Saturday, January 31, 2009

Uganda's President Museveni commends Sudan Uganda ties - UNAMID opens liaison office in Uganda

United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur, Western Sudan (UNAMID) opens a liaison office in Etntebbe, Uganda.

From Ultimate Media via ugpulse.com Saturday, 31 January 2009:
Uganda's President Museveni commends Sudan Uganda ties
President Yoweri Museveni has hailed the growing good relations between Uganda and Sudan. He was yesterday speaking after receiving a special message of goodwill from President Omar el Bashir of the Sudan.

The message was delivered to President Museveni at State House, Nakasero by the Sudanese leader’s special envoy and advisor, Dr. Bona Malwal.

A statement from Statehouse says that President Museveni and the Sudanese envoy discussed issues of bilateral interest between Uganda and the Sudan as well as regional and international affairs.

Present at the meeting were State Minister for Regional Affairs, Mr. Isaac Musumba, the Principal Private Secretary to the President, Mrs. Amelia Kyambadde and the Director, Regional Co-operation Desk in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Senyomo.
UNAMID OPENS LIAISON OFFICE IN UGANDA

Copy of news from Kampala, Uganda at Sudan Tribune 24 January, 2009:
Darfur peacekeeping mission opens liaison office in Uganda

Photo: UNAMID’s Adada and the Ugandan Minister of Foreign Affairs during the exchange of letters in Kampala, on Jan 23 2009 (UNAMID)

January 23, 2009 (KAMPALA) - Darfur hybrid peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) signed today an agreement with the Ugandan government to establish a liaison office in Etntebbe.

The signing ceremony was attended by the the Ugandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam K. Kutesa, the Joint Special Representative (JSR) Rodolphe Adada and the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator Theophane Nikyema.

According to this agreement, the Government of Uganda will facilitate the free, unhindered movement to Uganda of all personnel, as well as equipment, provisions supplies and other goods, which will be for the exclusive use of the UNAMID Liaison Office.

The privileges and immunities also will be extended to UNAMID property, funds and assets, personnel and contractors.

In a speech delivered at this occasion, Rodolphe Adada pointed out that UNAMID activities within the framework of its mandate have demonstrated a need for additional logistical arrangements to support the Mission from offices outside Darfur.

While the foreign minister Sam K. Kutesa, reiterated Uganda’s commitment to work with the United Nations and the African Union to find lasting solutions to conflicts in African and elsewhere.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ugandan LRA are agents of forces who are against South Sudan's peace agreement

The following report from Sudan Radio Service in Malakal says that the current LRA attacks in Western Equatoria State are aimed at derailing the implementation of Southern Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and that the LRA are agents of people who would like the party and the government to fail and the CPA not be implemented. And one of the ways it can fail is to prevent the holding of elections in Western Equatoria and in Southern Sudan.

Although the source of the report is unverifiable, I am posting it here because its contents make more sense to me than any other report I have read on why Joseph Kony and his group of terrorists continue to be so well trained and equipped while remaining free to be on the rampage for the past 20 years.

As noted here a few days ago, Kony's Ugandan LRA is a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq.

However, looking at it in another way, the LRA sure is a convenient bogeyman to blame for the handiwork of other bandits and so-called janjaweed. One thing's for sure, we don't know half of what is really going on behind the scenes. Even after the past five years, reporters still aren't getting to the root of who is behind the rebel groups in Sudan and Chad.

Sudan reminds me of America's old Wild West in the days of cowboys and indians and gold diggers all fighting to stake a claim on the gold in them there hills. Never mind the poor natives who get in the way. Not to mention the Aborigines in Australia. Bah. Such is life. Very sad.

WES Official Claims LRA is an Agent of Anti-CPA Forces
Report from Sudan Radio (Malakal) 12 January 2009:
Western Equatoria State political advisor Paul Tambua claims that the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels are agents of forces who are against the CPA.

Tambua told Sudan Radio Service in Malakal last week that the current LRA attacks in Western Equatoria State were aimed at derailing the implementation of CPA in the region.

[Paul Tambua]: “The LRA are there, they are agents of other bodies who would like to interfere with the CPA, who would like to see to it that the implementation of CPA fails. And one of the ways it can fail is to prevent the holding of elections in Western Equatoria and not only in Western Equatoria but in Southern Sudan. So these are agents of people who would like the party and the government to fail and the CPA not be implemented.”

He said the Government of southern Sudan will not allow the forces behind LRA operations to ruin the CPA. However, Tambua did not mention which forces he says are behind the LRA operations in south Sudan.

Meanwhile, the security advisor in Western Equatoria state, Jasmine Samuel, said the current situation in the state is very bad.

She said the LRA attacks on people of Western Equatoria State have created fear among the population and has paralyzed the movement of vehicles and people in the state.

The two officials called on the GOSS to increase the number of soldiers and provide logistical support to protect civilians in the area.

Jasmine also called upon the people of Western Equatoria to help the government by giving information to the authorities about the movements of LRA rebels in the area.
- - -

UGANDAN COMMANDER OF OPERATION LIGHTNING THUNDER IN DR CONGO ADVISES CRITICS OF THE MILITARY OFFENSIVE TO WAIT FOR PHOTOS THAT SHOW THE RECENT SUCCESSES

Peter Eichstaedt, author of First Kill Your Family, has a neat round up of news on the LRA in his latest blog post today. For future reference, here is a copy:
Rampage or runaways?

More conflicting information, or perhaps non-information, is coming out of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo as Uganda's army pursues the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

In a story written by Henry Mukasa, the government-owned daily, New Vision, quotes Gen. Patrick Kankiriho as claiming to have "engaged" forces led by the LRA's deputy, Okot Odhiambo, 30km north of Doruma on Monday.

