President Obama, taking a much different approach to African unrest than his predecessors, recently sent a small team of armed forces into central Africa to aide in the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army, a militant group that has been waging war against the official Ugandan government and local residents for over 20 years. U.S. troops were also dispatched to South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the LRA is believed to have set up camps.
The total number of troops sent to Africa is small but the decision to send them is a bold statement by the president. In the past, the U.S. government turned a blind eye to wars on the African continent, letting citizens fall victim to a variety of war crimes and human rights violations. By getting involved in Uganda, Obama is showing the world that the U.S. is indeed concerned with what happens in Africa and that, as long as our nation is able, we will not tolerate campaigns of murder, rape and genocide against innocent people.
Perhaps by sending troops to Uganda, President Obama hopes to avoid a repeat of the 1994 tragedies in Rwanda. In that year, over the course of 100 days, over half a million people were killed. The mass murders were the culmination of decades long tension between two of the nation’s largest ethnic groups. The U.S., under former President Clinton, never officially sent troops to Rwanda during this time. By contrast, the U.S. did provide military support during this same period to the European nation of Croatia, which was fighting for its independence from Yugoslavia. Though any loss of life should be mourned, it would be negligent to not point out that Croatia only suffered a fraction of the casualties that Rwanda did. Yet, Croatia received assistance from the U.S. and many observers were left wondering if the U.S. even cared about the continent of Africa.
To be sure, Obama’s attention to Africa is a smart security move for our nation. Making sure unrest doesn’t boil over, especially with uprisings in nearby parts of the world becoming more frequent, protects America’s political interests. However, it also shows that, at least with this president, Africa will finally get the same support that Europe has received for generations.
(Judge Greg Mathis is a national figure known for his advocacy campaigns for equal justice. His inspirational life story of a street youth who rose from jail to Judge has provided hope to millions who watch him on the award-winning television court show Judge Mathis each day.)