By Stephen C. Webster
A U.S. State Department cable composed in December 2009 sheds yet more light on the murky relationship between the Obama administration and the Ugandan government, pointing to an information sharing agreement that prohibits the Ugandan regime from engaging in certain combat operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) without U.S. permission.
Specifically, the cable states that Ugandan forces may not utilize U.S. intelligence to engage enemies without first consulting U.S. officials. That goes double if their engagement might happen outside “the law of armed conflict” — which is to say, Uganda must seek U.S. permission before committing to operations that could result in war crimes, or face the possibility of being cut off from U.S. support.
“The Ugandan People’s Defense Force (UPDF) uses this intelligence in planning and conducting offensive operations, including both capture and lethal operations, against the LRA in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Southern Sudan, and the Central African Republic (CAR),” the cable explains. “Furthermore, Uganda understands the need to consult with the U.S. in advance if the UPDF intends to use U.S.-supplied intelligence to engage in operations not governed by the law of armed conflict. Uganda understands and acknowledges that misuse of this intelligence could cause the U.S. to end this intelligence sharing relationship.” [Emphasis added.]
The document sheds light on a relationship that played a key role in the arrest of Patrick Komakech, a former child soldier who joined with U.S. activists to raise awareness of LRA leader Joseph Kony’s evil deeds. Komakech and 10 others were taken into custody by Ugandan authorities in 2009 and accused of treason for allegedly attempting to raise an army that would fight and ultimately replace Kony as the central opposition movement against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Komakech was on the run from Ugandan authorities until 2009, when the U.S. non-profit group Invisible Children tipped off authorities to his whereabouts, according to a U.S. State Dept. cable. He was promptly arrested and remains in custody with his alleged co-conspirators, many of whom have professed innocence.
Just a month prior to those arrests, U.S. forces at AFRICOM provided more than $1 million in material support to a Ugandan government strike aimed at crippling the LRA, in a fantastically bungled operation that scattered Kony’s forces and sparked a wave of massacres that left over 900 civilians dead.
Invisible Children, which operated in Uganda for years as an extension of U.S. soft power during the Bush administration, came to prominence earlier in 2012 after they published the most-watched viral video in history. Their video was so successful in stirring up the western public against LRA leader Joseph Kony that the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor later predicted that Kony would be arrested in 2012.
Revelations of Invisible Children’s involvement in the U.S.-Uganda information sharing scheme first surfaced over the weekend, when anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks released a U.S. State Department cable to The Black Star News, an investigative journal out of New York.
Invisible Children did not initially comment on the allegations, but in a statement to Raw Story on Tuesday they confirmed their involvement with Komakech’s arrest. However, shortly after Raw Story’s confirmation of Black Star’s report, Black Star’s website came under cyber-attack and vanished from the Internet for a short time, according to a statement attributed to publisher Milton Allimadi.
They claimed their servers went down amid a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, which floods a website with bogus traffic, preventing the servers from sending data to actual readers. The paper is still not sure where the attack came from, but they appeared to be back online by Wednesday morning.
“This is the second time that The Black Star News has been a victim of apparent DDoS,” Allimadi wrote. “In September 2011, our website was down for three days. When we finally regained access an editorial we wrote which was highly critical of the U.S. and NATO’s military campaign against Libya had been deleted without our knowledge or permission by an outside party.”
U.S. State Department spokesperson Laura M. Seal told Raw Story that it does not comment on leaked materials, and offered no further information about its Dec. 2009 memo.
By Stephen C. Webster, senior editor of Raw Story, is based inAustin, Texas.