That would put them right on the border with South Sudan, or even in that country, and he claims that two were killed and two were captured two."

Speaking from Dungu, the general said that now eight LRA fighters have been captured and 38 killed since the offensive was launched on December 14, 2008. Over 21 rebels have surrendered to the allies in various parts of Congo and South Sudan and nine captives were rescued.

“We have reached a stage of ‘search and destroy’ for fighters and rescue for captives. We rescue the abductees and the combatants who want to fight us, we engage them,” Kankiriho explained.

The commander said after the battle, two sub-machine guns, four full magazines, two empty magazines and two Sudanese uniforms were recovered.

In another battle on Sunday, Kankiriho said four rebels were killed south of Lagoro. One was captured, two women rescued north of Doruma, while another rebel surrendered with his gun at Yambio in Sudan.

Kankiriho explained that the joint forces had tightened their noose around Kony and his scattered fighters in the vast and densely- forested Garamba National Park in Congo.

“You think he is asking for ceasefire for nothing? The man is under immense pressure. Big, big pressure. We shall get him,” he stressed.

Despite this tough talk, the UN is reporting a different side of the story.

Reuters news agency says that the UN now puts the total civilian dead at the hands of the LRA at 537, since the Dec. 14th attack on LRA camps in northeastern DRC.

Another 408 people had been kidnapped by the rebels, according to UN High Commission on Refugees, and more than 104,000 people are thought to have been forced from their homes into the bush by the violence.

"The displaced population is in dire need of food, shelter, medicines, clothes and other aid items. The area, which by itself poses immense logistical challenges due to the lack of roads or their poor condition, remains highly volatile," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said in a statement in Geneva.

As most are wondering, what has happened to LRA leader Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed prophet and spirit medium?

The Ugandan general refused to say, arguing that this would pre-empt army action drive the Kony further underground. He advised the critics of the military offensive to wait for photographs that show the recent successes.

The New Vision also reported that the Central African Republic (CAR) began deploying more troops on its border with Congo to guard against incursions by the LRA.

Kankiriho said the group was composed of families of rebel commanders and a few fighters guarding them, led by Odhiambo, who is reportedly wounded.
"First Kill Your Family"

Photo: Peter Eichstaedt's book First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the LRA
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Meanwhile ....

Kalma camp

A Sudanese woman sits inside her tent in the Kalma displaced people camp on the outskirts of the southern Darfur town of Nyala. African and Arab countries will try to halt international efforts to bring Sudanese president Omar al-Beshir to justice, which a senior African official judged would hurt peace chances for Darfur. (AFP/File/Jose Cendon)

(Cross posted today at Sudan Watch and Congo Watch)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kony's Ugandan LRA is a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq

Defectors held in the Ugandan capital Kampala say Kony – who claims to receive his instructions directly from God – had no real intention of laying down his weapons. Instead he used the ceasefire to rearm, recruit and stockpile food donated by well-meaning charities and supporters abroad.

For the first time they have given an insight into a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq.

Read more in the following LRA feature from Doruma, Democratic Republic of Congo by ROB CRILLY. On 16 December 2008, the day that a cut down version of the feature appeared in The Times, Rob kindly emailed me the full 2,000 word piece to use on my blog, along with a link to photographer Kate Holt's website kateholt.com.

As a backgrounder, I am prefacing the piece with this excerpt from Rob's blog post at From The Frontline December 10, 2008:
Earlier this year photographer Kate Holt and I chartered a plane to fly from Dungu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the tiny village of Doruma which was recovering from repeated attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army. We found people living in fear of the next assault, as LRA raiding parties roamed the jungle looking for sex slaves, porters and fighters.

We uncovered evidence that Joseph Kony was cynically using a halt in hostilities - called to allow peace talks - in order to rearm, recruit and reorganise. With food distributed by aid agencies and satphones delivered by the Ugandan diaspora, his fighting force was more efficient that ever. And one his key aides, a recent defector, told us that Kony would never sign up to peace.
With many thanks to Rob, here is the feature and photos by Kate Holt.

Rob Crilly

ROB CRILLY
Doruma, Democratic Republic of Congo

FOR eight days Raymond Kpiolebeyo was marched at gunpoint through the steaming Congolese jungle, not knowing whether he would live or die. For six nights he slept with eight other prisoners pinned under a plastic sheet weighted down with bags and stones to prevent escape. Their sweat condensed on the sheeting inches above their faces before dripping back and turning their plastic prison into a stinking, choking sauna.

He was a prisoner of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a cult-like band of brutal commanders and their brutalised child soldiers.

“They told us that if one of use tried to escape we would all be shot,” said Raymond, a 28-year-old teacher from the town of Doruma, close to the border with South Sudan.

He had been captured by a raiding party looking for porters, sex slaves and soldiers to continue the LRA’s 20-year struggle to overthrow the Ugandan government.

Yet the war is supposed to be over. After two years of negotiations, the LRA’s reclusive leader, Joseph Kony, was expected to sign a final peace deal in April. He failed to show up and his aides first said he was suffering from diarrhoea before announcing that he would be not be signing at all.

Negotiators still hold out hope that a war that forced two million people into squalid aid camps is close to an end. Many of the war’s victims in northern Uganda have slowly begun leaving the sprawling shack cities where one generation was born and another died.

But in the border towns of the Democratic Republic of Congo a different picture emerges, one where slaving parties slog through the dense jungle snatching children barely big enough to carry AK-47 rifles. Mothers keep children close to their simple homes of mud and thatch.

And defectors held in the Ugandan capital Kampala say Kony – who claims to receive his instructions directly from God – had no real intention of laying down his weapons. Instead he used the ceasefire to rearm, recruit and stockpile food donated by well-meaning charities and supporters abroad.

