Friday, June 30, 2006

LRA victim: 'I cannot forget and forgive'

June 29, 2006 BBC report [via CFD] copied here in full:

Following recent comments from Lord's Resistance Army rebel leader Joseph Kony in which he denied committing atrocities, Ugandan Ochola John, 25, responds by telling his story. He was abducted by rebels from his village, Namkora in northern Uganda, which was attacked in February 2002. During the attack 50 people were axed to death and he was one of 35 abductees.

_41827392_ochol203x250.jpg
Photo: Ochola John was deformed by rebels from Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army

"I wish I could be born again. It hurts me to see my reflection because of the way I now look.

The memories of it all are so painful.

It was in the night when I saw a number of torches flash at me. I was commanded to lie down facing the ground. As I did so, the rebels began raiding other houses around me.

They arrested many - tying, and lying the victims on the ground in three lines.

People were screaming from all corners of our village.

Two men were tied and forced onto the ground where their heads were joined together. The rebels tried to force me to pick up a log and hit their heads but I refused so one came for me with a knife and cut off my left ear. He accused me of being a government soldier and said that I would be finished off if I failed to smash their heads.

But then, they started smashing the people's heads themselves. I was put in the middle as they smashed the people's heads.

Abducted

At about 0700 in the morning, they led 35 of us into the bush. About five kms (approximately three miles) from the scene they began taunting me, saying that I was big-headed, and because I refused to respect them I would be cooked alive.

They kept on beating us and they denied food or water from us. We complained saying we were hungry and thirsty. They stopped raping the women that were in our group and acted as though they were going to let us eat and drink. The ladies were forced to boil water in a big tin.

Shortly after this they announced that we would eat the government soldier - supposedly, me.

For a long time, the rebels took turns at beating us men with hot metal, and raping the girls.

I was already spiritually dead.

They returned to me at some point and re-tied me before chopping off my lips. They then cut off my right ear and my nose.

Some time later their commander Joseph Kony phoned, telling them to leave the place immediately.

We were then relocated about 15km further into the bush.

Bad omen

I was bleeding. I could not cry anymore and for two days I couldn't drink water.

The rebels debated for two days whether or not I was to be killed. They told me I was a bad omen and so must suffer.

My wounds had begun to rot. The smell was so bad. But still they refused me any treatment.

Then on the seventh day, because I never expected to live, I insulted their commander in the hope that in revenge he would kill me.

He just ordered his soldiers to cut off my hands. They did.

That evening I remember seeing my fellow female abductees crying. One of them had been killed and another had had her breast cut off.

I don't know how but by what I think was the eleventh day of being abducted I was still living.

Helpless

The rebels kept telling me that I would soon be dead. They picked out two of the starving, tired girls that could hardly even walk from being repeatedly raped and ordered them to take me home.

The three of us were helpless. The girls were crying, inconsolably, when some government soldiers found us following a further night spent out in the open.

They took us straight to the nearest hospital where we received treatment. On reaching hospital, my wife came to see me with my parents, relatives and friends.

They found it hard to see me as a human being. I was rotting, smelly and deformed.

Time

My wife could not find words to speak to me. She just felt very sick.

My thoughts were filled with bitterness. I hated life and wished that I had just been killed. All I wanted was to commit suicide and die.

My wife started taking care of me in the hospital. I had asked her to leave me alone, explaining that because I was deformed, I couldn't be her husband anymore.

She refused. Over and over she rejected my request, saying that the baby she was carrying for us, the child we were expecting, needed a father.

She kept saying that I hadn't asked to be deformed like that and someday God would let me know why I had been put through such an ordeal.

My wife, Grace, with time helped to suppress my terrible feelings and thoughts.

When our baby boy was born, I named him Anywar, which in our Luo language means an insult or an abuse.

I named him so because of what the Lord's Resistance Army leader, Joseph Kony, did to me.

I try, but I cannot forgive, and I cannot forget."

Kony is Crazy, So Why Does Riek Love Him? - Just how crazy is Joseph Kony?

