Saturday, February 28, 2009

US military provided 17 advisers, $1m in fuel, satellite phones and intelligence for raid on LRA in DR Congo

The US sent 17 advisers from AFRICOM to work with UPDF on Operation Lightning Thunder against LRA in DR Congo.

Source: Sunday Monitor report by Angelo Izama, Kampala 25 February 2009:
US, Uganda to discuss military cooperation
A US military official, Brig. Gen. D. Christopher Leins is in Uganda to discuss military cooperation.

This visit comes in the backdrop of a New York Times article which revealed details of US military assistance to the UPDF in operation “Lightning Thunder”.

The article said, at the request of Uganda, the US sent 17 advisers from its new Africa Command to which Gen. Leins belongs, to work with UPDF on the Garamba operation.

It also said the US military provided a million dollars in fuel as well as satellite phones and intelligence for the operation which it said was personally authorised by ex-US President George Bush.

Yesterday, Army Spokesman, Felix Kulayigye said the UPDF had made no further requests for assistance from the American military and that there was no “on-going” assistance currently to operation Lightning Thunder.

Earlier, the army in a press release said Gen. Leins and the Chief of Defence Forces Gen Aronda Nyakairima, met at the Ministry of Defence Headquarters in Mbuya and discussed mutual cooperation.

In a follow-up interview, Maj. Kulaigye said Lightning Thunder was only mentioned in brief and that the discussion was focused on training assistance for officers.

The US Embassy also said the hunt for Kony had not been discussed.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Amnesty International USA demands that UNMIS tells ICC & MONUC of whereabouts of Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen

From Amnesty International USA
PRESS RELEASE
February 18, 2009

United Nations should not aid fugitives from international justice

Amnesty International is demanding that the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) co-operates with the International Criminal Court (ICC) by providing the whereabouts of Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen to facilitate their arrest and surrender.

In a letter to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan, Amnesty International expressed its concern that UNMIS were preparing to help return the two men, who are leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), to their native Uganda. Ugandan officials have repeatedly and publicly stated that they will not arrest and surrender the LRA leaders to the ICC.

“UNMIS is bound by the Negotiated Relationship Agreement between the ICC and the UN, which requires that the two bodies cooperate closely with each other,” said Martin Macpherson, Amnesty International’s International Law and Organizations programme. “If UNMIS were to hand the two men over to the Ugandan authorities, the UN would effectively help prevent their arrest and surrender to the ICC and this would amount to an obstruction of justice.”

Amnesty International urges UNMIS immediately to provide the ICC, as well as the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), with all information about the whereabouts of Odhiambo and Ongwen to facilitate their arrest and surrender to the ICC. The same information should be provided to any state that is able and willing to arrest and surrender the suspects to the ICC.

The organization also calls on UNMIS not to facilitate the return of the two men to Uganda unless Uganda pledges to arrest them immediately and surrender them to the ICC.

Background

The arrest warrant for Okot Odhiambo lists 10 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, enslavement and forced enlisting of children. The arrest warrant against Dominic Ongwen lists seven counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, enslavement and inhumane acts.

During 2008 and in the past months of 2009, LRA forces are believed to have abducted hundreds of people including women and children, and committed a number of other human rights violations, including unlawful killings, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, southern Sudan and the Central Africa Republic.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Ugandan Housewife’s Homemade Mobile Phone Charger

From AfriGadget by Erik Hersman 12 Feb 2009:
A Ugandan Housewife’s Homemade Mobile Phone Charger

A Ugandan Housewife’s Homemade Mobile Phone Charger
She uses ordinary size D batteries that are readily available in the village to power radios and torches. She wraped five (5) batteries together, then removed the plug from the phone charger and attached the bare wires to the + and – terminals of the batteries.

Mrs. Muyonjo is a housewife in a remote village of Ivukula in Iganga district, Eastern Uganda. She had a bad experience with a local mobile phone charger, so decided to hack her own solution in response. Read the full story on the Women of Uganda Network’s site.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why has Kony survived UPDF fire for 22 years?

From The Independent by Matsiko Wa Mucoori & Steven Kibuuka Feb. 11, 2009:
Why has Kony survived UPDF fire for 22 years?

The LRA rebellion dates way back to 1987. It has now lasted about 22 years under Joseph Kony. It’s quite intriguing how Kony, a semi-illiterate man who hardly went beyond Primary Seven and is not a known military strategist, could sustain a rebellion for this long. There are more complex factors that have sustained this rebellion than what we have been hearing.

Before the LRA, there was Uganda People’s Defence Army, a rebel group which had been formed a few months after the NRA (now UPDF) captured power in January 1986. The UPDA, under Maj. Angelo Okello, comprised mainly former soldiers of the defeated Uganda National Liberation Army.

According to a former insider in the UPDA, Many of them had been with Gen. Salim Saleh in the UNLA in early days of the Obote regime before he deserted to join NRA. In 1987, Saleh contacted UPDA for peace talks. When the talks progressed, the UPDA tried to bring the LRA on board to abandon rebellion. The LRA instead shot at the UPDA at the venue of the meeting. Saleh’s efforts to end the northern conflict suffered a blow.

The UPDA finally signed peace with the NRA on June 3, 1988, but the LRA continued what has now become one of Africa’s longest armed conflicts. Why has this rebellion lasted two decades under a man with no proven military skills against expert military strategists/tacticians and the resources of the UPDF?

Gen. Salim Saleh

Causes for the prolonged northern conflict are both social and operational. Some insiders in the security put part of the blame on the NRA. When the NRA entered Kampala, jubilant southerners and the NRA fighters started anti-northern sloganeering like: Nyanya mbaya, nyanya mbaya, nyanya…. Turiwafukuza sehemu za Luwero, turiwanyanyasa, turiwapiga…” It literary meant: “Anyanya are bad, we smoked them out of Luwero…we cornered them and decimated them…” The phrase “anyanya” was a derogatory reference to northerners generally. This sectarian sloganeering bred deep rooted north-south divide under the guise of “patriotic songs.”

The UNLA used these songs to tell people that “these Nyarwanda (NRA had Byanyarwanda fighters) have come to kill us northerners.”

The northern-nominated UNLA had brutalised southerners during the Obote regime. The NRA were predominantly southerners and when they started the counter-insurgency operations in north, their long held anti-northern came into play. The population became hostile and uncooperative to the NRA. The NRA interpreted this hostility to mean sympathy for rebels. They started brutalising civilians. The conflict which had remained only between the NRA and UNLA now widened. The brutality escalated and things fell apart.

The animosity reached irreconcilable levels that even when UPDA signed the peace deal with government, many northerners decided to join Kony’s LRA or just remained hostile to government. To date, this hostility is still reflected in the dismal political support the NRM commands in the north. An insider in the government said that this unfriendly environment has also hampered effectiveness of the military efforts to end the insurgency.

The first major military operation against the LRA was Operation North under Gen. David Tinyefuza between 1990-1991. Tinyefuza, commonly known as ‘Swarzcopf of the North’ because of his ruthlessness during Operation North, cut off the north from the south at Karuma Bridge and declared the northern region a no-go area.

Tinyefuza ordered then prominent politicians like Otema Alimadi (RIP) to leave the north within 48 hours or else be arrested for sabotaging the operation. Politicians Omara Atubo, Zachary Olum and the then Gulu LC5 chairman Prof. Ogenga Latigo were arrested and brought before him. He ordered soldiers to whip and flog them. They were later flown to Kampala on treason charges.

Atubo confirmed to The Independent that he was caned on Gen. Tinyefuza’s orders.

“We were arrested and beaten badly in March 1991 before Tinyefuza because he had convinced Museveni that we were sabotaging the war [military operation] in the north. But what we really disagreed with was the scorched-earth method that Tinyefuza and government were using against our people in the north. This was very absurd,” he said. Atubo is now Minister of Lands in Museveni’s government.

Aswa MP Reagan Okumu, who was then a boy, told The Independent that he witnessed the late Maj. Ikondere, a unit commander, burying 15 youths in a grave he had made them dig. Ikondere accused them of supporting the LRA. “This operation failed because civilians were extremely tortured by the army and in turn started working for rebels. Some even joined the LRA because of torture,” said a source who was close to Operation North.

Uganda rail at crossroads as attention shifts to Dar - US gives Shs 1.8 trillion for rail link from Dar to Kigali

February 11, 2009 report from The Independent by Patrick Kagenda:
US gives Shs 1.8 trillion for rail link from Dar to Kigali

Businessmen and women importing and exporting goods into Uganda often complain about high taxes. But they complain more about the high cost of transport. They say transport costs are the single leading cause of high prices of goods in Uganda.

A 17-ton truck charges US $ 5000(Shs 9.7million) from Mombasa to Kampala or US $ 294.1(Shs 550,000) per ton.
With bad roads and the new axle-load restriction imposed by the government of Kenya late last year, transport costs have soared.

The government has advised business people to shift from importing through Mombasa to Dar-es-Salaam.

But Kasim Omar, the chairman of the Uganda Clearing and Forwarding Agents (UCFA) says they can only use that route when there are glitches on the Mombasa route.