For the first time they have given an insight into a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq.

This year his fighters have roamed through Southern Sudan, the Central African Republic and the DRC kidnapping more than 300 children, and turning a Ugandan war into a regional conflict.

After walking 10 hours a day for six days with a sack on his back and another balanced on his head, Raymond arrived at a well-ordered camp filled with children – some the offspring of women kept by commanders while others were being trained with guns.

“They were mobile. All the time they were organising,” he said, sitting in the office of Doruma school where he teaches primary age children. “Some were leaving for other villages and others were arriving.”

Kony is thought to have settled in the DRC two years ago, disappearing deep into Garamba National Park far in the north-east of the country. It was part of a gentlemen’s agreement with the Congolese government: he was offered a safe haven from which to begin seeking peace; in return his troops would steer clear of locals.

Raymond said the camp was a bustling town. Thatched huts stood in neat rows, while labourers farmed sweet potato, maize and beans.

At night a solar-powered television set would be brought out and the young soldiers would cheer as they watched noisy American war films. Anything starring Chuck Norris was a big hit.

After six nights living in Kony’s jungle headquarters Raymond had the chance of escape.

He was woken by a tap on the head from another prisoner. It was the signal to leave. The two tiptoed over sleeping soldiers before breaking for the thick bush around the camp.

He was one of the lucky ones. Five families in Doruma have had children snatched this year with little hope of seeing them returned.

Sitting on a low bamboo bench in the shade of a mango tree Christine Kutiote described how her 13-year-old niece, Marie, was taken as she tried to cross the river for a visit.

Now, she keeps her own four children close to home.

“I’m a Christian and I pray for them and that security will get better,” she said in the local Zande language, as a priest translated her words into French.

Her low, simple home told a different story. Its mud walls bore a pattern of white spots used by witchdoctors to ward off evil. They have little else to protect them. There is no army, the handful of police officers is unarmed and help can only arrive by plane or motorcycle, bumping for six hours along swampy tracks from Dungu, where the United Nations has a base.

Villagers are trickling in from the surrounding region seeking security but even Dungu offers little protection.

Burned-out buildings bear the scars of previous attacks by Kony’s followers. A hospital has few drugs and no anaesthetic.

This is a region well used to conflict. Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola all sent soldiers and support for a five-year civil war that claimed at least three million lives by the time it ended in 2002. Once again the tropical jungle here is being used for someone else’s war.

Governments in the region are slowly waking up the problem. Later this month the Congolese army will deploy 1000 soldiers to Dungu.

A secret intelligence document compiled by the United Nations mission to the DRC, known as Monuc, spells out the scale of the threat. It says the LRA cynically used the peace talks to organise itself into a more effective fighting force. The 670-strong band of fighters now has more than 150 satellite telephones, many bought with cash meant to aid communications during the talks.

“Simply put, Kony now has the ability to divide his forces into very simple groups and to reassemble them at will. When put together with his proven mastery of bush warfare, this gives him new potency within his area of operations,” says the report.

They were given tons of food by a charity, Caritas Uganda, to discourage the looting of villages, and sacks of dollars by Southern Sudan’s new leaders, whom they once fought.

Kony is stronger than ever, concludes the report: “Recent abduction patterns suggest that he is now in the process of perfecting the new skill of recruiting and controlling an international force of his own.”

Kony has long been something of an enigma. His use of child soldiers, tight control over his lieutenants and frequent movement meant few details of his life leaked out of the jungle. Commentators had to join the dots between a handful of disputed facts to form a fuller impression.

He was the altar boy who grew up to be a guerrilla leader. He was the wizard who used magic to protect his brainwashed adherents. And he was the deluded man from the bush who wanted to rule Uganda according to the 10 Commandments.

When he emerged blinking into the media glare two years ago for a meeting with the United Nations most senior humanitarian official, Jan Egeland, his wild, staring eyes and rambling words suggested a man with little grasp on reality.

Yet those who know him best say the simple picture of a crazed, self-proclaimed prophet is far from the mark.

“To describe him is very difficult for me. He is not mad,” said Patrick Opiyo Makasi, who was Kony’s director of operations until last year when he simply walked out of the jungle. “But he is a religious man. All the time he is talking about God. Every time he keeps calling many people to teach them about the legends and about God. Mostly it is what he is talking about and that is how he leads people.”

Colonel Makasi tells his story in soft, polite tones stumbling over the English language which he stopped learning when he was snatched from his home in Gulu, northern Uganda, at the age of 12. He was handed a Kalashnikov rifle and his school lessons were replaced by in by instruction in anti-tank mines, surface-to-air missiles and machine guns.

During the next 20 years he rose to become one of Kony’s must trusted confidantes.

Back then he was only a frightened little boy, missing his father and mother. His fellow child soldiers became his family and the process of brainwashing began.

“We stayed together and became like family. Even those who were in the bush were like your brothers,” he said in a non-descript café in a Kampala suburb, his words monitored by a government minder. “Because you are young you see some commanders like fathers. Things are happening fast and you need the others to help you. You follow what the commander says because there is no-one else to listen to.”

He impressed his superiors, eventually being given the nickname Makasi. He only learned later that the word means “difficult to break” in the Congolese language Lingala.

He insisted civilians were not his target. He waged war on the Ugandan People’s Defence Force, he said.

Yet the LRA has always needed civilians, stealing food, children and women at will.

Captured children were forced to beat escapees until they died. Once their hands were stained with blood they were told they could never leave – they would be killed by the UPDF.

Anyone suspected of badmouthing Kony had their lips sliced from their face; anyone caught riding a bicycle was liable to have their legs cut off for fear cyclists would raise the alarm as the LRA approached.