Note Ethan's blog entry - Just how crazy is Joseph Kony? - June 29, 2006 and his postscript:
I have to admit - Farvar's story on Kony makes me a little uneasy. I understand the value of an interview with a critical figure in Africa, and understand that there's no way Farvar would have gotten the interview if he was able to lead the authorities back to Kony camp ... but what are the ethics on giving a platform for someone like Kony to explain his motives and beliefs? And does Farvar have an obligation to assist those people trying to arrest Kony now that he's met with him and conducted this interview? How does this parallel situations like interviews journalists have conducted with Bin Ladn?
- - -

A comment at Ethan's post provides a link to the following report from allAfrica.com, copied here in full:

Uganda: Kony is Crazy, So Why Does Riek Love Him?
The Monitor (Kampala) June 27, 2006
Charles Onyango-Obbo/Ear to The Ground

The LRA leader, Joseph Kony, has become a subject of renewed international interest and diplomatic activity at a point when he's launching the least attacks in Uganda, and seems to be at his weakest. No?

Last year Kony seemed to be on the ropes. In October the International Criminal Court indicted him and put out a warrant for his arrest, and that of his other senior commanders like Vincent Otti.

The new Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) offered to help destroy the LRA and arrest Kony; and then it was reported that rebels were on the run and had crossed into DR Congo.

However, while Kony seemed to be in disarray, his rebels were at the same time staging deadly attacks inside Sudan. If this seemed puzzling, what followed was even more intriguing.

Then a few weeks ago, the picture changed dramatically. At celebrations to mark the founding of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army on May 16, Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir announced that the GOSS had persuaded the LRA to start peace talks with Uganda, and that his Vice-President Riek Machar had met Kony.

Kiir also said that President Museveni had watched a videotape of the meeting. He said Museveni had given a green light to the contacts, and had dropped his objections giving Kony amnesty for the LRA's atrocities.

Riek was also showed giving Kony $20,000 (Shs 37m) to keep his troops and family fed, so that they stop their attacks.

Hell broke loose. The sight of Riek giving Kony money outraged many. And the ICC objected strongly to any amnesty for Kony, and insisted he be handed over to The Hague. Museveni also seemed to change his position, threatening that the UPDF would go back into the DRC if Kinshasa and the UN did not firmly deal with the threat of Kony.

In reality, by October last year the politics around the LRA had changed dramatically.

For already two LRAs had emerged. One was known as "LRA Uganda" and the other "LRA Sudan." Most of the LRA who were carrying out raids in the western banks of the Nile were non-Ugandans - "LRA Sudan" or "New LRA." The "LRA Sudan" is commanded by southern Sudanese based in Juba, some of them known members of the National Congress (NC) Party of President El-Bashir.

This move was critical for "LRA Uganda" because it freed Kony from the pressure to protect his bases and supply lines in southern Sudan. In that sense, then, Kony can be said to have crossed into the DRC mainly to expand the nature of the conflict, not in defeat. Indeed in January the Kony forces ambushed a UN unit comprising elite Guatemalan forces in the DRC, killed eight of them and, in true Kony fashion, cut their heads off and impaled them on stakes.

More crucially, Khartoum is suspected to be backing the "LRA Sudan" option because it's not committed to upholding the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the war in the south, particularly now that it's very likely that southern Sudan will vote for secession when a referendum is held in five years' time.

These developments found the GOSS vulnerable. After the death of long-term SPLM/A leader John Garang in President Museveni's official helicopter that was carrying him back to his southern Sudan base last August, the organisation was nearly plunged into a crisis. Though President Kiir is less authoritarian and more consultative than Garang, he lacks the latter's authority or charisma.

Before Garang died, discord was already rife, and he was travelling to a meeting aimed at quelling a revolt by leaders of SPLM/A. Indeed Kiir had at around that point returned to Nairobi to cool off. The Luo Nuer militia loyal to Machar were making fresh threatening voices.

Garang's death, and the ascendance to power of the mild-mannered Kiir postponed, but did not prevent, the power struggle in the south becoming full blown.

Southern Sudan is a tough place, in which mostly brass-knuckled men like Garang seem to thrive. Kiir's manner and the fact that his administration is viewed as incompetent have therefore encouraged his authority to be challenged.

For the GOSS in general, in these conditions the most important thing is to consolidate, rather than divert attention into chasing bandit armies. Kiir is known to favour the removal of Kony and his forces, but right now his faction doesn't seem to be in a position or to have the will to pursue such a campaign on its own.

