Saturday, April 30, 2005

UK aid cut pressures Uganda

BBC news report April 29, 2005: Museveni has been seen as part of the new generation of democratic leaders in Africa.

The UK government has cancelled $10m of funding to Uganda, because it feels not enough has been done to establish fair multi-party politics.

About half of Uganda's entire budget comes from donor funding.

Political parties have for years been severely restricted and some opposition groups have urged donors to cut aid.

Multi-party elections are expected to return next year, but some say the government is not doing enough to ensure a smooth transition.

Although the British have handed over almost 90% of the proposed funding for the year, the BBC's Will Ross in Kampala says this action is intended to send out a message: "The British government will work with you and support you but only if the political process is fair."

Since President Yoweri Museveni came to power 18 years ago, Uganda has operated a unique political system which severely restricted political parties but the political landscape is set to change.

The Ugandan government and opposition parties have said they all support a return to multi-party politics ahead of elections in a year's time.

The political temperature in Uganda has been increasing in recent months - partly because of attempts to amend the constitution and allow President Museveni to run for office again.

As the British-led Commission for Africa is calling for more aid to the continent, other donor countries share the British concern over the current political transition in Uganda.

At the launch of the commission, rock star turned anti-poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof said that his admiration for Mr Museveni's fight against poverty and Aids had now been lost due to the moves to let Uganda's leader remain in office.

"Get a grip Museveni. Your time is up, go away," he said.

This cut in funding is a reminder that Uganda stands to lose a great deal more if donor countries are not seeing good governance and a level playing field ahead of next year's elections, our correspondent says.

Ugandan rebel LRA drives thousands out of South Sudan

April 30th, 2005 By Kitty McKinsey - PALORINYA, Uganda, April 29 (UNHCR):

More than two decades of civil war in his native South Sudan never managed to drive Yusuf Taban out of his home.

These recent arrivals from the Nimule area of South Sudan are now living in shelters made of dried palm fronds in Palorinya. (UNHCR).

But two months after a peace agreement was signed, incursions by the notorious Lord's Resistance Army from northern Uganda finally turned 28-year-old Yusuf, his wife and their four children into refugees.

"We had no choice but to flee here," Yusuf said in a squalid makeshift refugee reception centre in northern Uganda. "On that dreadful night (of March 14), the women in my village were cooking and the rebels came with pangas (long knives). They snatched what they could carry and set our tukuls (traditional dome-shaped shelters) on fire." He feels lucky to be alive: "They came with the intention of completely killing us."

Yusuf is speaking his native Madi language, but no interpreter is needed for his hand gestures. Without any prompting, he graphically illustrates the horrific tale of what he saw - vicious knife blows to the back of the head, the forehead, neck, across the eyes, slicing off the ears of his neighbours. He says he saw 12 people hacked to death and some of their bodies burned.

The UN refugee agency has expressed concern that LRA attacks have contributed to the displacement of more than 4,000 South Sudanese from their country since the beginning of this year, just as the agency is preparing to help hundreds of thousands of their compatriots end their exile abroad and go home following the January peace accord.

The new refugees - who come from areas like Nimule, Juba and Torit - have been arriving in Palorinya in northern Uganda over recent weeks after a journey of 10 to 15 days by boat and on foot.

Most are in bad health when they arrive; several women have suffered miscarriages as the result of their arduous journey, and some small children have died upon reaching Palorinya. UNHCR and its partners give them food and medical treatment in the reception centre. The refugee agency is working with the Ugandan government to find land on which the recent arrivals can set up homes and begin farming.

It is tragic that these people, who managed to stay in their own country all through 21 years of civil war in South Sudan, are now being forced to flee.

In Palorinya, Yusuf has heard - and can repeat - the standard argument that now that peace has been signed between the Sudanese government in Khartoum and former Sudanese rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, Sudanese refugees should go home from neighbouring countries.

"But if you regard the Kony issue, there is no peace," he says, referring to Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, a force that says it seeks to overthrow the Ugandan government and install a regime based on the biblical Ten Commandments. Yet its trademark methods are kidnapping children to press them into service as soldiers and sex slaves.