The abuses earned Kony the title of Africa’s most wanted man. The International Criminal Court in the Hague issued arrest warrants against Kony and four senior commanders in 2005.

A year ago Makasi simply strolled out of Kony’s camp, knowing that no-one would suspect the LRA’s director of operations of defecting. A day earlier Kony had murdered Vincent Otti, the LRA’s second-in-command, and Makasi knew the death of a key negotiator meant peace talks hosted by South Sudan were doomed.

Kony would never emerge from the bush he told senior commanders, and was becoming increasingly paranoid that he would face the death penalty for his crimes.

“He said the ICC was a very bad thing and if he went to the Hague he would die,” said Makasi.

For five days he struggled through the thick bush, skirting around lions, elephants and buffalo before arriving in Dungu.

He brought with him details of a staggering array of weaponry supplied by the Sudanese government in Khartoum, who once used the LRA as a proxy army in a doomed attempt to put down southern rebels.

Makasi said the LRA was given crates of AK-47s, mines, heavy machine guns and even surface-to-air missiles by the Sudanese armed forces.

“I know that because we were staying with them around their camp and we were the ones who would collect them from their lorry,” he said.

It took Makasi’s comrades eight months to bury the booty in caches dotted across Southern Sudan. They are now being excavated as Kony returns to war.

Makasi said senior officers also used to visit Khartoum for instruction. Some were flown on to Iran and Iraq to learn leadership skills, tactics and training on new weapons.

For all his bizarre beliefs and brutish tactics, analysts now believe Kony is acting with the rational behaviour of a cornered man.

“Political theorists have an expression ‘gambling for resurrection’ and that seems to be what he is doing,” said a military source. “He still thinks he can become president of Uganda, running the country as some sort of theocracy so it seems as if he is digging in.”

For Makasi though the war is over. Today he is part-prisoner, part-guest of the Ugandan government which he fought for two decades.

He said he wanted to continue his education and find work helping people. Something normal after a life lived in Kony’s alternative reality. He knows the LRA conducted staggering acts of brutality yet cannot quite bring himself to admit responsibility.

“I cannot say sorry because it was not my hope that my life was like this,” he said. “I was taken and forced to fight. It was not my will.”
- - -

Here is a copy of the cut down version

From The Times
December 16, 2008

Lord's Resistance Army uses truce to rearm and spread fear in Uganda

Once seen as a ragtag brigade, the guerrilla force that claims divine leadership is organised and ready to renew fighting

Congo Durama 1

Christine Kutiote, whose niece was abducted by the LRA in March, with her remaining children at her home in the north east of the DRC (Kate Holt/eyevine)

Rob Crilly

For eight days Raymond Kpiolebeyo was marched at gunpoint through the Congolese jungle, not knowing whether he would live or die. At night he slept with eight other prisoners, pinned under a plastic sheet weighted down with bags and stones to prevent escape. Their sweat condensed on the sheeting, inches above their faces, before dripping back and turning their plastic prison into a stinking, choking sauna.

He was a prisoner of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a band of pitiless commanders and their brutalised child soldiers. “They told us that if one of us tried to escape we would all be shot,” said Raymond, 28, a teacher from Doruma, close to the border with southern Sudan. He had been captured by a raiding party looking for porters, sex slaves and soldiers to continue the LRA's 20-year struggle to overthrow the Ugandan Government.

His experience deep in the bush and interviews with one of the LRA's most senior defectors offer an extraordinary insight into the workings of the world's most bizarre guerrilla movement. The LRA is now in the world spotlight, as southern Sudan, Congo and Uganda have mounted joint operations to force it to negotiate or, failing that, wipe it out

This war is supposed to be over. After two years of negotiations, Joseph Kony, the LRA's reclusive leader, was expected to sign a peace deal in April. He failed to show up; his aides said that he was suffering from diarrhoea, before announcing that he would not be signing at all.

Negotiators still hope that a war that has forced two million people into squalid aid camps is close to an end. Many of its victims in northern Uganda have slowly begun leaving the sprawling shack cities where one generation was born and another died.

The border towns of the Democratic Republic of Congo tell a different story; one where slaving parties slog through the jungle, snatching children barely big enough to carry AK47 rifles. In the past few months an estimated 75,000 people have been forced from their homes in a fresh wave of attacks.

Defectors in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, say that General Kony - who claims to receive his instructions directly from God - never had any intention of laying down his weapons. Instead, he used the ceasefire to rearm, recruit and stockpile food donated by well-meaning charities and supporters abroad.

For the first time they have described a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq.

This year his fighters have roamed through southern Sudan, the Central African Republic and Congo, kidnapping more than 300 children and turning a Ugandan war into a regional conflict.

After walking for ten hours a day for six days with a sack on his back and another balanced on his head, Raymond arrived at a camp filled with children. “They were mobile. All the time they were organising,” he said, sitting in the office of Doruma school where he teaches primary-age children. “Some were leaving for other villages and others were arriving.”

General Kony is thought to have settled in Congo two years ago, disappearing into Garamba National Park in the far northeast of the country. It was part of a gentlemen's agreement with the Congolese Government: he was offered a safe haven from which to begin seeking peace, and in return his troops would stay away from locals.

Raymond said that the camp was a bustling town. Thatched huts stood in neat rows; labourers farmed sweet potato, maize and beans. At night a solar-powered television would be brought out and the young soldiers would cheer as they watched noisy American war films. Anything starring Chuck Norris was a big hit.

After six nights in General Kony's jungle headquarters Raymond had the chance of escape. He was woken by a tap on the head from another prisoner. It was the signal to leave. The two tiptoed over sleeping soldiers before breaking for the thick bush around the camp.

He was lucky to escape the LRA. Others have not been so fortunate.

Sitting on a low bamboo bench in the shade of a mango tree in Doruma, Christine Kutiote described how her 13-year-old niece, Marie, was taken as she tried to cross the river for a visit.Now, she keeps her own four children close to home.

“I'm a Christian and I pray for them and that security will get better,” she said. But her simple home told a different story. Its mud walls bore a pattern of white spots used by witchdoctors to ward off evil.

This is a region used to conflict. Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola all sent troops for a five-year war that claimed at least three million lives by its end in 2002. Once again the Congolese jungle is being used for someone else's war.

An intelligence document compiled by the United Nations mission to Congo, known as Monuc, spells out the scale of the threat. It says that the LRA cynically used the peace talks to organise itself into a regional fighting force. The 670-strong band of fighters now has more than 150 satellite telephones, many bought with cash meant to aid communications during the talks. “Simply put, Kony now has the ability to divide his forces into very simple groups and to reassemble them at will,” the report says. “When put together with his proven mastery of bush warfare, this gives him new potency within his area of operations.”

They were given tonnes of food by a charity, Caritas Uganda, to discourage the looting of villages, and fistfuls of dollars by southern Sudan's new leaders, whom they once fought.

General Kony is stronger than ever, the report concludes: “Recent abduction patterns suggest that he is now in the process of perfecting the new skill of recruiting and controlling an international force of his own.”

The general has long been an enigma. His use of child soldiers, tight control over his lieutenants and frequent movement mean that little is known of his life.

He was the altar boy who grew up to be a guerrilla leader. He was the wizard who used magic to protect his brainwashed adherents. And he was the deluded man from the bush who wanted to rule Uganda according to the Ten Commandments.

Yet those who know him best say that the picture of a crazed, self-proclaimed prophet is far from the mark. “To describe him is very difficult for me. He is not mad,” said Patrick Opiyo Makasi, who was General Kony's director of operations until last year when he walked out of the jungle. “But he is a religious man. All the time he is talking about God. Every time he keeps calling many people to teach them about the legends and about God. That is how he leads people.”

Colonel Makasi was snatched from his home in Gulu, northern Uganda, at the age of 12. He was handed a Kalashnikov and his school lessons were replaced by instruction in anti-tank mines, surface-to-air missiles and machineguns. Over the next 20 years he rose to become one of General Kony's most trusted confidants.

Then, a year ago, Colonel Makasi strolled out of the Kony's camp, knowing that no one would suspect the LRA's director of operations of defecting. A day earlier General Kony had murdered Vincent Otti, the LRA's second-in-command. Any chance of peace was finished.

Colonel Makasi brought with him details of an array of weaponry supplied by the Sudanese Government in Khartoum, which once used the LRA as a proxy army in a doomed attempt to put down southern rebels. The LRA had been given crates of AK47s, mines, heavy machineguns and even surface-to-air missiles.

The colonel's comrades spent eight months burying the booty in caches dotted across southern Sudan. They are now being excavated as General Kony returns to war. Senior officers also used to visit Khartoum for instruction, he said. Some were flown on to Iran and Iraq to learn leadership skills, tactics and training for new weapons.

Now the general is displaying the behaviour of a cornered man. “He still thinks he can become President of Uganda, running the country as some sort of theocracy, so it seems as if he is digging in,” a military source said.

Africa's most bizarre and brutal war seems no closer to a conclusion.

Congo Durama 2

Photo: Raymond Kpiolebeyo, a primary school teacher who was abducted by the LRA but managed to escape (Kate Holt/eyevine)

Congo Durama 3

Photo: Patrick Opio Makas. A former LRA commander, he deserted after being abducted when he was just 12 years old (Kate Holt/eyevine)

Congo Durama 4

Photo: A young boy sits crying on a bed while his mother undergoes a caesarian operation in the hospital in Dungu. The boy and his mother travelled 100 km to get to the nearest hospital (Kate Holt/eyevine)

Congo Durama 5

Photo: An old woman lies dying surrounded by family in the hospital in Dungu. Aid organisations withdrew from the region because of frequent attacks and abductions carried out by the LRA (Kate Holt/eyevine)

Have Your Say - A reader's comment

"Africa's most bizarre and brutal war seems no closer to a conclusion."
Indeed, without the involvement of the Khartoum regime in both times of peace and war; this enigma would continue probably unabbated for a while. I thought regional effort would involve the Bashir's Sudan as well.
BOB ACELLAM, HOIMA, UGANDA

Copyright 2008 Times Newspapers Ltd.
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Rob Crilly is a freelance journalist writing about Africa for The Times, The Irish Times, The Daily Mail, The Scotsman and The Christian Science Monitor from his base in Nairobi. Currently, after spending Christmas in Somalia and seeing in the new year on a Mexican safari while helping to build an earthbag house, Rob is travelling in the USA and writing a book about the war in Darfur, Western Sudan.

Some posts at Rob's blog From The Frontline'
11/12/08: Who'd Have Thought It? Certainly not Tony Blair, Paul Kagame’s new best friend and adviser, who has said Rwanda does not control Laurent Nkunda and his rebel army.

15/12/08: So my brief guide to African beers appeared in The Times this morning. Crilly's Cool Ones...

