Commentary: Obama’s Africa Policy Has Failed Us All

When U.S. troops are deployed, we all feel the pain. Let's not let Obama make old mistakes in new places.

Posted: 03/12/2012 01:22 PM EDT
Barack Obama

Back in 2008, many in Africa and America believed that with a son of Africa in the White House, the nations of Africa would now get the fair and equitable treatment they deserve from the world’s greatest Western power.


However, as President Obama's first term comes to an end, for Africa, the most memorable thing about Obama’s time in office may be the sound of the firm crunch of military boots trampling across African soil.


Social media recently exploded over the Kony 2012 video, which has aimed a spotlight on the atrocious activites of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader Joseph Kony, who Western nations have allegedly been trying to capture for decades. However, rather than pushing for increased U.S. involvement, the newest batch of LRA head-hunters would be better to direct their anger at the U.S. government and demand clarity and answers about the proposed road ahead.


If it was hard to believe that the U.S. could not locate the ever-powerful and dangerous Osama bin Laden, then it becomes equally unbelievable that Kony cannot be found. It certainly is not because he has just appeared on the world’s radar.


In 2009, the U.S. tested its brand-new presence in Africa via the U.S. Africa Command Center (AFRICOM) when it launched Operation Lightning Thunder, an attempt to crush the LRA that ended in a wave of massacres that left hundreds of civilians dead.


It was a severe blunder, and now the U.S. has charged itself with providing “training” and “support” to Ugandan troops when it botched what seemed to be its best chance at nailing down Kony and the LRA for good.


Also unbelievable is that U.S. troops have been unable to track down and capture the estimated 200 to 300 fighters that make up the core of the LRA fighters, even when actively engaged in an offensive position. And of course, let’s not forget Kony, who is obviously available for interviews.


Since 2008, the U.S. has spent nearly $500 million to help strengthen the Ugandan Army in its battle against the LRA. While we can’t undo the past, our current president can change the course of action for the future. Dumping weapons into a volatile region has never solved any problem anywhere on earth. Instead it has ended in genocides, instability that breeds famine and disease and the opportunity for a foreign “savior” to intervene on behalf of whomever they deem more righteous.


To believe that there isn’t some alternative strategy at play would be foolish. The U.S. has been most keenly interested in African countries and regions where there have been oil discoveries (such as in Somalia, Libya, Nigeria, South Sudan) and now Central Africa has taken center stage.


Speaking to the Guardian, award-winning Ugandan journalist Angelo Izama calls the U.S. move into the area “strategic in terms of its geography, and strategic in terms of its future economic opportunities.


"For Uganda to exploit oil on that border region, it has to run a very large security operation," Izama said. "If you're planning to be a competing influence in Africa, there are few places where you can have a real staging ground. Central Africa — particularly that area of Congo, Uganda and the Great Lakes region — that is where you ought to be operating."  


Having lived through the seemingly eternal U.S. military engagement in Iraq, we should all be paying more attention to Africa and demanding more answers from our president before we take to the polls this election season. Social media has shown the ability to inform and unite the world, but, unfortunately, it has also made our memories and attention spans woefully short. If history is any guide, we will again pay dearly for our inattention if we don’t remember how easily we were deceived the first time around.  


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


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