They have forced 1.6 million Ugandans from their homes, and over the years frequently attacked settlements of Sudanese refugees inside Uganda. Their incursions into the Nimule area of South Sudan are increasing in frequency and brutality.

Helen, a young mother of four girls, was astonished to see women soldiers in camouflage uniforms among the rebels who attacked her village in the Pageri area, north of Nimule. Cuddling her own four-month-old daughter, Janet, as she talked, Helen said she saw three small children shot to death in the raid on her village.

The LRA rebels, she said, "took our food and our clothes, everything. They left us with nothing. They need to kill us."

Helen speaks surprisingly good English, learned on her own because, as she said, "the rebels did not let us go to school, so I just learned little English."

Eighteen-year-old Stephen Lopu, one of Helen's former neighbours, says the rebels are starving in the bush. "If we have some food, they will come and take it. They are very hungry." Then he adds: "Also, they like to kill people."

The recent arrival of so many Sudanese into Palorinya, in far northern Uganda, is distressing for UNHCR staff and other aid workers there who have been preparing for the return to Sudan of hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Now the hangars that were prepared for the send-off of hopeful people returning to Sudan are welcoming the traumatized newcomers from there.

"We cannot close the door," said Mawa Bashir, Deputy Settlement Commandant of Uganda's Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in Moyo. OPM is the UN refugee agency's government counterpart in caring for refugees in Uganda.

"We have to receive them, listen to them and do what we can," Bashir says, adding pessimistically: "To me this will defeat the course of repatriation (to South Sudan)."

Certainly the recent arrivals at Palorinya have no intention of returning to Sudan any time soon. "After what I have seen, I will not go back as long as Kony's people are there," Yusuf says firmly.

Adds another recent refugee forlornly: "For us it's more terrible. We had a smell of peace and then the rebels came and it was gone."

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

UGANDA: Ex-rebels begin farming; first step to rehabilitation

Here is some encouraging news. Copy of a news report 26 April 2005, courtesy IRIN:

KAMPALA, 26 April (IRIN) - Thousands of former fighters of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have started farming in war-torn northern Uganda in an effort to adjust to civilian life, the minister for northern rehabilitation, Grace Akello, told IRIN on Tuesday.

"The government has provided them with the land in Gulu, and they have since ploughed over 500 acres and planted their own food," Akello said. "The land is free to all former rebels and we have over 20,000 who have returned."

Many of the former fighters have recently given themselves up to the government or been captured during battle. Others were former child soldiers rescued from the LRA, which is notorious for abducting children.

The LRA has waged a 19-year war against the government of President Yoweri Museveni, and is estimated to have abducted more than 20,000 children to serve as fighters, porters and sex slaves during that time.

Akello said the government wanted to change the people's perception of the former rebels being rehabilitated.

"When the former rebels return to the villages, fingers point at them as the people who killed, who stole and who perpetuated mayhem in the region," Akello said. "We want to change that by giving them a chance to adapt to their new life."

The Ugandan army spokesman, Maj Shaban Bantariza, told IRIN in January that the army had recruited more than 800 former rebels into its ranks. He said these soldiers now made up a new brigade, one of those charged with defeating the LRA.

The government has offered a blanket amnesty to any rebels who surrender to its forces, and has pledged to help in their disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

America Doubts Military Option to End LRA Rebellion

Copy of a report at The Monitor (Kampala) April 27, 2005 - Badru D. Mulumba, Kampala - via AllAfrica:

The United States justified increased military aid to Uganda, but cast doubt on the military option to end the 19-year-old rebellion in the north.

The US non-lethal military assistance to buy vehicles, spare parts and radios for the Ugandan military was $4.9 million in the 2004/5 budget up from $1.7 million in the 2002/3 budget, the State Department says.

But the officials say the military pressure through the issuance of non-lethal US military assistance has helped to reduce the crisis.

Mr Donald Yamamoto, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of state for African affairs, made the remarks as he appeared before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on northern Uganda's 19-year old crisis.

Yamamoto's testimony was given to Congress on April 14, according to the April 22 issue of the State Department publication, The Washington File.

"There cannot be a military solution to this issue," he warned.

"It has to be a comprehensive approach" that includes the reconciliation between the government of Uganda and the Acholi people of northern Uganda.