“The Dar route is a long journey and wouldn’t make profit,” he says, “It is only beneficial to exporters.”

But that could change soon.

The Tanzanian government and other southern Africa countries are implementing long-term plans to make the Dar route, also called the Central Corridor route, of rail and road attractive to importers and exporters to the east and southern Africa countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo, and South Sudan.

The central corridor has been redundant and it is only recently, after the restrictions at Mombasa port that the business community is opening up to the central corridor.

A road and rail network is planned to link up with the Tanzania-Zambia network to Angola on the south west coast of Africa.
Burundi and Rwanda are planning to complete, in four years, a 500 km road linking them with Tanzania.

The US$ 688 million (Shs 1.3 trillion) project is expected to be funded by the African Development Bank, the World Bank, European Union, China and Saudi Arabia.

But the main attraction, according to the planners will be the wider standard gauge rail that should speed up trains and allow more cargo haulage.

At the centre of the new plan, is the Dar port.

Apart from the derelict road and rail links to the port, the planners have to tackle a stiff congestion problem.

The Dar port has 11 berths as compared to 19 berths at Mombasa.

Recently, up to 5,332 containers were piled up at the port. The Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) had to remove some of the bureaucracy blamed for delays in cargo clearing in a bid to clear at least 200 containers daily. The Dar port handled more than 350,000 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) last year, well over the 250,000 TEUs it was designed for.

The number of containers transiting Tanzania is expected to climb by as much as 1,200 % or about 3 million TEUs in the next 20 years.

The only attraction at Dar-Es-Salaam is the standard tariffs. Both the low contained loads and the uncontained loads have uniform tariffs.

The Tanzanian government plans two new ports on the Indian Ocean coast at Bagamoyo and Tanga. Other ports are at Tanga and Mtwara in the southeast of the country.

Tanzania has already secured US$943,000 from the American government to revamp its 1,000 km central railway line from Dar es Salaam to Isaka in the Shinyanga region. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company of America is to undertake the project. If linked to the Rwandese capital, Kigali, the rail would be the shortest route. The Dar-es-Salaam- Mwanza-Port Bell is 1,581 Kms.

The Dar-Kigali line is planned to use the modern standard gauge rail to increase the speed and tonnage of cargo hauled to the DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

There is already a 480km tarmac Isaka-Lusahunga road.

The improved rail link, road, and the Tanzania-Zambia Railway operation should greatly ease access to the Southern Africa interior.

Sensing competition, Kenya has its own plans for a road connecting to South Sudan through South Turkana National reserve, Lagpotpot, Kopoeta, Torit, and Ngangala up to Juba.

It plans a second major port on the Indian Ocean at Lamu.

Together with Uganda, it is also planning a modern standard gauge railway network from Mombasa to Kampala to replace the current rail which, after 100 years of service and poor maintenance, has outlived its usefulness.

Uganda hopes to hook onto the new rail project from Kenya at Tororo, in eastern Uganda, with a rail tracing the route of the abandoned northern link to Gulu and stretch it up to Juba. According to Uganda’s Works minister John Byabagambi, the Japanese government has expressed interest in the rail line project.

Uganda is also planning to revive the Kampala-Kasese line and also connect to Rwanda and Eastern DR Congo.

Currently, eastern DR Congo and Southern Sudan use Uganda as a shorter route for them to transit their cargo.

Developments in the regional rail sector have gained momentum since the Kenya and Uganda governments hit a rock with a sour concession deal with Rift Valley Railways three years ago which has now degenerated into a legal battle.

“Whether RVR hides under the law or not, they will have to go, because they have failed to meet our expectations as per the concession agreement,” minister Byabagambi said in an interview.

Failure of RVR’s concession has stalled various funding projects including loans from the Germany Development Bank (KfW) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) the private lending arm of the World Bank.

Experts in regional affairs are pointing at the Chinese as the new likely financiers for the rail because of their growing economic influence in the region.

Chinese are currently involved in rail and road construction and mining in the DRC and in Oil extraction in Sudan and are looking at the new rail as a solution to their quick access to the sea.

Uganda hopes that the current rail and road network, also called the Northern Corridor, remains the most viable route to the sea.
It is the shortest route to the Indian Ocean for both Eastern and Central African nations and turn around time for a train from Kampala running at 80Kms assuming there are no speed limits is one day as compared to the same for the central corridor that would take 4 days to reach the port of Dar-es-salaam.

The fear is that although cargo which transits through Uganda is a very small percentage, if Rwanda, Burundi, the DRC and Southern Sudan stopped cargo transits through Uganda it would hurt the economy.

