The Not So Invisible Children: Nkrumah’s Lesson & the Invasion of Uganda

A Chadian Child Soldier

As this country currently occupies a series of sovereign territories from Afghanistan to Iraq, the reach of the military superpower that is the United States has extended to the lands of Eastern Africa. On October 14, 2011 President Obama wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House that he has “authorized a small number of combat-equipped U.S. forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield.” According to this letter, Joseph Kony, leader of the  East African-based Lord’s Resistance Army, has been the bane of US policy makers because “for more than two decades, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has murdered, raped, and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women, and children in central Africa”, crimes that have had adverse effects on Uganda’s “regional security.”

This pretext for military intervention would carry some measure of legitimacy if not for the voluminous record of US support for international crimes, crimes that reveal in explicit terms the utter hypocrisy of these  allegations. Take for example a Wikileaks cable released in December of 2010 which made clear US complicity in possible war crimes in Uganda. This cable, authored by the US ambassador to Uganda, Jerry Lanier, stated “Uganda understands the need to consult with the U.S. in advance if the [Ugandan army] intends to use U.S.-supplied intelligence to engage in operations not [governed] by the law of armed conflict.” It is made transparent in the full text of this leaked document that these operations “not [governed] by the law of armed conflict” were not, in the least bit, discouraged by the US ambassador, illustrative of a tacit approval of war crimes. On top of all this the BBC reports that the “president did not consult with Congress on the decision to [send] troops to Uganda”,  seriously calling into question the substance of his “constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.”

Kwame Nkrumah

Today’s announcement of a US troop commitment obscures the fact that the United States military has been aiding and abetting conflict in Uganda since 2009. An internal state document dated January 14, 2010 with the  subject line UGANDA: CONTINUED U.S. SUPPORT FOR ANTI-LRA EFFORTS CRITICAL states that “Since October 2009, U.S. assistance totaling $4.4 million has provided the Ugandan People’s Defense Force (UPDF) with logistical and mobility support.” This logistical and mobility support, under the moniker Operation Lightning Thunder, has been key in US efforts to “sustain the success of Ugandan operations since October 2009, and enabling the UPDF to reach Kony as he retreats northward through CAR.”

Of all the reports I have read on this latest adventure of the global hegemon, I find it alarmingly strange how no one has made clear a plausible rationale for this intervention. It’s certainly not the LRA’s use of child soldiers as our commander in chief has made it disturbingly obvious that the imperatives of weapon contractors will always override that of an East African child, even if that child is facing the prospects of a bullet in the head. In case this was glossed over in our incompetent excuse for a free press, on October 25, 2010 President Obama issued a memorandum on the Child Soldiers Prevention Act stating that “it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application to Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA.” So it is in the national interest for a 8 year old Ugandan child to have his brains splattered all over the East African plains in a hail of gunfire? Serious people should find it impossible not to laugh as this coward of a man gives speeches extolling the importance of humanitarian values.

White, middle-class, liberals have long lamented the wretched predicament of Ugandan child soldiers as portrayed in Jason Russell’s 2003 documentary Invisible Children. It will be quite instructive to see how these young adults react now that it has been made apparent that their own government has pledged to actively participate in this mass slaughter of the young. Unlike the suffering in Darfur, these killings will carry “legal consequences.”

Well, mere moments after the President’s announcement these benevolent “humanitarians” made their objectives known. In an official statement from the Invisible Children group CEO, Ben Keesey, uncritically hails US militarism as “a huge victory for the hundreds of thousands of young Americans who have been lobbying Washington to take action against this brutal rebel group.” This deference to US power is not only incompatible with elementary precepts of law and order but flatly immoral in lieu of the untold horrors that military warfare has brought down upon the continent of Africa. In spite of this overwhelmingly Caucasian group’s assertion that “any reference to an invasion or new war by the United States is absolutely ridiculous”, I find their lack of critical thinking and intellectual honesty reflective of a culture captivated by the outworn myths of American exceptionalism.

Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni, First Lady Michele Obama, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, and President Barack Obama

I should add that President Obama repeated this fundamental rejection of human rights by waiving this act for a second time on October 4, 2011 in approximately the same language, excepting the fact that he also wanted to make known that he doesn’t give a damn about Yemeni children either. So now that it’s crystal clear that the US has jettisoned any semblance of respect for elementary principles of law and order: why invade Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo? A plausible answer to this question can be found in the writings of the West African revolutionary and first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah. In his landmark statement of African self-determination titled “I Speak of Freedom”, Nkrumah poignantly states that “although most Africans are poor, our continent is potentially extremely rich. Our mineral resources, which are being exploited with foreign capital only to enrich foreign investors, range from gold and diamonds to uranium and petroleum.” How prescient were these words when independent media outlets like Pambazuka publish an article mere hours before Obama’s announcement stating that “the discovery of oil in Uganda brightens an otherwise sombre picture, with inflation remaining an acute threat to food security” and that “coming into its own on the energy security front, Uganda may be seeing a fresh attempt by its political leadership to assert itself on the economic plane and, as a corollary, an unraveling of the consensus on democratic ideals.” The author of this article, Patrick Hoenig, goes on to write  that “a growing strand of analysis in Africa claims that western democracies have a tendency to use ‘aid, bribes, sanctions or open invasions’ in order ‘to push the democratic agenda on countries where other forms of leadership exist’ (Serunkuma, 2010).” In short, oil has once again served as a valuable bargaining chip for the powerful and a symbol of exploitation for the powerless.

This imperial arrogance on the part of the US, and the complicity of the Museveni government in nurturing this military alliance, paints a grim future not only for Uganda but for the whole of Africa. This is made apparent in an article by the Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations where he states that while the Ugandan army has received ample “assistance” from the US,  “the result was that the LRA dispersed into the neighboring countries of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and what is now South Sudan.” Lindsay goes on to write that the LRA is “creating instability in central Africa, instability that anti-American terrorist groups can and will exploit.” It’s wonderfully Orwellian that Lindsay completely ignores the fact that this instability is intimately linked with, if not a direct result of, the years of US instigation in Ugandan affairs.

In the concluding lines of Kwame Nkrumah’s appeal for African dignity he eloquently states that “the scant attention paid to African opposition to the French atomic tests in the Sahara, and the ignominious spectacle of the U.N. in the Congo quibbling about constitutional niceties while the Republic was tottering into anarchy, are evidence of the callous disregard of African Independence by the Great Powers. We have to prove that greatness is not to be measured in stockpiles of atom bombs.” This profound statement, highlighting a form of political solidarity that rises above the barbaric machinery of the so-called “developed nations”, stands as an enduring testament to all the oppressed people around the world who long for a more just and peaceful planet. Nkrumah’s words must resonate among thinking Americans as President Obama puts “boots on the ground”, ushering in a world of brutality to people who at this point need justice. Justice, not in the form of MI-24 gunships and MI-17 helicopters, but in the form of International Criminal Courts that hold “leaders” like Obama to the same standard of international law as “leaders” like Colonel Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak. Like Nkrumah, we must show our unwavering contempt for the “stockpiles of atom bombs”. This is what is crucially needed for the liberation of Africa from this unrelenting force of militarism and the liberation of the US from its immoral regime of profit driven financiers and cold blooded politicians.

Torres, Juan Gonzalez & Joseph. “Democracy Now! | Headlines for December 09, 2010.” A daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 900 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the United States.. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2011. <;.
“BBC News – US to send troops to Uganda to help fight LRA rebels.” BBC – Homepage. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2011. <;.
Lindsay, James. “Guest Post: Did Obama Make the Right Call on Kony?.” Council on Foreign Relations. N.p., 14 Oct. 2011. Web. 14 Oct. 2011. <>.
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Obama, Barack . “The White House- Office of the Press Secretary.” N.p., 14 Oct. 2011. Web. 14 Oct. 2011. <;.
“Presidential Memorandum–Child Soldiers Prevention Act | The White House.” The White House. N.p., 4 Oct. 2011. Web. 15 Oct. 2011. <;.
“Presidential Memorandum–Child Soldiers Prevention Act | The White House.” The White House. N.p., 25 Oct. 2010. Web. 15 Oct. 2011. <;.
“Pambazuka – Sugar vs. reason in Uganda: Democracy unplugged.” Pambazuka News. N.p., 13 Oct. 2011. Web. 15 Oct. 2011. <;.
” Official Statement from Invisible Children Regarding President Obama’s Action Against LRA.” Invisible Children. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2011. <;.

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