(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Two recent events highlight the scourge of rebel leaders in Central Africa who use child soldiers to commit atrocities " the Kony2012 Internet campaign by the advocacy group, Invisible Children, which supports US-led military action against the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, and the International Criminal Court's guilty verdict against the warlord Thomas Lubanga in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Accompanying these developments has been widespread praise for two of the international community's preferred means of ending mass conflict " military intervention and international justice.
Largely overlooked, however, is the fact that, in pursuing rebel leaders in Central Africa, the United States and the ICC have cooperated with the Ugandan and Congolese governments, which themselves are responsible for murder, forced displacement, rape and torture of civilians over the last 15 years. These crimes have been committed by state actors or their rebel proxies. Lubanga's Union of Congolese Patriots, for example, was heavily backed by Uganda and Rwanda " a point which the international court's prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, deliberately ignored in the case against Lubanga because it would have jeopardised his good working relations with Ugandan officials.
Crimes committed by the Ugandan and Congolese governments are hardly a thing of the past. A UN report last week detailed human rights violations committed by the Congolese security forces " including murder, torture and arbitrary arrests " during last year's volatile election period. Last week the Ugandan government arrested the opposition leader Kizza Besigye, and attacked protesters in Kampala " the latest in a string of crackdowns since the Ugandan elections early last year.
Washington's political, military and economic aid to Uganda has propped up Museveni's regime and strengthened the role of the armed forces in everyday politics. One reason that widespread protests in Uganda in early 2011 did not transform into another Tahrir Square was that the Ugandan armed forces " nourished for years on Museveni's corrupt patronage, funded mainly by the United States " remained fiercely loyal to the president, including when asked to fire on innocent civilians.
Museveni and Kabila have proven masterful at making themselves indispensable to international actors. Unquestioning international cooperation with the Ugandan and Congolese governments has allowed them to appear as agents of peace, security and justice while continuing to commit abuses against their citizens. That the United States and the ICC voiced no concern while Museveni and Kabila cracked down on the political opposition during last year's elections has emboldened them. Addressing the crimes committed by rebel leaders like Kony and Lubanga is vital to the achievement of long-term peace and security in Africa. However, international military and judicial interventions in this region to date risk not only ignoring government atrocities but actively encouraging them.