kyanda said. “Kony goes into these villages with inhabitants who have never traveled more than 40 miles away from their homes and brutalizes them, mentally and physically. He makes them cut other people up and boil their parts in pots. We want to see an end to this completely."

  • Zimbabwe’s Unsavory Path to Peace -

    zim_protestNew York Times OP-ED by Alexander Noyes, research assistant at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.
  • New Solutions Sought During International Workshop in Rwanda to Tackle Youth Radicalization


    Rwanda_Group_2012wClick here to view photos from this event.

    The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) held opening ceremonies on Monday, January 23, 2012, in Kigali, Rwanda, for its weeklong workshop on preventing youth radicalization in East Africa. The event brings together 47 participants from African countries, the United States, Europe, and civil society groups to explore solutions to the challenge. Attendees are developing plans for a regional network of youth organizations to counter radicalization and considering how best to address the problem during presentations and panel discussions.

    Attendees include 27 government representatives from 11 African nations, 10 participants from African civil society groups, 9 U.S. government representatives, and 1 U.K. government delegate. East African youth leaders make up the workshop’s primary civil society participants and guest speakers.

    Welcome remarks by Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.), Director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies


    During his opening remarks, Karl E. Wycoff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs,  said there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to countering youth radicalization in Africa. He said the key to solving the problem would be found in people reaching across borders to work together.

    “There is ample room for African nations to work together among themselves and with international partners in specific ways that all recognize as necessary and valuable,” Wycoff said. “After all, the terrorists and those who promote violent extremism act regionally and globally.”

    Opening remarks by Karl E. Wycoff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs

    [caption id="attachment_16841" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Ambassador William M. Bellamy and General Carter F. Ham"]Bellamy_Ham_2012w.jpg[/caption]

    The workshop’s opening speeches included remarks from a number of notable officials concerned with extremism taking root among young Africans. Ambassador William M. Bellamy, ACSS Director; H.E. Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra, African Union Special Representative of the Chairperson of the Commission for Somalia; General Carter F. Ham, U.S. AFRICOM Commander; and The Honorable Jean Philibert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s Minister of Youth, all spoke about the importance of engaging young Africans to counter extremism.

    Remarks by General Carter F. Ham, U.S. AFRICOM Commander

    Workshop attendees are assessing the political, socioeconomic, and cultural drivers that enable violent extremists to recruit new members, find community support, and operate in East Africa. Recommendations coming from the workshop will include ideas from young people in attendance and will build on contemporary approaches that consider limited resources on the continent.

    Wycoff said that traditional defense and security-sector approaches are not going to counter the allure of extremist groups looking to recruit young Africans.

    Remarks by The Honorable Jean Philibert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s Minister of Youth

    [caption id="attachment_16868" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The Honorable Jean Philibert Nsengimana, Ambassador William M. Bellamy and Karl E. Wycoff"]Nsengimana_Bellamy_Wycoff_2012w[/caption]

    “Military power, intelligence operations, and law enforcement alone will not solve the long-term challenges we face, the challenges that push and pull young people around the world toward violent extremism,” he said. “More force is not going to prevent young men and women from embracing violence as a solution to political and social problems. They need viable alternatives to channel their frustrations, satisfy their ambitions and to challenge injustices using peaceful means. A lot more work remains to be done, and this is where we are now focusing much of our effort.”

    ACSS is the pre-eminent institution for strategic security studies, research, and outreach in Africa. The Africa Center engages African partner states and institutions through rigorous academic and outreach programs that build strategic capacity and foster long-term, collaborative relationships. Over the past 13 years, more than 4,500 African and international leaders have participated in ACSS programs.

    Remarks by H.E. Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra, African Union Special Representative of the Chairperson of the Commission for Somalia (in French)

    ACSS Workshop on Preventing Youth Radicalization in East Africa. Welcome Reception  - Remarks for DAS Karl Wycoff [PDF] January 23, 2012, at 9:00 am

  • Africa Center Releases New Publication on Militaries and Democratic Transitions

    Mauritania_military-wAfrica’s security services continue to hold outsized influence over political developments on the continent. This lags other shifting trends in Africa, where political changes and democratic transitions are occurring with greater frequency – often catching the security sector off guard and forcing it into compromising dilemmas, warns Dr. Matt Houngnikpo, ACSS academic chair for civil-military relations, in the latest Africa Security Brief, “Africa’s Militaries: A Missing Link in Democratic Transitions.” African militaries are often involved in a variety of political and economic matters far beyond the realm of national security. Regularly this is due to the direct intervention of the security sector, whose leaders may hold political offices or appointments or run large businesses. Military coups still occur, and “creeping coup” strategies that seek to steadily erode the authorities and influence of Africa’s parliaments, election management bodies, and civil society organizations are increasingly common. The politicization of the armed forces is also frequently driven by civilian leaders who co-opt the security sector so as to suppress political opposition and maintain power. Regardless of how it occurs, the consequences of the military’s intervention in politics are never positive – neither for the armed forces nor society as a whole. Perpetuating illegitimate governance practices tends to exacerbate instability and tempt crises.  By acting to protect or uphold an incumbent regime, the security sector discredits itself and undermines its role and reputation when transitions do occur. Politicization also complicates the security sector’s ability to modernize and serve effectively. Without clear accountability and checks and balances, security sector leaders are more likely find themselves beholden to outdated governance modes amid Africa’s shifting political landscape. The remedy is that African security services, governments, and other international partners must all work to institutionalize proper democratic civilian oversight of the armed forces. While some security leaders might interpret this as an infringement on the purview of the security sector, strengthening oversight frees the military from unwanted manipulation and can improve its ability to plan, prepare, and deploy when needed. Democratic oversight of the security services can be difficult to realize, but the benefits to regional, national, and human security that accrue from it are substantial and long lasting. Dr. Mathurin C. Houngnikpo is the Academic Chair of Civil-Military Relations in the Africa Center for Strategic Studies and the author of Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa (Ashgate, 2010).
  • Ask the Expert: New ACSS Scholar Talks Security Sector Reform