A transit license costs Shs 300,000 a year per transit cargo truck going through Uganda. Statistics from Uganda clearing and forwarding agents indicate that between 400,000-700,000 Transit Entry Units (TEU`S) to the hinterland passed through Uganda last year. Most of this traffic was from the port of Mombasa and not Dar-Es-Salaam.

Cargo through Mombasa includes all cargo going to Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, South Sudan and Uganda. The journey from Dar-Es-Salaam to Kampala is over 1,629 kms while it is 820Kms from Mombasa to Kampala.

Experts say, Uganda needs to be prepared for a change in this trade configuration.

British, Ugandan army chiefs discuss volatile DR Congo, Somalia

British, Ugandan army chiefs discuss volatile DR Congo, Somalia
February 11 2009 report by Xinhua from waltainfo.com:
British and Ugandan army chiefs met here on Monday and discussed the security situation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) and Somalia, a statement from the Ugandan army said.

According to the statement from the army's spokesman's office, Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of General Staff of the British Army and Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, Chief of Defense Force of Uganda People's Defense Force, discussed Uganda's hunt for rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army in eastern DR Congo and its peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

The statement did not give details of the discussions but said Gen. Dannatt had come to follow up on issues of mutual concern and military cooperation.

This was the first time since Uganda, a former British colony, gained independence in 1962 that a British general of that level visited the country.

Gen. Nyakairima said the Ugandan military has now built up capacity which has enabled it to defend the country and execute pan-African missions.

He told his guest that local problems need local solutions and therefore the need to build the capacity of the Ugandan army, since it plays a significant role in regional stability.

Gen. Dannatt pledged continued cooperation in training and capacity building of the Ugandan army, noting that Britain has historical ties with Africa and has a responsibility to maintain it.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Museveni, Gaddafi clash in Ethiopia over the formation of a United States of Africa

February 9, 2009 report from The Daily Monitor by Henry Owour and Argaw Ashine Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA:
Museveni, Gaddafi clash in Ethiopia

President Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday night openly clashed with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, after the two disagreed over the direction of the formation of a single government for all African states.

According to sources at the summit, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe reportedly helped Mr Museveni take on Col. Gaddafi, who besides mooting the single African government plan, also sought to be bestowed the title “King of Kings”.

Col. Gaddafi reportedly clashed with Mr Museveni over his calls for speeding of the single African government plan. Whereas Mr Museveni calls for strengthening of regional blocs, a position he reiterated in Addis Ababa, Col. Gaddafi wants an immediate fast track to form the United States of Africa.

In what looked like a parliamentary debate characterised by points of order, the two leaders also disagreed on the involvement of traditional leaders by Col. Gaddafi in his pursuit of the United States of Africa dream.

Col. Gaddafi sponsored Mr Museveni’s National Resistance Army guerilla war that brought the Ugandan leader to power in 1986.

Their current disagreements could bring one of the longest political relationships to an end. At the AU summit, Mr Museveni reportedly warned that he would arrest any traditional leader in Uganda who claimed to speak for Col. Gaddafi.

The Ugandan government last month cancelled a summit of traditional leaders across the continent convened in Kampala and funded by Col. Gaddafi, saying the leaders had discussed politics.

The Ugandan Constitution bars traditional leaders from participating in partisan politics. In Col. Gaddafi’s proposal for the single government, Africa is to have a president, a vice-president and secretaries handling various portfolios such as foreign affairs, research and the battle against pandemics.

However, with much opposition from the other African leaders, Col. Gaddafi stormed out of the meeting at about 2am and a few minutes later, all the leaders filed out.

Asked why Col. Gaddafi had stormed out, Tanzanian Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Membe said Gaddafi ‘’may have felt unwell”.

The summit ended yesterday with no concrete agreement on the way forward over a single government.

Col. Gaddafi said a special meeting of the group’s Council of Ministers would meet in three months’ time to iron out what powers its newly created African Union Authority should have.

This came after the 53-member group’s marathon talks that failed to agree on ways to transform the current Africa Union Commission into an authority, a process that will end with the creation of the “United States of Africa.”

Yesterday, at a meeting with journalists, Col. Gaddafi struck a conciliatory figure, talking of his vision for a “continent that relies on itself and which is a key player in world affairs.’’

He added that the continent has adopted a “step by step’’ approach to “this historic effort’’ on a single government. But, AU Commission chairman Jean Ping said ‘the whole process may take years.’’

According to Mr Ping, amending the AU Charter is not a simple task and two thirds of the 53 states must accept to proceed with the amendment.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The US has been training Ugandan troops in counterterrorism for several years

So, my hunch of some sort of American military involvement with Uganda was correct. The following report tells us that the US has been training Ugandan troops in counterterrorism for several years.

