Sun, Nov 10, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Canadian tries crowdfunding to pay for search for warlord Kony

By Jason Straziuso, Rodney Muhumuza and Richard Lardner  /  AP, KAMPALA

Pelton’s US$500,000 crowd-funding bid via indiegogo — a platform like Kickstarter — has raised only about US$7,500 in two weeks.

Ugandan military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Ankunda, said he had not heard of Pelton’s mission, though he sounded incredulous when it was described to him.

“We wish him good luck. That’s all I can say,” Ankunda said.

The US Africa Command says the LRA has “murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children” and that more than 380,000 people across three African countries have been displaced while fleeing the violence. The US State Department is offering a US$5 million reward — up to US$15 million total — for help in the arrest of Kony and two of his lieutenants.

Ugandan Brigadier Sam Kavuma, who took over earlier this year as the top commander of African Union troops searching for Kony in a wild, sparely inhabited region of dense jungle covering Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic, spoke well of Bridgeway’s contribution, saying it made the mission more agile.

Others though, including those who are generally pleased with the group’s role, say that disputes arise between US troops, the Ugandan military and Bridgeway’s private contractors.

Simon Mulongo, a lawmaker who sits on the defense and internal affairs committee of Uganda’s parliament, said Bridgeway’s private contractors are essentially “a mercenary force, and mercenaries have limitations.”

He said there were concerns about the chain of command and possible infighting.

The contractors carry light weapons and tracking devices, Mulongo said.

Kavuma disputed this account, saying the contractors are not armed and that only one of them is still active on the ground in central Africa.

Besides its other assistance, Bridgeway is also financing a canine unit to find children abducted by Kony’s army.

“What was happening was you just could never find the children in that vast of a jungle, in that thick of a jungle, and so these sniffer dogs would come in and they could smell where the children had bed down and help find them,” Bridgeway chief executive Shannon Sedgwick Davis said.

Davis said she discussed Bridgeway’s involvement with the US government and UN officials and focused on filling gaps in the official anti-Kony mission. The State Department said it has no objections to Bridgeway’s escalated role and that it seeks to coordinate with all such groups where possible.

Major Fred Harrel, a spokesman for the US military’s Africa Command, said the African-led, US-supported mission has reduced Kony’s operating space and influence.

“There has been an overall reduction in attacks, abductions, and civilians killed, along with increased defections from the LRA,” he said.

However, despite all the efforts, Kony remains on the loose.

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