    TomDempsey2U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) Thomas Dempsey recently arrived at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) as the new Assistant Professor for Security Studies. He leads ACSS’ Security Sector Reform (SSR) Program, the center’s newest endeavor to help African partners develop innovative solutions to complex security-sector problems.

    According to a working paper jointly authored by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the departments of State and Defense, SSR involves reform efforts in foreign countries that are directed at the institutions, processes, and forces that provide security and promote the rule of law. It is an effort being undertaken by the United States and major donor countries, along with the UN and other international organizations, to assist partner governments to provide effective, legitimate, and accountable security for their citizens.

    A leading expert on the complexities of SSR in Africa, Dempsey answers questions about reform and ACSS’ contributions to solving the continent’s most pressing security sector challenges.

    "...there are things that we can learn from our African partners—there is a lot of expertise there on collaboration between military and police forces, especially in austere and challenging operational environments."

    Q: How do you define SSR?

    DEMPSEY: SSR is about how a state provides a variety of security services to its citizens. During the Cold War, when the defense community talked about national security, it was about defense and military affairs. Either you were with the Western democracies or you were with the Soviet Union and its client states. Democratic regimes were very much in the minority outside of the West. Then the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Cold War ended. These events allowed the transition to functional democracies around the world—in Eastern Europe and Latin America, for example. You’ve also seen progress in Asia and Africa, although to a lesser extent. With that transition, there has also been a change in the definition of national security, broadening its focus from the defense and military sectors to include how the state provides policing services and justice, whether people can get jobs, whether they have access to education and adequate health care. This creates a much broader definition of security under a term generally called “human security.” From this evolving definition, SSR emerges at the end of the 1990s. It’s a new way of how major donors provide security assistance to partner states, especially those emerging from conflict. It is a shift away from “train-and-equip” approaches, focused on how well the soldier or policeman can shoot, towards why are they shooting in the first place, and to whom that guy with a gun is accountable.

    Q: What is the purpose of SSR?

    DEMPSEY: SSR is designed to improve the way a government provides safety, security, and justice to its citizens. The objective is to provide these services in a way that promotes an effective and legitimate public service. SSR has a strong normative component—a country’s security apparatus must respect human rights and the rule of law, it must be transparent, accountable to civilian authority, and responsive to the needs of the public. This is how we define what any security sector in the world—including ours—ought to look like and how it should function.

    Q: Who are the main proponents of SSR?

    DEMPSEY: Every state has a vested interest in improving how it provides security to its citizens. External partners like the United States share that interest, and have become important stakeholders in designing and implementing SSR programs. This is especially true in Africa, where SSR has become a major component of development assistance efforts.

    Q: What are the largest obstacles to implementing SSR?

    DEMPSEY: We need to develop more effective and affordable ways and means to implement SSR across the security sector. Most needed, in my view, are better approaches for reforming policing and justice functions, and strengthening the rule of law; these sectors are among the least developed in the current SSR toolkit. We have a much better grasp of how to rebuild a military than of how to rebuild a police force or a justice system. Expenditures on security have tended to be weighted heavily to defense and military, with police and justice systems being correspondingly underfunded. We don’t have a very good grasp of some of SSR's technical aspects. How should we sequence SSR activities? Do you have to address the need for security from military threats before you address basic issues of governance, or restore police services? Which takes priority? How do you replace or transform existing security forces in post-conflict or transitioning states? What should the relationship be between SSR and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former fighters? How do you balance existing traditional or customary justice practices with formal, codified legal systems?

    Q: What countries in Africa are most in need of SSR?

    DEMPSEY: I think every country in Africa has a need to continually assess its own security sector to identify where it can do a better job serving the needs of its people. That is a debate that we have in the United States on a recurring basis, sometimes leading to major reforms of our own security system. What priority SSR should receive, when funds are limited and there are other competing demands on the state’s resources, is a key issue that needs to be addressed by the executive and legislative branches of every nation. It is one of the reasons that governments craft national security strategies and policies.

    Q: Where is it happening now?