16/12/08: Finding Peace in Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic

21/12/08: My African Predictions for 2009
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Further reading

Moonlight in Dungu, N.E. DR Congo

Photo: Two young children stand outside their hut in the moonlight in Dungu, in North Eastern DR Congo, on 19 June, 2008. (Kate Holt) Ref. Sudan Watch 14 Dec 2008: Govts of Uganda, Sudan and DR Congo today launch joint offensive against Uganda LRA rebels in DRC, Uganda says.
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DR Congo: Dungu, Orientale Province Situation Report No. 4
From United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) 29 Dec 2008 - excerpt:
According to unsubstantiated information, the LRA controls seven villages around Doruma: Batande (7km North East of Doruma), Manzagala (5km North East of Doruma), Mabando (7km of North East of Doruma), Bagbugu (8km South East of Doruma), Nakatilikpa (12km East of Doruma), Nagengwa (8km North East of Doruma) and Natulugbu (6km North of Doruma). The population of these villages is moving towards Watsa, Banda and Ango (Bas Uélé).
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(Cross posted today to this site's parent blog Sudan Watch and sister blog Congo Watch)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

JB Ssali (Jaberi Bidandi) on Kony war and Uganda's oil

Thanks to a Uganda Watch reader for emailing in a link to an open letter (copied here below) authored by Uganda's former Minister of local government, Jaberi Bidandi-Ssali. The letter is addressed to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and refers to Uganda's oil and the war in North Uganda which is why I am copying it here today, in full. Note, JB Ssali (Jaberi Bidandi) is a former supporter of President Museveni. As this extract from Wikipedia shows, the president purged cabinet minister Jaberi Bidandi Ssali from office in the run up to the last election:
Under Museveni, Uganda is governed under the Movement system. All political activities are banned and although to some degree people are allowed to air their opinions, any public gathering whose purpose is political is considered treason. Anyone standing for office must do so as an individual without any supportive system behind them. In a violent and heavily rigged presidential election in 1996, Museveni defeated Paul Ssemogerere of the Democratic Party. The rigging of the 2001 presidential election also let to Museveni's triumph over his former personal physician Colonel Kiiza Besigye. In 2003, a campaign was started by Museveni's supporters to open up the limits to the presidential terms imposed by the 1995 constitution. Museveni started feeling isolated and moved to purge his administration of his former supporters like his childhood friend Eriya Kategaya and a cabinet minister Jaberi Bidandi Ssali. The western world, which had been a firm supporter and financier, started expressing concern over this apparent move to change the constitution by Museveni. In March 2005, the Irish Rock star and anti-poverty campaigner, Bob Geldof, publicly called on Museveni to respect the constitution and desist from any move to change the constitution. Museveni's government staged a demonstration outside the British embassy in Kampala to condemn Geldof and the British government and to express their support for Museveni.

On May 1, 2005, a former U.S ambassador to Uganda, Johnnie Carson, wrote an article in the Boston Globe, in which he attacked Museveni's record and accused the Ugandan leader of seeking to prolong his stay in office in order to protect his family which had consistently been accused of buying up most of the companies privalized by the government and plundering national wealth.

Britain, Uganda's former colonial ruler, announced in May 2005 that it was cutting back on its foreign aid to Uganda and was followed by the government of the Republic of Ireland. The World Bank later followed the same course by issuing a report severely criticizing the Museveni government and the embezzlement of government money by the Museveni family. As the support that he had enjoyed from the West began to crumble, Museveni moved to revive his damaged international standing by hiring a British-based public relations firm. The Museveni government also moved to imtimidate the Ugandan media, accusing it of spreading the negative image of the president and his family that was developing rapidly in Europe and North America by late May 2005.
Uganda today worse than in 1986, Bidandi tells Museveni
Written by Jaberi Bidandi Ssali (pictured here)

JB Ssali (Jaberi Bidandi)

Published at  www.observer.ug
Wednesday, 07 January 2009
The nascent People’s Progressive Party (PPP) held its first delegates conference last year at which its founder, Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, was named chairman. In a New Year letter addressed to Yoweri Museveni, the President’s former campaign manager and long-serving minister urges his former boss to “look at the ceiling with 1986 eyes.” Below is a slightly edited version of the letter.

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the membership and leadership of the People’s Progressive Party and on my own behalf, I extend to you our appreciation for what you have been able to do for the country in this year 2008, the third year of your 5th term in the office of President of Uganda.

A number of commendable achievements had been recorded, especially in the first three terms of your leadership save of course for the people of the north, especially the Acholi region, which experienced a glimpse of hope only for the first four months of your reign.

As we look yonder to 2009 Mr. President, we discern a course that may lead the country into storms and tempest which will be attributed to commissions and or omissions of your leadership. In the short run many of us see a troubled Uganda which is as chaotic as you found it 22 years ago and in fact much worse off in many respects.

Corruption and disintegration

Mr. President, many of us who have experienced the brunt of the various regimes since independence will give testimony to the fact that at no time in our history has corruption and nepotism reached the current despicable levels. The prevailing extreme poverty and suffering that have engulfed the people of Uganda are a direct consequence of these maladies over which you are presiding. What perplexes many Ugandans is the impunity with which Your Excellency seem to be condoning these vices.

Mr. President, one of these nights lie down on your bed, look at the ceiling with your 1986 eyes and look at a number of issues under your leadership today, including the Temangalo saga, the Shimoni or Nakasero land give-away, the rot in the roads construction contracts, the Kananathans of yesterday, the amendment to the Constitution in respect of term limits, the re-emergence of safe houses, the Kiboko squads, the source and cause of the Muslim wrangles which are now destined to once again produce two Muftis - one claimed to be appended to State House. The list is endless. What comes to your mind?

Your Excellency, one of the worst crimes committed under your leadership has been the tribalisation of the politics of Uganda, setting tribes and ethnic groups against each other and each being tethered to your whims for identity and salvation.

Give a few moments of thought about what is simmering between Bahororo and Bahima in Rukungiri and Kanungu, between Japadhola and Banyoli in Tororo, between the Bahima and the so-called Bairu in Ankole, between Maracha and Terego in West Nile, what your administration is fanning amongst the Baganda, Baluli and Banyala. All these ethnic groups had settled amicably together in harmony. Why do we now sow seeds of disharmony and most probably a violent future for our children? Why do we not learn lessons from our recent post-independence history?

Buganda question

We are in a multiparty dispensation. For the first time since independence, Buganda has become part of the mainstream national politics albeit after a great sacrifice evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of skulls found in the Luwero Triangle. The country had attained a stage where one could no longer hear of Mengo “alagidde” or the Cardinal, Archbishop or Mufti “agambye” in national elections. Why stir up animosity amongst the various ethnic groups comprising Buganda who have lived in harmony since the colonial times? How is it possible that Your Excellency could come out with a weird proposal of redrawing the boundaries between Buganda and Bunyoro? Why did we swine the late Idi Amin when he proposed the redrawing of the boundaries between Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania? What were the consequences?

Busoga saga

New embers of cession are simmering in Busoga all because of your administration’s interference in the selection process of their Kyabazinga. Why should a military unit keep vigil on the premises where the election of Kyabazinga is purported to be held in spite of a court injunction? It is now held in Busoga that Your Excellency directed that the election of the Kyabazinga must be repeated! What has happened to the rule of law?

Election rigging

As you continue staring at the ceiling, recall the 1980 elections where you lost in Nyabushozi and I lost in Nakawa. What crimes did we apportion to the Muwanga government; constituency gerrymandering, falsification of results, harassing of voters and stuffing ballot boxes for the government sponsored candidates? You opted for arms and the bush. Now focus on the 2006 elections or even more recently the by-elections in Bukomansimbi, Kyadondo North and Sembabule. What accusations are being apportioned to your government? Intimidation, harassment and torture of voters by state agents, bribing of voters, using the Electoral Commission to rig for the NRM! Wear the shoes of the declared losers and compare them with the ones you put on in 1980. What do you fathom? Or do you?

Kony war

Ever since the start of negotiations with Kony, the people of Uganda, especially the affected areas of the north, have had a positive lull which even encouraged the people in camps to start returning to their villages. Now out of the blue you attack Kony and there is a resurgence of reported killings and abductions. Once again the people of the north are gripped with fear and apprehension. Some are even contemplating returning to camps!

Over 20 years of military confrontation with Kony only created more and more camps, suffering and death of thousands of Ugandans, with over one million people displaced from their homes. After three years of negotiations we saw closure of some camps and rays of hope for the people in that area. Why the attack on the flimsy ground of Kony refusing to sign the Peace Agreement and not on ground of his having resurrected atrocities in the north?

His Excellency Joachim Chissano while briefing the UN Security Council, is reported to have placed the responsibility of Kony’s refusal to sign the agreement on the ICC’s continued wielding of its indictment over the head of Kony. Yet there have been no concerted effort on your part to factor in the ICC indictment of Kony as part of your effort to convince him to sign the agreement.

Let us imagine that Kony is finally netted and probably killed, what lessons do we draw from the killing of Saddam Hussein in Iraq by George W. Bush and Tony Blair to which you appended your thumb? Where is peace in that country since then and how many Iraqis have died and continue to die? Your Excellency, will it be far fetched to discern a replica in Uganda after killing Kony?
 
The economy

Your administration has been credited worldwide for the macro economic policies that have stabilised the Shilling against foreign currencies to date. However, any economic policies that do not translate into a betterment of the plight of the ordinary citizen only play in the international gallery.

Mr. President, the people of Uganda are reeling from extreme poverty and misery every passing day. This is in spite of Bonnabagaggawale which is not backed by political will. Some of us have little doubt that the scheme is bound to follow the Entandikwa scheme fate.

Mr. President, your globalised effort in persuading foreign investors to come to Uganda is no doubt commendable. However, the same effort should be extended to encouraging and boosting the local investors not only because they have held the fort in very trying times, but also because the majority have no option of relocation as some have done, but to collapse which has been the fate of many. Besides, a stringent sieve must be applied through which Kananathan or Shimoni kind of investors can be left in the chaff.

Oil discovery

We definitely commend Your Excellency and your government for the discovery of oil. We have no doubt that it could make a big contribution to our effort to better the lives of the people of Uganda. However, judging by what has been the effect of oil discovery in some other countries; a lot of apprehension is felt by many Ugandans. This is not helped by the extreme secrecy surrounding the country’s oil.

We strongly urge you to stop considering oil discovery in Uganda as a personal achievement but as a national one. We urge you further to initiate debate and extensive consultations involving all Ugandans, civil society organisations and Parliament to finally come up with a national policy on oil.

This must also be the approach if the country has to come up with a national policy on land which will take into account interests of all stake holders, including land owners, bibanja holders on customary, mailo, lease or institutional land. Your Excellency, I again urge you to develop a stance of finding solutions through consultations and negotiations. What can be construed as dictatorial or commanding approach will only estrange you from your colleagues and partners and create more disharmony in our society.

Conclusion

As we enter 2009, all of us people of Uganda, especially we the leaders captained by Your Excellency, must rededicate our responsibilities and obligations to our people and our country placed on our shoulders by our Constitution. Let us listen with our inner ears to the message of the founders of Uganda enshrined in our national anthem which is now sang as a ritual and not a conviction.

I wish Your Excellency and your family a happy new year!
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Note from Uganda Watch Ed>

For the record, Saddam Hussein was not killed in Iraq by George W. Bush and Tony Blair as erroneously stated in the above copy letter to President Museveni. Saddam Hussein was returned in fine health to Iraq for the Iraqis to decide what to do with him. The Iraqis decided not to free or jail him but to execute him. It's hard to take the above letter seriously when it contains such a blatant error that can be easily verified.

Further reading

MyUganda News January 31, 2008: Bidandi cautions Museveni on tribalism

Museveni inauguration

Photo: Museveni was sworn in as president on 29 January, 1986. Source: © William Campbell/CORBIS via Wikipedia.

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (born c. 1944, Ntungamo, Uganda) has been the 11th President of Uganda since 29 January 1986. Museveni was involved in the war that toppled Idi Amin's (1971–79) rule and the rebellion that subsequently led to the demise of Milton Obote's (1980–85) regime. With the notable exception of northern areas, Museveni has brought relative stability and economic growth to a country that has endured decades of government mismanagement, rebel activity and civil war. His tenure has also witnessed one of the most effective national responses to HIV/AIDS in Africa.

In the mid to late 1990s, Museveni was lauded by the West as part of a new generation of African leaders. His presidency has been marred, however, by involvement in civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other Great Lakes region conflicts. Rebellion in the north of Uganda continues to perpetuate one of the world's worst humanitarian emergencies. Recent developments, including the abolition of Presidential term limits before the 2006 elections and the harassment of democratic opposition, have attracted concern from domestic commentators and the international community. (Source: Wikipedia)

Museveni

Satirical cartoon commenting on attempts to change the constitution. The Movement is depicted here as a puppet controlled by Museveni, writing "third term" into the Ugandan constitution. (Wikipedia - Museveni)

Note, up to date news regarding Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army can be found at this site's sister blog Congo Watch.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Peter Eichstaedt's book on Joseph Kony: First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the LRA

Peter Eichstaedt's book on Joseph Kony, now out, titled First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army.

"First Kill Your Family"

See further details in my post at Congo Watch today, Friday, January 09, 2009 - Peter Eichstaedt's book on the LRA, First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army - and note this line of text that I've highlighted in red:
Many refugees believe that the southern-dominated regime welcomes the excuse to debilitate traditionally hostile northern tribes
What does it mean?

Note to self to find out more.

(Cross posted today at Sudan Watch)

Monday, January 05, 2009

LRA's Kony is in the fringes of Garamba, North of Maridi but in the Sudan territory

According to some of the latest news reports posted today at Congo Watch:
Currently, LRA commanders Okot Odhiambo and Bok Abudema are heading to CAR; Okeny Opwa is in Maridi, South Sudan. Kony is shuttling between these places. Killing LRA’s notorious commanders could leave Kony bare. It is already reported that Odhiambo and Abudema are in a critical condition, both suffering from gout and probably injured during the December 14 air raids.

Kony is in the fringes of Garamba, North of Maridi but in the Sudan territory.

On Friday morning, LRA fighters attacked an SPLA truck at Tori and a commercial truck in Yei, Sudan. In the overnight raid, dozens of the fighters attacked the headquarters of the Garamba National Park in Magero town, a few kilometres from the Sudan border. Local authorities said the rebels had retreated to the north of the Garamba jungles on the Sudan border. Twenty people were killed local officials said today (Monday January 05, 2009).

U.N., Congolese and Ugandan officials have said the rebels, estimated to number between 800 and 1,000, have splintered into smaller groups. Only some are believed to be headed for CAR. LRA forces have been seen in the Ango region on the border with CAR. There was no sign the rebels had crossed into CAR.

During three days of raids beginning on December 25, fleeing LRA fighters attacked several Congolese towns, slaughtering civilians and looted and burned hundreds of homes.

The deputy governor of Orientale province, where the attacks happened, told Reuters on Saturday that the bodies of 271 victims had so far been buried, but the death toll was rising.

"The number is going up every day," Joseph Bangakya said. "Most were killed with machetes. (The LRA) are trying to save their ammunition."

Catholic humanitarian charity Caritas said it believed more than 400 people had died in the attacks.

Uganda has sent more troops to the area to prevent more LRA raids. Congo's 17,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission, MONUC, has said it is assisting the deployment of additional Congolese forces but is not participating directly in the joint offensive.

The UN has expressed support for the assault on the LRA. “We cannot condemn this military action because we can see the merit of it,” the UN envoy to northern Uganda, Joaquim Chissano, said last month.

“The aim of the attacks now is to force Kony out because he should not be given opportunity to entertain other options than are open to him through the peace process. The negotiations are over... what is remaining is the signing of the final peace agreement.”

Under the current agreement, if Kony signed, the government of Uganda would go to the Security Council or the International Criminal Court and request for the suspension of the arrest warrants. Then Kony could move freely into Uganda where justice would be applied according to what is foreseen in the agreement. In May, a special war crimes court was established in Uganda to deal with cases of human rights violations committed during the two-decade insurgency.

Note, Operation Lightning Thunder did not begin on time as instructed. President Museveni ordered attack for 7:30 am, but was it carried out at 11:30 am. And ground troops were also not deployed in time to start the cordon-and search operation. This, they said gave the rebels ample time to carry the dead and move out of the danger zone.

Ugandan rebels blame the Christmas massacres on the joint force currently in eastern Congo.
Map showing Maridi, Southern Sudan

Maridi, Southern Sudan

Credit: www.joshuaproject.net
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Ri-Kwangba

Sorry, unable to find a good map.

Ri-Kwangba is a site in West Equatoria, Sudan, near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It, along with Owiny Ki-Bul, is one of two assembly points for the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) under the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement agreed to by the LRA and government of Uganda on 26 August 2006.

In September 2006, the only structures at the location, which was essentially a 200-by-300 meter clearing in the jungle, were five huts.

June 2007 peace talks held in Ri-Kwangba resulted in an improvement of facilities, in order to handle the gathering of delegates. (Source: Wikipedia)

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