Yamamoto said President Museveni and the Ugandan government should "initiate reconciliation with the Acholi people as a top priority.

While the Acholi fear Kony, they equally distrust the Ugandan government."

He said, "Only through greater confidence and support ... will there be better cooperation in the ongoing peace efforts with the Acholi people."

The US blue print for peace in northern Uganda unveiled before the House of Representatives, encompasses diplomatic and political will, military pressure and humanitarian efforts linked to Uganda's search for peace.

The US is backing this combination to end the 'insanity', restore peace, and rebuild the lives torn by the conflict and bring reconciliation between the government and the Acholi.

No one element of this approach can be successful, Yamamoto reportedly said. "A comprehensive effort must be mounted."

He pointed to the abduction of 25,000 children, brutal murders of 12,000 civilians - many of them children - and the displacement of more than 1.8 million people in the region.

Yamamoto said they were familiar with the grim facts of the rebellion.

But the US is optimistic that the recent peace agreement in the Sudan would weaken the rebellion.

"We are hopeful the recent peace agreements between the SPLM (Sudan People's Liberation Movement) and the Sudanese government will encourage the government to actively deny Kony refuge in Sudan," he said.

Yamamoto appreciated Ms Betty Bigombe's relentless efforts to bring peace to northern Uganda.

Bigombe is the chief government negotiator with the LRA.

"Her efforts have yielded some results, and towards this end, we encourage and support these efforts," he said.

The USAID Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, Mr Leonard Rogers accompanied Yamamoto. According to Rogers, there are plans to do at least as much in 2005.

Sudan helps Uganda establish computer centers

Copy of April 24, 2005 report KAMPALA, Apr 23, 2005 (Xinhua):

Sudan's ruling party, the National Congress (NC) has teamed up with Uganda's ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) to establish computer centers for NRM youth leagues across the country, reported local press on Saturday.

NRM national youth league coordinator Nusura Tiperu was quoted as saying that the NC had donated 70 computers which would be installed in 14 centers on a regional basis.

"This is a sign of improved relations and we thank the two presidents (of the two countries) for initiating the peace talks and showing the whole world that everybody's desire is peace," Tiperu said.

He said the centers would be used for training NRM youth in computer science and capacity building.

Both Sudan and Uganda accused each other for supporting rebel groups. However, the two neighboring countries improved their relations since 1999 and they re-established ambassador's relationship in 2002.

In 2002, the Sudanese government also allowed the Ugandan army to enter southern Sudan to pursue Lord's Resistance Army rebels, and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni initiated peace talks between President Omar Al Bashir and the head of the Sudan People' s Liberation Movement/Army, John Garang. The talks culminated in a historic peace agreement ending 21 years of war in southern Sudan.

Monday, April 18, 2005

FINAL PUSH: President Museveni meets field commanders

Copy of online news report by Ali Mao In Lira published 18 April, 2005:

President Yoweri Museveni
FINAL PUSH: President Museveni addressing district leaders in Lira on Friday.

PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni on Saturday met northern army field commanders at the State Lodge in Barlegi in Okwang subcounty, Lira, to discuss the final push against the LRA rebels.

Museveni travelled to Lira on Friday and addressed Lira district councillors and security chiefs at the district chambers.

He was earlier expected to visit Gulu and Kitgum on Saturday but did not show up. “What we are left with is only to track down the remnants and sweep the compound ready for the people to go back to their villages. We want to finish the problem of LRA rebellion once and for all,” Museveni told the leaders.

He assured Lango of peace after the UPDF deals with the five remnants groups now starving. He said two LRA groups were in southern Sudan where Kony, Odhiambo and Vincent Otti are hiding. Three groups are in Kilak and another group in Lapul and Lapal game reserve. “These are very small groups of about 20 or less,” Museveni said.

He said the LRA remnants could no longer attack camps, UPDF positions, abduct civilians or ambush vehicles.

“I came here to meet my commanders and thank them for dino kal (threshing millet) which has made the millet soft but the challenge is to ensure that the compound is swept,” Museveni said.

He said the UPDF was committed to punishing “Kony’s terrorists” so that in future nobody should try to seize power through the gun. “If somebody wants to go to State House, he should ask for your votes,” he added.