This situation has favoured Riek. He doesn't have any problems with Kony. His connections to Kony go back to the mid 1990s, when they were both fighting Garang's SPLA on behalf of the Khartoum regime.

If the "LRA" remains an important player in Khartoum's schemes in the south, and also is crucial for political actors like Riek who see it as a potentially useful force in the clamour for supremacy that might well come before long, then Kony's macabre currency has risen.

Add to that the fact that for President Museveni's government it would be better if Kony remained free roaming the jungles of the DR Congo or dead, rather than in The Hague and it becomes clear that the dreadful rebel is benefiting from surviving long enough for events to play in his favour. To this high drama, we shall return next Wednesday.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Joseph Kony (LRA), exposed - First picture, after more than a decade

UN SGSR Jan Pronk discusses "how to approach the Lord's Resistance Army? Is it possible to defeat them militarily or should we try to find a political solution? What comes first: justice or peace? Who should decide?"

Read more at Jan Pronk Weblog June 19, 2006.

Joseph Kony (LRA), exposed

First picture, after more than a decade, of Joseph Kony, leader of the nefarious Lord Resistance Army. The picture shows Kony (l), and his second in command Vince Otty (r). In the middle: Riek Machar, Vice President Government of South Sudan".

Kony has asked the Government of Southern Sudan to facilitate talks between him and President Museveni of Uganda, claiming that he would wish to put an end to his twenty year war with Uganda. Kony and Otty have been indicted by the International Criminal Court.

Photo and text courtesy May 30, 2006 Jan Pronk Weblog - Joseph Kony (LRA), exposed.

June 21 2006 Sudan wants ICC Kony trial delayed. [As noted preivously here at Uganda Watch, the U.S. views Kony's LRA as a terrorist organisation]

Uganda: New blogs

Uganda: New Blogs - via Global Voices, with thanks.

Uganda dismisses claims that some districts in N Uganda have expressed interest to be cut off from the rest of the country and join southern Sudan

AND, Kampala Bureau report June 22, 2006 by Gerald Businge:

The minister of defence, Crispus Kiyonga, has dismissed claims that some districts in northern Uganda have expressed interest to be cut off from the rest of the country and join southern Sudan.

Gulu local council vice-chairperson, Norbert Mao, said this week that people in northern Uganda have suffered because of war in the last twenty years and that as a result some districts want to separate from the South and form their own state.

He said that northern Uganda is closer to southern Sudan socially and economically than it is to southern Uganda.

Minister Kiyonga, however, says Uganda will remain as one country and that no one should even think of seceding from rest of the country because there is no need.

The minister says the northern Uganda war is almost over and local leaders in the area should start planning the reconstruction of the area.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sudan wants ICC Kony trial delayed

June 21, 2006 Monitor Online F Nyakairu, S Kasyate & Agencies report:
The Southern Sudanese government has said it wants the International Criminal Court to delay the trial of rebel leader Joseph Kony to give way for peace negotiations.

The Vice President, Mr Riek Machar, said on Tuesday that the Hague-based ICC should publicly endorse his government's peace initiative with the LRA.

"If the ICC came out to say that they would give the peace process a chance before the legal process is done, then we would resolve the conflict in the region," Machar said in his office in the southern capital Juba.

"If they did that, they would give the peace process a big boost. It would assist the Ugandan government to boldly say 'we are going to negotiate'."

Machar has led efforts by the south Sudanese government to mediate an end to the 19-year uprising in northern Uganda by the LRA, which has staged attacks from bases in neighbouring Sudan since the mid-1990s.

The ICC issued arrest warrants for Kony, who claims mystical inspiration for his rebellion, and his four top commanders in October, detailing various counts including murder, sexual enslavement and rape.

The warrants divided opinion in Kony's native northern Uganda, where civic and religious groups feared they would make it harder to convince LRA commanders to stop fighting.

The Rights activists, the United Nations and the International Criminal Court are strongly opposed to the talks as the United States says it will back any option.

British High Commissioner Francois Gordon has added his voice in support of International Criminal Court's warrants of arrest for the principal leaders of the Lord's resistance Army LRA.

Speaking at the Queen's Birthday party at his residence on Tuesday, Gordon pledged his government's support in returning to their homes, the internally displaced people, who for two decades, have lived in protected camps.

