Critical Analysis: Hunt for African Warlord Joseph Kony Comes to A Halt

African troops in Central African Republic have suspended the hunt for Joseph Kony, one of the world's most wanted rebel chiefs. (Reuters)
African troops in Central African Republic have suspended the hunt for Joseph Kony, one of the world’s most wanted rebel chiefs. (Reuters)

Ugandan and American troops have suspended their joint hunt for war crimes suspect Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (“LRA”) due to political turmoil in the Central African Republic, where rebel groups unaffiliated with Kony seized power and forced President Francois Bozize to flee the country.

A Ugandan army spokesman told reporters that the hunt for Kony would remain on hold “until further notice” because rebel leaders in the Central African Republic were refusing to cooperate with Ugandan troops stationed in the country.  Soon after, the U.S. military announced that it would also suspend its operations.  The U.S. government has stated that it “remains very committed” to defeating the LRA.  The U.S. military said it will not withdraw its troops from the Central African Republic for now in hopes that the search for Kony can resume.

In October of 2011 President Obama deployed about 100 U.S. Special Forces troops to Africa to coordinate a regional effort to track Kony.  Currently about 40 U.S. Special Forces troops are deployed in the Central African Republic, where they are advising and training about 3,000 African troops — mainly Ugandans — looking for Kony in the jungle. The rest of the 60 U.S. troops are stationed in Uganda, South Sudan and Congo, where they will continue normal operations.

Kony and most of his deputies are thought to be hiding in the remote jungle straddling the borders of South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.  They regularly cross borders, are well-practiced at disappearing into the bush, and stopped using radios and cellphones long ago to avoid leaving an electronic trail.

The suspension is a major setback to efforts to capture the brutal and messianic Ugandan guerilla leader accused of abducting tens of thousands of children to use as fighters and sex slaves.  Kony is a notorious warlord wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.  It also overshadowed the State Department’s announcement to offer $5 million in rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Kony and some of his top aides in the LRA.

 Alexis Kirkman is a 3L and a Candidacy Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy