While brave Ugandan human-rights activists like Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera stand up to officially and evangelically-sponsored death threats and “kill the gays” legislation, the United States is sending 100 special-operations forces to that nation — ostensibly to aid Ugandan officials’ battle against the barbaric Lord’s Resistance Army.
Human Rights Watch welcomed the deployment, but there is reason for concern about the impact of U.S. aid on Uganda’s sexual minorities. HRW’s own 2011 annual report for Uganda spotlights widespread abuses of human rights, freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech.
The LRA is just one of countless brutal rebel groups around the world, and critics question why the United States would bother with Uganda. Fox News asked U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein this question; despite her foreign-affairs and national-security expertise, Feinstein couldn’t provide a coherent answer.
Even without the LRA, the human-rights situation in Uganda is discouraging. “Born-again” Christians are calling for police violence against religious minorities. Evangelicals are renewing pressure to enact a death penalty against LGBT Ugandans. Elections are routinely rigged. Dissidents are extrajudicially executed by police and paramilitary organizations. In addition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, other proposed bills censor the media, violate international human-rights laws, and abuse foreign HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts.
Some Western nations have reduced aid to Uganda in response to official corruption — and then reconsidered as China increased its own aid to Uganda. Despite any concerns about corruption, both the West and China have set their sights on Uganda’s natural resources, especially oil. And both value Uganda’s strategic central African location.
That location gives the LRA — and any foreign military forces — great influence in neighboring countries. Ugandan media report that, per previous statements by President Obama, U.S. forces “could also deploy from Uganda into South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
The journal Foreign Policy is right to scrutinize a U.S. military expansion that coincides with significant Pentagon budget cuts. The journal says:
…There are two reasons to be wary. First, it will almost certainly grow larger. Today, 100 advisors; tomorrow, a Foreign Military Financing (FMF) package; next year, access to excess equipment; and then more trainers to teach them how to use all the new equipment — and soon Uganda costs $1 billion a year. Add in Libya and the next three interventions, and that’s real money.
Second, Uganda appears to be a part of a pattern, of which Libya was also a part. Uganda and Libya together illustrate that Obama is perfectly comfortable using the U.S. armed forces not only in service of vital U.S. security interests, but in defense of peripheral interests, for humanitarian goals, and in defense of the global commons. …
By cutting budgets with one hand while maintaining U.S. military commitments around the world with the other, Obama is showing a lack of strategic thinking.
The U.S. military intervention occurs despite official silence regarding key questions:
- What will our forces do if Uganda proceeds to execute LGBT and HIV-positive Ugandans?
- What will our forces do to protect other Ugandans who are under attack from government and paramilitary goons?
- Will America’s predominantly Christian servicemembers protect Ugandan religious minorities from attack by violent Christian warlords and their police agents?
The Obama administration must clarify both its commitment to human rights, and its fiscal responsibility, if it is to win enduring support for its military action in Uganda.