He said, “We asked Kony whom some people called ladit (sir) to come out, but if we pamper him he will change his mind because he has killed thousands.

“Tomorrow another person will kill many people and expect to be paid. We want to do away with such people,” Museveni said.
Published on: Monday, 18th April, 2005

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Uganda, Sudan Forces in Joint Kony Offensive

April 16, 2005 AllAfrica report by Frank Nyakairu & Grace Matsiko Kampala

For the first time Ugandan and Sudanese forces are in a landmark move to start joint operations against the rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in southern Sudan.

The Army spokesman, Maj. Shaban Bantariza, said yesterday the move would boost the offensive on LRA leader Joseph Kony.

"Sudan People's Armed Forces, (SPAF) are joining us in Nisitu and we will soon fight Kony together. He either fights or he talks peace," said Bantariza.

He said Kony and his rebels, who were headed towards the Ethiopian border, have been blocked.

In the past the UPDF has fought bloody battles with SPAF in southern Sudan.

But relations between the two countries have steadily improved especially after Sudan allowed Ugandan forces to pursue Kony, a man once Khartoum backed-inside Sudan.

A week ago SPAF, attacked Kony's group, which was reportedly headed towards the Ethiopian border.

In March 2002, Khartoum and Kampala signed an agreement allowing 10,000 UPDF troops to pursue Kony in Sudan in the move dubbed Operation Iron Fist.

Re-opening of diplomatic missions in both countries and an air link have subsequently followed signifying warmer ties between the former archrivals.

As the military pursues the LRA, the rebel group and the government are engaged in a wobbly peace process mediated by former Minister Betty Bigombe.

In 2003, President Yoweri Museveni referred the LRA to the International Criminal Court for a possible war crimes trial. The investigation has picked pace.

The LRA has been fighting government forces since 1988, to replace President Yoweri Museveni's government with one based on the biblical Ten Commandments.

But the rebel force is best known for its brutality against the civilian population.

Over, 1.6 million people have been displaced, thousands of children abducted for forciful recruitment as fighters or sex slaves.

The international relief group said the attacks were denying help to people who lacked even the most basic necessities. The attacks had been carried out against a number of aid agencies and had not targetted the ICRC itself, a spokesman said.

"These attacks against humanitarian convoys are hampering the humanitarian activities that are taking place in Darfur," said ICRC spokesman Marco Jimenez, without giving further details of the attacks. Robbery rather than politics seemed to be the main motive, he added.

[via SEPNet with thanks]

Friday, April 15, 2005

US officials want more pressure on Uganda rebels

Note from this report that Kony is believed to be hiding in the Sudan.

WASHINGTON, April 14 (Reuters) - More pressure from the international community is needed to end Northern Uganda's cult-like insurgency, which brutalizes and kidnaps children to serve as soldiers, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

State Department Africa expert Donald Yamamoto called for a comprehensive approach, and took aim at problems swirling around rebel leader Joseph Kony of the Lord's Resistance Army.

"On good days, he talks to God and on other days he thinks he is God," Yamamoto said when asked by U.S. lawmakers at a congressional human rights caucus meeting whether he thought Kony was a rational leader.

He urged stronger diplomatic, military and humanitarian efforts, particularly from the United States, the European Union and the African Union. "There is no military solution to this," he said. "We need a comprehensive approach."

Kony's rebels are notorious for targeting civilians and kidnapping more than 20,000 children as fighters, porters and sex slaves.

Yamamoto demanded more pressure on Sudan to stop giving the rebels a safe haven.

Hopes for a settlement were raised last year when Betty Bigombe, a former Ugandan government minister, organized talks between the rebels and the government. But these stalled and Kony is believed to be hiding in Sudan.

Leonard Rogers, a senior official at the U.S. Agency for International Development, called the situation in northern Uganda, a "humanitarian and human rights disaster" where children were the main victim.

Aid organizations gave chilling descriptions of the fate of children in northern Uganda and Rory Anderson, senior policy advisor for World Vision, described it as "hell on earth".

Anderson recalled an 11-year-old boy she met who was forced by the rebels to kill five people.

