The White House announced Friday that President Barack Obama will deploy 100 combat-equipped U.S. soldiers to central Africa to assist, train and provide intelligence in the fight against the Lord's Resistance Army. Obama expressed hope the LRA's leader, Joseph Kony, would be tracked down.
Although the U.S. 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 wrote in a letter to Congress.
Twelve U.S. military personnel were sent to Uganda Wednesday, the letter stated.
The LRA is a spiritual and militant rebel group in central Africa that has terrorized people there for over 20 years. It is accused of numerous human-rights violations, including murder, rape and kidnapping. The group has been known to kidnap young boys for its army and young girls for sex slavery.
It is unclear why Obama decided to deploy troops at this moment, and he gave no explanation for his timing. The LRA does not seem to pose any direct threat to U.S. security at this time. Obama's decision marks a pattern of intervention in African politics, following his involvement in Libya.
Obama also stated he does not need Congress' authorization for the deployment due to the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, which OK'd increased, comprehensive U.S. efforts to help mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA to civilians and regional stability.
The LRA was formed in 1987. Until 2007, the group was in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government. However, the organization is currently dispersed in smaller groups in the Central Africa Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
LRA leader Kony has achieved godlike status among his followers as a self-appointed messiah. Kony claims the group is fighting on behalf of the Christian 10 Commandments. He claims his demands come from the spirit world and are not to be questioned.
If you ever had any question if there was evil in this world, it's resident in the person of Joseph Kony and in that organization, the commander of U.S. forces in Africa, Gen. Carter Ham, said in a speech this month, Politico reported. Kony and his advisers are wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.
According to the LRA Crisis Tracker, there have been 137 confirmed civilian deaths and 509 abductions this year caused by the LRA. The group has allegedly enslaved around 66,000 children during its 20-year campaign.
Watch “Who is the LRA?” by the LRA Crisis Tracker: