Letter from America: October 15,2011

As long as I’m stranded in the US for a time, i decided to start a Letter from America column at The (Nairobi) Star. Patterned after the Letter sent regularly to BBC worldwide audience by the late great British-American journalist Alistair Cooke, my Letter is meant to serve as a bridge between Kenya and the US, which in this globalized world, is already happening at so many levels, but this is my take on the connection. I began the Letter from America column in September 2011,so I will be posting past Letters in order to keep account. For now, this Letter was send october 15, 2011.

LETTER FROM AMERICA: Kony meets Obama meets Rambo at the movies

By Margaretta wa Gacheru.

Barack Obama is already getting flak from the right wing media in the US over his decision announced Friday October 14 to send a hundred US “combat equipped” troops to Uganda to assist in finally undoing the horrible misdeeds of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.

According to BBC, those troops are prepared to move through four East and Central African countries searching out and bringing to justice men who have murdered, maimed, raped and abducted children by the tens of thousands in northern Uganda.

Why the world has watched silently since 1987 when Joseph Kony first came on the scene to start his supposedly messianic bloody mission to bring down the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is beyond me. Especially when Museveni would become the darling of foreign donors by the early 1990s, after the then-wealthy Western powers realized he was no threat to their ongoing activities.

Museveni came to power in 1986 and in all likelihood, one year later, Kony was initially propped up by covert forces who were keen to bring down the former guerrilla fighter who brought an end to more than twenty years of hell overseen by Milton Obote, then Idi Amin, and then Obote again.

I for one welcomed Museveni as a hero who proved that Africans can run their own affairs and quash cruel dictators who usually remained in power because they either bowed to or were installed by Western interests wanting to continue reaping the spoils of the region without any government interference.

But Museveni’s success didn’t seem to reach Uganda’s northern region where the LRA were wrecking havoc mercilessly. I never fully understood how the guerrilla fighter-turned statesman couldn’t quash Kony if he could finish Obote! But i’ve been told it was because the LRA would flee across the border into Sudan and melt into the local population.

What I also couldn’t understand is why the West didn’t come to Museveni’s aid, especially after their unforgiveable neglect of Africans during the Rwanda genocide. But now that Obama is trying to rectify that horrible oversight to a very limited degree, he is being attacked by the likes of Rush Limbaugh who despises Obama “on principle.”

Ironically, some of his fiercest critics didn’t sound a peep when he supported French President Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Cameron and agreed to send NATO forces to Libya. Instead, they quietly endorsed the Western invasion of North Africa in the name of ‘saving civilian lives’ because they cynically understood that what was really at stake was the OIL that no African, especially Gadaffi, should be allowed to control.

Most of Obama’s current critics don’t yet realize that once again the covert issue in this troop deployment could also be oil. Instead, Limbaugh complained on his radio show that Obama was “sending troops to Africa to kill Christians.” Can you believe it?

The guy is not only racist, but also so utterly ignorant that he upgrades a butcher like Kony to being an ‘authentic’ Christian. Launching his religion-based smear campaign, Limbaugh applauds the LRA for its “good work” of “fighting Muslims in Sudan.”  

What’s scary about this sort of smear campaign is that in America today, the likes of Limbaugh, including his Fox News colleagues, are commanding much of the mainstream media, meaning many ordinary Americans are likely to listen to Fox or right-wing radio talk, and believe what they hear.

This is a moment when Americans ought to applaud Obama for doing what Bill Clinton didn’t have the guts to do 17 years ago when more than a million innocent Africans were being slaughtered en masse in Rwanda. Since 1987, Kony”s LRA has also been murdering an incalculable number of Africans in Uganda, and at last, an American head of state is doing something about it.

The Ugandan foreign minister has welcomed the deployment of US troops. And while Emira Wood, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus claims Obama’s decision had more to do with the OIL recently discovered in Uganda than any selfless initiative taken on behalf of his African kin, the locals are grateful for any sort of protection.

What’s ironic to me is the timing of President Obama’s decision. People are asking, why now? And I don’t have an answer, but I have to say that just last week, a film opened at a cinema house down the street from me, starring the action-hero Gerald Butler (300) as a degenerate biker who finds hope and meaning in life by coming to Uganda and waging his own Rambo-like war on a “brutal renegade militia” known as, none other than the LRA.

The movie bombed in my neighborhood, but the following Friday is when Mr. Obama announced that he too was going to “do good” for African children. One only hopes his show fares better than Mr. Butler’s did at the box office. 

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