"The first time he killed someone, he, along with other children, were forced to bite to death one child who had attempted to escape," said Anderson.

She criticized the United States and other nations for not doing enough. "The Bush administration has all but ignored this crisis. It remains a forgotten war," said Anderson. "High-level engagement by Congress and the administration would make a difference," she added.

http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/EVIU-6BGEGZ?OpenDocument

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Ugandan Woman Jane Rwampunda wins innovation prize

Uganda's leading daily New Vision has awarded Jane Rwampunda, founder of Bugaaki Development Organisation  (BUDO) the Women's vision prize for her "creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, impact on her household income as well as the community"  

Rwampunda was selected for her innovation in making charcoal fridges, which she sells to farmers and traders in markets. The local technology fridges preserve vegetables, fruits and keep farmers’ drinks cold as they await sale. Rwampunda’s charcoal fridges cost sh55,000 or more depending on the size.

She uses the money from her charcoal fridge sales to invest in solar dryers which increase the shelf life of perishable farm produce. This makes her business sustainable. Rwampunda’s charcoal fridges contribute directly to the agricultural sector on which the country’s economy depends. This innovation directly helps the grassroot farmers, 70 per cent of who are women.

Charcoal fridge
Photo: Charcoal fridge

Though New Vision could only make a special commendation to Jane Rwampunda, several other women short-listed deserve mention.

Florence Kabogoza is a farmer in Mityana. Her story was highlighted in The New Vision of July 20, 2004. She makes crude waragi from jackfruit and sells it to Uganda Breweries in Kampala. Kabogoza’s creativity of increasing the shelf life and adding value to a fruit that has always been wasted was commended.

She supplies bigger businesses. The forward and backward linkages are very good. This is what women should learn from her,” said Kitakule.

Kabogoza narrowly missed the award because of the nature of her product - waragi. “The product and its impact on society and health matter. There are too many cases of alcoholic husbands battering their wives,” Sarah Lubega, UWEAL Board member said.

The third candidate, Norah Zawedde (New Vision, May 18, 2004) was short-listed for the challenge she poses to other youths who drop out of school for lack of school fees. “So many youths drop out of school yet there are many opportunities to make money for school fees out there.

Zawedde’s efforts are a challenge to all those who say “I’m not going to school because I don’t have fees”. Zawedde has been vending newspapers to raise her school fees. Other women are Betty Rutare Byanyima of Hope for Harvest, Mbarara (New Vision July 2004). Byanyima was identified as a social entrepreneur.

Betty Byanyima used money she got from selling old newspapers to buy goats for other women in her community. The goats are being reared for income generation. Byanyima’s start-up capital for this project came from the sale of old newspapers, which many people do not consider as a money making resource.

Her children, along with her, combed different parts of Kampala city, gathering and later selling the old newspapers. But her innovativeness and its community benefit aspect did not seem to have contributed much to her own household income nor is she involved in the goat rearing herself. She is a social entrepreneur.

Others on the shortlist are: Rosemary Bahitana Bangirana of Kakyeka, Mbarara who produces about 1,000 litres of wine annually. The 60-year –old retired primary school teacher started the project in 1995 using oranges and lemon fruits. Initially, she produced five litres of wine every day. (New Vision, July 2004)

Mrs Flister Ssekandi designs clothes for men across East Africa. She started a tailoring business with one sewing machine. Today she owns 16 machines and employs 16 people (New Vision, July 6, 2004)

Allen Neumbe a blind woman, aged 27 earns a living by knitting clothes (New Vision, October 22, 2004)

Nnalongo Kacura, a widow from Kabwohe, Itendero Town Council, Bushenyi has been earning a living and maintain her family by roasting gonja (plantain). From the business, she built shops. (New Vision, September 22, 2004).

Nominate your woman achiever

Do you know of a woman whose project or innovation has improved herself and her community in any sphere of life? It could be in health-care, education, farming, nutrition, business, parenting and childcare, they could qualify for Women’s Vision Achiever of the Year award.

It is a non-monetary award given out to one outstanding woman every year on Women’s Day. New Vision will follow up nominated women in the course of the year to profile and consequently give publicity. At the end of the year, your nominee could qualify for the award.

