November 6, 2013

Canadian wants to crowdsource hunt for war criminal

Joseph Kony remains elusive despite the efforts of U.S. special forces and others.

By Jason Straziuso,
The Associated Press

Rodney Muhumuza

And Richard Lardner

KAMPALA, Uganda — Can you crowd-fund the hunt for a war criminal on the run deep in Africa’s jungles? A Canadian adventurer with experience in Afghanistan and Somalia wants to do just that: Raise funds and take a small band of former soldiers to find Joseph Kony.

click image to enlarge

Robert Young Pelton, shown in Borneo in a 1996 photo, has drawn a mixed response for his fundraising scheme to pursue Joseph Kony, the mastermind of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The militia group is suspected of committing atrocities across three African nations.

The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

The U.S. State Department is offering a $5 million reward for the capture of Joseph Kony and two of his lieutenants.

Reuters

Robert Young Pelton, whose plan has already drawn criticism from a pair of Africa experts, is the latest to join a line of private individuals and aid groups who are trying to corner the alleged mass murderer and members of his Lord’s Resistance Army. Kony remains elusive despite the deployment by President Obama in late 2011 of 100 U.S. special forces to aid the hunt – which is mostly carried out by Ugandan troops – and the efforts by myriad private groups.

Among those efforts:

Invisible Children, an American aid group, created a Web video seen by more than 100 million people last year that made Kony a family dinner topic and would “introduce new audiences to the conflict, and inspire global action.”

The Bridgeway Foundation, a Houston-based charity, hired a private company two years ago that specializes in military and law enforcement training to teach child-hostage rescue techniques to the Ugandan troops tracking Kony. With support from the deep-pocketed Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Bridgeway pays an aviation company to fly a Cessna Caravan airplane and a Bell helicopter that are used to extract LRA defectors, transport injured people and broadcast anti-Kony messages from loudspeakers.

Invisible Children and Resolve, another aid group, operates a website called the LRA Crisis Tracker that collects information on LRA attacks in Central African Republic, Congo, South Sudan and Sudan. The site allows U.S. military officials or aid workers to see where the LRA is concentrating its attacks.

FUNDRAISING FOR THE FIND

The U.S. State Department said nongovernmental groups and foundations “have played a critical role in bringing the LRA’s atrocities to the world’s attention and continue to play an important role ... to end those atrocities.”

But while the U.S. military’s Africa Command and the State Department both said they “appreciate the passion and commitment of Americans and citizens around the world to help the communities terrorized by the LRA,” neither would comment on Pelton’s effort.

Pelton, the author of “The World’s Most Dangerous Places,” says he has done work for U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan, and that he excels at finding people who don’t want to be found. If his plan is funded, Pelton would start looking for Kony, who is likely in the Central African Republic, early next year, he said.

“I am actually walking through the jungle myself with a stalwart band of like-minded people with all the right skills,” Pelton said by telephone, adding that his group won’t be looking to kill anyone and intends to comply with local laws.

“I’m not Wyatt Earp,” he insisted. “I’m not gathering a posse to chase down Kony for the money. I’m trying to see if I can create a system that works.”

By “works” Pelton means a system that can finally get Kony, who was indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005 on crimes against humanity charges including sexual slavery, rape and murder.

J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington, said: “One really does not know whether this scheme merits ridicule or reproach. ... The notion of asking the public to contribute to sending a self-promoting adventurer and two filmmakers off to find an elusive warlord whom the militaries of several African countries assisted by U.S. Special Operations Forces have not managed to catch is risible, to say the least.”

(Continued on page 2)

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