"The United Kingdom will spare no effort ... to work to archive the return to their homes of the dispossessed and the development of the north, as well as to do all we can do is to support the execution of the warrants issued by the International Criminal Court against the principal leaders of the LRA," he said.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

UK agrees to jail Charles Taylor

The British government has agreed that former Liberian leader Charles Taylor could serve a prison sentence in the UK, if he is convicted of war crimes.
This paves the way for his trial to start in The Hague, after other European countries refused to host him. - BBC June 15, 2006.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Southern Sudan's SPLA create market for LRA rebels regrouping around Congo-Sudan border

Sunday Vision report by Frank Mugabi June 3, 2006:

REBELS of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have started regrouping around the Congo-Sudan border in preparation for peace talks that are expected to kick off next week in Juba, a top Sudanese officer has said.

The Yei River County Commissioner, Col. David Lokonga, said in an interview last week that the Government of Southern Sudan had further facilitated the rebels by establishing for them a special market along the border in Sudan where they can purchase food items as they reorganise for talks.

Lokonga said the market, which mainly stocks produce, was created shortly after the Southern Sudan Vice-President, Riek Machar, handed Joseph Kony, the elusive LRA leader, $20,000 for purchasing "food and not arms".

"The market is located between Yambio and the DRC and is only a three-hours walk from the LRA base in the Garamba National Park of Congo."Lokonga said.

Press reports on Thursday indicated that plans were underway for Kony and the Government to meet in Juba to decide on where peace talks could be held.

Describing as genuine the latest call by the LRA for peace talks, Lokonga said the rebels were waiting to hear from the Ugandan government as they regroup in the Congo jungles.

Lokonga, meanwhile, refuted press reports which indicated that the rebels had been given only $20,000.

"They were actually given $25,000," Lokonga said.

He said the SPLA and the Southern Sudanese government were aware of the tricky nature of Kony and were therefore taking no chances with him.

"We know the LRA are a tricky rebel force. That is why we have given them three options. Note that with or without the peace agreement the SPLA is not ready to allow them to operate in Southern Sudan," he said.

He said the first option the rebels had been given was for them to remain in the Congo but not attack Government of Southern Sudan positions, civilians, expatriates and NGOs.

The second option, which he said the rebels accepted, was for them to agree to peace talks with President Yoweri Museveni under the mediation of the Southern Sudan government.

The third and last option, Lokonga said, was that should the LRA not respond to either of the first two options, then the SPLA would be forced to flush them out by force or otherwise from their bases in the Congo and Sudan.

Also at the interview, Col. Vincent Kujo Lobung, the Lainya County Commissioner, said that as a sign of commitment, the LRA had since April 20 not attacked any part of Sudan.

He said they last attacked the Nuni area in Lainya County between April 18 and 20.

In that attack they abducted 10 people and looted food and property. The captives were later released.

The Sudanese officials urged Museveni to take the peace talks seriously so that peace prevails in Sudan and northern Uganda.

"The SPLA and Government of Southern Sudan have unanimously agreed that there should be peace in Uganda and Sudan because instability on either side disrupts both of us," they said.

Friday, June 02, 2006

ANALYSIS-Justice or peace? South Sudan meets rebel fugitive

Reuters report by Daniel Wallis June 2, 2006.

Joseph Kony

Photo: LRA rebel chief Joseph Kony (New Vision)

Kony talks set for Juba, South Sudan

PLANS are underway for peace talks between the Government and LRA chief Joseph Kony in Juba, southern Sudan, New Vision Online reported May 31, 2006. Excerpt:

Southern Sudan Vice-President Riek Machar said the talks would begin next week.

Sudan's Vice-President and President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, said, "When we start to talk with Kony and the Government of Uganda, in a very short time, we will bring peace to northern Uganda and by that we would also bring peace to southern Sudan."

The Ugandan ambassador to Khartoum, Mull Katende, said they were waiting to hear from Kony.

Machar said on Tuesday that initially, the two delegations will go to Juba and decide where they want to have the talks.

Army spokesman Maj Felix Kulayigye, however, yesterday said, "What we are aware of is the President's decision to give Kony another chance after meeting Salva Kiir here in Kampala. We wish Kiir good luck. We are waiting for LRA to respond to what the President has offered. We have, however, not declared a ceasefire."

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