Please, send the name of woman or women’s group, type of project, location, what they do, why you think she/they deserve to be recognised, contact of the nominated woman achiever to:
The Features Desk, New Vision, P.O. Box 9815, Kampala,
Or email to features@newvision.co.ug
Or fax to 041 235843 or call 041 337127.
Include your name, phone contact, and address

[via Afrotecnik]

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Crisis Group: LRA Rebels in Northern Uganda Reorganizing, Stepping up Attacks on Civilians

Note this copy of a news report at politico.com, Kampala/Brussels April 12, 2005:

The peace process aimed at ending Northern Uganda's extraordinarily brutal eighteen-year war is in critical condition, but it may still be possible to resuscitate it if the Ugandan government and international community act decisively, a leading peace advocacy organization says.

The latest report from the Brussel-based International Crisis Group (ICG) on the peace prospects in Northern Uganda, released Monday, says the insurgent Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has recently stepped up the scale and frequency of its horrific attacks on civilians.

The Organization calls for Ugandan government mediator Betty Bigombe to present a new, comprehensive peace proposal directly to LRA chief Joseph Kony. If such a proposal is to be credible, however, it will require increased support from the European troika of Norway, the UK and the Netherlands and a more engaged United States, the report says.

"Kony won't agree to and implement a ceasefire that ignores the LRA's two central concerns -- the physical security and livelihoods of LRA members after any settlement", says John Prendergast, Special Adviser to the President of Crisis Group. "If the government really wants to make this work, it will have to replace its ceasefire-first approach with a deal that includes appropriate security guarantees for Kony and his commanders, and a peace dividend to help rebuild war-ravaged communities".

Although the LRA has been hurt by the improved performance of the Ugandan military, reduced support from the Sudanese government, and pressure from the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation, reports of the insurgency's death are greatly exaggerated, the International Crisis Group says.

The organization says that from a base in Southern Sudan, the LRA leadership is reorganizing for intensified conflict and has launched an aggressive campaign of abductions, mutilations, and raids on arms depots. Atrocities include kidnapping of children to turn them into LRA fighters and cutting off the lips, ears and breasts of women who were caught while gathering firewood or drawing water from wells in Northern Uganda.

In February, the government decided not to extend its unilateral, limited ceasefire after the LRA failed to demonstrate goodwill.

The International Crisis Group says the Ugandan government appears to be losing patience with mediation efforts, refocusing instead on a military solution and expanding efforts to target LRA leaders.

"Given the attitudes of the parties, the peace process will disintegrate without more vigorous, sustained international, particularly U.S., support", says Suliman Baldo, Crisis Group's Africa Program Director. "If this chance slips away, the people of Northern Uganda will be condemned to more violence and abductions -- for who knows how much longer".

The Lord's Resistance Army has been fighting to overthrow the Ugandan government since 1987, displacing more than one million people in the north. The rebels routinely attack civilians and kidnap children for forced labor as soldiers and sex slaves.

The International Criminal Court is prepared to issue warrants against LRA leaders suspected of committing crimes against humanity, a step that if not handled carefully could drive the rebels definitively out of the peace process. However, ICC officials are well aware of the risk and are undertaking activities which have increased mutual understanding with Northern Ugandan civil society.

http://www.politinfo.com/articles/article_2005_04_12_1600.html

Monday, April 11, 2005

Congo seeks reparations from Uganda at World Court

Thanks to Carine at ::the.exiled.afrikan:: for pointing out the following report - via Reuters by Paul Gallagher (additional reporting by David Lewis in Kinshasa) dated April 11, 2005:

Congo seeks reparations from Uganda at World Court

Photo: A De Beers employee holds the largest uncut diamond ever displayed in Canada. The 616-carat Dutoitspan diamond, discovered in Kimberley, South Africa, is too flawed to cut and is valued at US$3 million. Stringer photo.

THE HAGUE, April 11 (Reuters) - The Democratic Republic of Congo accused Uganda on Monday of "massive" human rights abuses, looting and destruction in a war on its territory and demanded compensation from its neighbour at the World Court.