    DEMPSEY: I think SSR programs are underway, to a greater or lesser extent, across the continent. Priorities differ, and the level of resourcing varies significantly from country to country. I do believe, based on my discussions with our ACSS African alumni, that SSR is increasingly viewed as an essential component of development in the African context.

    Q: What does it look like when it is being implemented?

    DEMPSEY: It will look different in every situation depending on what’s needed. Most of the people who would be able to answer what it looks like would be inside the host nation, all the way down to local communities. It’s not just the national government that is involved, it’s also external actors who are stakeholders and who are providing resources and expertise, local officials and police who are actually responsible for delivering services, and the local communities who are the recipients of those services—the security sector “customers.” Building consensus across that diverse collection of stakeholders is a challenge.

    Q: What can the U.S. and other major donors provide to countries in need of SSR?

    DEMPSEY: The United States is only one player. Our ability to affect change is very limited. SSR is very labor- and capital-intensive. It needs lots of players and lots of donors. One thing we can all do, including our African partners, is equip our military forces and police officers, our diplomatic corps, and our technical development advisors with a better toolkit to generate desired SSR outcomes more quickly and at more affordable costs. We can help our partners in Africa develop better mousetraps.

    Q: How is SSR connected to U.S. national security strategy?

    DEMPSEY: SSR is an integral component of U.S. approaches to engagement with our foreign partners.  The Statement on Security Sector Reform, issued jointly by our Department of Defense, Department of State, and U.S. Agency for International Development in 2009, clearly articulates the role of SSR in pursuing key elements of our National Security Strategy. With our partners, we confront increasingly complex threats that require us to address the linkages between security, governance, development, and conflict. SSR is designed to do just that.

    Q: During presentations, you describe the rule of law as the rules of the road while SSR is the driver education course. Does the nature of the relationship between the two ever go in the reverse, where SSR requires changes to the way a country implements the rule of law? Have you ever seen SSR reveal fundamental shortcomings in the way a government operates?

    DEMPSEY: Absolutely. In too many cases, rule of law doesn’t drive the train; but without it, the security sector loses its direction and legitimacy. Accountability, transparency, and legitimacy derive in fundamental ways from rule of law. Where SSR assessments reveal fundamental rule-of-law deficits, technical improvements in military and police capabilities frequently do not contribute to better outcomes, and in some cases can lead to negative consequences for citizens and the state itself. But people are starting to get that now. They are realizing that the solution to a lot of problems is the police, not the army. And we’re slowly starting to realize that it isn’t just the police, but the justice system, and the rule of law. Don’t get me wrong, they still have a paucity of resources in terms of building police and justice system capabilities, but we are moving in the right direction. In Colombia, for instance, the way the Colombian government got it right was by realizing that their justice system didn’t work. With our help, they went and tore it down and then rebuilt it. Strengthening rule of law as a precursor to comprehensive SSR proved to be a winning combination for them. On the other hand, when you’ve got people shooting each other in the street, the rule of law isn’t on anybody’s mind. High levels of organized violence need to be addressed with military force, not police force. But once the military has dealt with that threat, how do you pull police and the justice system back into it? You need to get police and the military at the same table to talk. That’s something that ACSS is good at.

    Q: What are your hopes for the new SSR program at ACSS?

    DEMPSEY: I have worked with the Africa Center on many occasions since its founding and I regard it as the premier African studies academic organization in the United States. Our African stakeholders are ahead of us on thinking about SSR. On the continent, you’ll see senior police at defense meetings. Meanwhile, ACSS is reaching out to start tapping into U.S. expertise and bringing these people to the table. The U.S. law enforcement community is the best in the world. We can bring that to the table. And there are things that we can learn from our African partners—there is a lot of expertise there on collaboration between military and police forces, especially in austere and challenging operational environments. ACSS promotes that type of substantive discussion with expert practitioners, crossing functional (police, justice, and military), sectoral (public and private) and national lines. It is one of the things that differentiates the Africa Center from other players in the field. ACSS has already become known as a visionary center of excellence in the SSR field. It is a great example of where the most farsighted stakeholders in SSR are going. ACSS has moved the debate from focusing on the narrower national security interests to the broader topic of human security. So most of the heavy lifting has already been done. We have moved the program from the military realm to the SSR realm. I’m actually quite lucky coming into a program where lots of the work has already begun. Being selected as a member of ACSS permanent faculty is a great honor, and I look forward to being part of the team. Our focus for the coming months is in West Africa, where we will solicit input from our African partners about how to make SSR happen. ACSS goes where our African partners give us space to go. We bring a set of agendas, but they decide what they are interested in. Based on what I’ve seen so far, African partners across the board are interested in SSR, and those aspects of it that they feel are most important to their respective countries. Civil justice, law enforcement, investigations, border protection—I’m seeing a growing interest in all of these subjects. Eventually you’re going to have to get past seminars and produce hard deliverables and put best practices into play in the field. But ACSS is just the facilitator. Africans have to make their own decisions, and solve their own problems. I am confident that they are doing exactly that.

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