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21.03.2009 Feature Article

How Did Operation Lightning Thunder Fare?

The 90 day period which the Ugandan Peoples Defence Force (UPDF), The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) used Military Force to bring Joseph Kony back to the Peace Table is drawing to a close. How successful was this Multi-National Effort? To do a proper critique lets look at how this Operation was conceived and executed.

The Operation took shape after Joseph Kony once again decided to No Show at a Ceremony to Sign a Peace Accord with the Ugandan Government after two years of negotiations. The reasons given for this are that He was in Fear for His Life and that He does not want to be tried by the International Criminal Court. For Whatever reason He Gambled that the threats made by the Ugandan Government were hollow. There upon the UPDF came up with the Military Operation.

Earlier this year there was some criticism by several advocacy groups that either MONUC (United Nations Mission in the Congo or AFRICOM (United States African Command) should have assisted in planning this Operation. We were later to find out that the Ugandan Ministry of Defense Approached the US Embassy in Kampala seeking such aid. The Request was approved by President Bush who directed AFRICOM to assist in planning in an executive order. The Aid ended up being 17 Observers, $1 Million in Fuel and Satellite Phones.

The Execution of this Operation was flawed in the beginning. One criticism which has merit is the improper use of Ugandan Special Forces. In an Operation like this one these specialized troops should maintain contact with the Enemy, determine targets of opportunity and assess damage that has been inflicted. The Fact that the Ugandan Air Force hit empty camps is the best example of poor execution. It also appears that a contingency plan for reprisal attacks by the LRA were not even considered by the UPDF.

The Goals of the Operation were not clearly defined as well. In the early days of this effort it seemed that the goal was to seperate Kony and the Senior Leadership from the Rank and File. Then the goal became to keep the LRA out of the Central African Republic. There were reports of a skirmish between the LRA and the CAR Army at the End of Feburary. Before the end of this effort the goal seemed to be the eradication of the LRA.

The Reprisal Attacks by the LRA were horrific in scope. Since Christmas Day over 900 People mostly in the DRC have been killed, hundreds more were kidnapped and hundreds of thousands were displaced. The Reprisals caused new self-defense forces to be formed in Western Equateur Province in Sudan. The UN Peacekeepers in the DRC were not able to prevent these reprisals by Kony and his followers either.

One key factor that will limit the success of this Operation is the Time Limit. A 90 Day time limit was imposed on the Ugandan Military in their effort to rein in the LRA. A time limit was imposed on the Rwandan Military in their effort to rein in the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) as well. So the LRA knew that if it could hold out for this length of time then they probably could be able to regroup after a time. It appears that they maybe choosing this strategy. Within the Last 48 there are reports of another raid by the LRA.

On the whole did this Operation help restore Peace and Tranquility? The answer has to be no. The Status Quo has not changed at all. Kony remains at large and the Civilian Population remains under threat. The Critics of AFRICOM in the United States have new Ammo to use to highlight their concerns with the command. However with the limited involvement of the US in this effort it could end up with both greater oversight and a more defined mission for the Command. And Museveni remains a strong leader and Kabila may now be seen as a weak leader.

Who knows what the next 90 days will bring in the African Great Lakes?

The Author publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet. It can be found at

Scott A Morgan
Scott A Morgan, © 2009

This author has authored 88 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: ScottAMorgan

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