The Congo -- rich in gold, diamonds and timber -- was the battleground for rebels, local factions, tribes and neighbouring countries, including Uganda, in a 1998-2003 war in which 4 million people died, mainly from hunger and disease.

"Uganda played a considerable role in the murderous war which tore apart the Congo for five years," Congolese representative Maitre Tshibangu Kalala told the court at the start of public hearings on Monday.

Congo took Uganda to the World Court in 1999, accusing it of responsibility for human rights abuses and "armed aggression". It called for compensation for what it said were acts of looting, destruction and removal of property.

Congo says Uganda committed "violations of international humanitarian law and massive human rights violations", the World Court said in a statement.

Cases at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court, can take years to be completed. The court is the U.N.'s highest and its ruling in the case will be final and not subject to appeal.

Uganda has filed a counter claim, accusing Congo of responsibility for attacks on Ugandan citizens and diplomatic buildings in Kinshasa and unspecified acts of aggression against Uganda.

A Ugandan representative declined to comment on the case and said his country would outline its position on Friday.

Congo's Justice Minister Kisimba Ngoy was quoted by U.N. radio as saying reparations could amounts to billions of dollars.

CHANGING MOTIVES

Rwanda and Uganda invaded Congo after rebel factions backed by them took up arms in 1998 to topple the late President Laurent Kabila, who was supported by Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe.

A ceasefire was negotiated in 1999 and Ugandan troops finally pulled out in 2002.

A U.N. report in November 2001 said the initial motivation for Rwanda and Uganda to intervene in the central African nation had been to secure their borders.

But over time the lure of natural resources became the primary motive for staying in many areas of the former Zaire and perpetuating the warfare, the report said.

U.N. officials have accused Ugandan commanders of stealing gold, diamonds and timber, although Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has rebuffed such charges, saying there is nothing of value in the country to exploit.

Under a 2003 peace deal, a power-sharing government was set up to shepherd the Congo to elections this year, but armed groups still rule much of the country as local strongmen protect privileges built up during the war.

Uganda, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Congo pledged in September 2002 to stop interfering in each other's affairs in a new regional bid to end Congo's war.

But a U.N.-commissioned report in January singled out Uganda for failing to control cross-border trade into the Congo's lawless northeastern district of Ituri, where warlords prosper amid a local conflict that has killed 60,000 people since 1999.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L11204656.htm
- - -

Ugandan army soldiers display weapons captured from LRA

Photo: Ugandan army soldiers display weapons captured from the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in Kipwayi hills, some 50 miles inside Sudan near the border with Uganda. US lawmakers called for greater international efforts to bring peace to northern Uganda and stop the exploitation of children by opposition rebels there. (AFP/File/Peter Busomoke) April 7, 2005.

Shock Therapy for Northern Uganda's Peace Process

Copy of report via Relief Web - Kampala/Brussels, 11 April 2005:

The peace process aimed at ending the eighteen-year old conflict in Northern Uganda is in critical condition because neither the Ugandan government nor the insurgent Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) appears fully committed to a negotiated solution.1 After the LRA increased its atrocities against civilians in February 2005 and ignored a request to demonstrate its good will, the government decided not to extend its unilateral, limited ceasefire and re-focused on a military solution. The mediator, former Ugandan State Minister Betty Bigombe, needs to obtain a new, more comprehensive government proposal and then test the rebels' willingness for peace by travelling to southern Sudan to put it directly to their leader, Joseph Kony, if the chance to end an extraordinarily brutal conflict is not to be lost. Neither is likely to happen without more international engagement.

The LRA is reorganising for intensified conflict. Its attacks on civilians are becoming more frequent and are conducted by larger units. Joseph Kony, its single real decision-maker, has still not responded to any government proposal. Kampala appears to be losing patience with the mediation effort, putting priority instead on a military solution and expanding efforts to target LRA leaders. The process of reintegrating former LRA fighters into their communities is proceeding poorly, thus negatively affecting the calculations of LRA fighters who are still in the bush.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is prepared to issue warrants against LRA leaders suspected of committing crimes against humanity, a step that if not handled carefully could drive the rebels definitively out of the peace process. However, the ICC is well aware of the risk and is undertaking a series of activities which have increased mutual understanding with Northern Ugandan civil society.

Bigombe continues to speak on the telephone with Vincent Otii, her designated LRA contact, and may meet with him soon. Reportedly, the insurgents are considering some gesture, perhaps even proclamation of their own unilateral ceasefire. However, new procedures and new substance are required if the peace process is to be given a decisive push. Since the lack of direct, persistent engagement with Kony is a critical handicap, Bigombe should seek agreement and help from the Ugandan government to travel to southern Sudan, where Kony is located, in order to take up face-to-face negotiation.

This would also need the active assistance of the Sudanese government and its new peace partner, the formerly insurgent Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), as well as key diplomats in Kampala, Khartoum, and Nairobi.

Kony will not agree to a ceasefire that does not address the LRA's two central concerns -- post-settlement physical security and livelihoods. Therefore, the ceasefire-first approach the government has been following 2 should be replaced by a proposal for a comprehensive settlement that includes guarantees for Kony and other LRA commanders, international monitoring in all aspects of implementation to counter corrosive distrust that could potentially spoil the deal, and a peace dividend to help rebuild war-ravaged communities.

Given the attitudes of the parties, none of this is likely without more vigorous and sustained international support, most particularly from the U.S., which has considerable influence with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and whose reserve causes LRA leaders to doubt it supports a negotiated peace. Unfortunately, Washington is preoccupied with events in Sudan, even though the viability of the recently signed peace between the Sudanese government and the SPLM is partly intertwined with the fate of the southern Sudan-based LRA.

A European troika of Norway, the UK and the Netherlands is working hard but it would benefit from more direct American reinforcement; all four countries should appoint senior envoys to lend their efforts more credibility with the parties.

Footnotes

1 For more background on the LRA insurgency, see Crisis Group Africa Report N°77, Northern Uganda: Understanding and Solving the Conflict, 14 April 2004.

2 Crisis Group Africa Briefing N°22, Peace in Northern Uganda: Decisive Weeks Ahead, 21 February 2005.

http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/MMQD-6BCPAZ?OpenDocument

Uganda in court over DRC claims

Uganda is accused of massacring Congolese civilians writes Geraldine Coughlan at BBC News from The Hague, April 11, 2005. Here is a copy of her report:

The International Court of Justice at The Hague is starting to hear a complaint filed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) against Uganda.

The DRC accuses its neighbour of invading its territory, committing human rights violations and massacring Congolese civilians. It is also demanding reparations for destruction and looting allegedly carried out by Ugandan troops.

Uganda denies the claims and accuses the DRC of acts of aggression.

In 1999 the DRC asked the court to put a stop to acts of aggression by Uganda, which it said were a serious threat to peace and security in central Africa. In a provisional ruling in 2000, the Court ordered both sides to refrain from any conflict - which could aggravate the case.

Last year, the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda started peace negotiations.

The DRC filed a similar complaint against Rwanda with the World Court in 2002.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Uganda army kills over 50 rebels in two days

KAMPALA, April 9 (Xinhuanet) -- Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF) announced on Saturday that its troops killed over 50 Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in the past two days in northern partof the country.

UPDF 4th division spokesman Lt. Tabaro Kiconco was quoted by Radio Uganda as saying that more than 50 rebels have been killed and several others captured with several guns when the rebels attempted to raid some internally displaced persons' camps in Gulu,Kitgum and Pader districts in the past two days.

Kiconco said the rebels who are moving in small groups of between three and ten have since Friday attacked internally displaced persons' camps in search of food and medicines.

He said early Saturday 15 rebels were killed in Kitgum districtand seven guns recovered.

The spokesman said in Kitgum that at least 21 LRA rebels were killed, 13 abducted people rescued and one captured on Friday, while two LRA rebels were killed and two guns recovered when five of them attempted to raid an internally displaced persons' camp atMuwini.

In Gulu district, two rebels were killed, one captured and two guns recovered in Palongo while two more rebels were killed and their guns recovered as they attempted to penetrate the Lagole camp.

He added that the rebels have recent intensified attempts on the internally displaced persons' camps in search for food.

LRA rebels, based in southern Sudan, have killed tens of thousands of civilians and displaced over 1.4 million people in their 19-year rebellion in northern Uganda. Enditem

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