THE NEW YORK TIMES
U.S. Military Helped Plan and Pay for Attack on Ugandan Rebels
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: February 6, 2009

DUNGU, Congo — The American military helped plan and pay for a recent attack on a notorious Ugandan rebel group, but the offensive went awry, scattering fighters who carried out a wave of massacres as they fled, killing as many as 900 civilians.

The operation was led by Uganda and intended to crush the Lord’s Resistance Army, a brutal rebel group that had been hiding out in a Congolese national park, rebuffing efforts to sign a peace treaty. But the rebel leaders escaped, breaking their fighters into small groups that continue to ransack town after town in northeastern Congo, hacking, burning, shooting and clubbing to death anyone in their way.

The United States has been training Ugandan troops in counterterrorism for several years, but its role in the operation has not been widely known. It is the first time the United States has helped plan such a specific military offensive with that country, according to senior American military officials. They described a team of 17 advisers and analysts from the Pentagon’s new Africa Command working closely with Ugandan officers on the mission, providing them with satellite phones, prized intelligence and $1 million in fuel.

No American forces ever got involved in the ground fighting in this isolated, rugged corner of Congo, but human rights advocates and villagers here complain that the Ugandans and the Congolese troops who carried out the operation did little or nothing to protect nearby villages, despite a history of rebel reprisals against civilians.

The troops did not seal off the rebels’ escape routes or deploy soldiers to many of the nearby towns where the rebels slaughtered people in churches and tried to twist off the heads of toddlers.

“The operation was poorly planned and poorly executed,” said Julia Spiegel, a Uganda-based researcher for the Enough Project, which campaigns against genocide. The massacres were “the L.R.A.’s standard operating procedure,” she said. “And the regional governments knew this.”

American officials conceded that the operation did not go as well as intended, and that villagers had been left exposed.

“We provided insights and alternatives for them to consider, but their choices were their choices,” said one American military official who was briefed on the operation, referring to the African forces on the ground. “In the end, it was not our operation.”

Maj. Felix Kulayigye, a Ugandan military spokesman, declined to discuss the American involvement and simply said, “There was no way to prevent these massacres.”

The Lord’s Resistance Army is now on the loose, moving from village to village, seemingly unhindered, leaving a wake of scorched huts and crushed skulls. Witnesses say the fighters have kidnapped hundreds of children and marched them off into the bush, the latest conscripts in their slave army.

Here in Dungu, a 10-year-old girl lay comatose on a bare metal hospital bed, her face glazed with sweat, her pulse hammering in her neck. She had been sexually assaulted in a nearby village and shot in both legs, bullet through bone.

“The people who did this,” said her nurse, Rosa Apamato, “are demons.”

This used to be a tranquil, bountiful spot where villagers grew corn, beans and peanuts, more or less untouched by the violence that has plagued the eastern part of this country. But thousands have recently fled, and the town is now crawling with soldiers, aid workers and United Nations personnel, the movable cast that marks the advent of a serious problem.

The villagers who remain are terrified and confused. The Lord’s Resistance Army is not a Congolese movement. It is from Uganda. But once again, it seems that foreign armies are battling it out in Congo, and the Congolese are paying the price. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Congo became the battlefield for more than a dozen armies and rebel groups from neighboring African countries, and several million Congolese died.

“Who are these L.R.A.?” asked Bertrand Bangbe, who had been axed in the head and left for dead. “Why are they here? Why are they killing us?”

There are few answers. The Lord’s Resistance Army may have had some legitimate grievances when it started more than 20 years ago as a cultish rebellion to overthrow the Ugandan government. The fighters hailed their leader, Joseph Kony, as a prophet and a savior for the historically oppressed Acholi people. The movement even proclaimed to be fighting for the Ten Commandants.

But it soon devolved into something more sinister. The Lord’s Resistance Army killed tens of thousands of people in northern Uganda, slicing off people’s lips and terrorizing children, before the Ugandan Army drove it out about five years ago. Mr. Kony then marched his prepubescent death squads and dozens of teenage brides to Garamba National Park, a vast reserve of elephants and swamps near the border of Uganda and Sudan.

The Ugandan government has tried coaxing Mr. Kony out. But the International Criminal Court in The Hague has indicted him on charges of crimes against humanity, and he has long insisted the charges be dropped. In November, as he has many times before, Mr. Kony refused to sign a peace treaty.

After that, Major Kulayigye said, “the only option left open to us was the military option.”

The Ugandan government asked the American Embassy in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, for help, and the request was sent up the chain of command in November to President Bush, who personally authorized it, a former senior Bush administration official said.

The American advisers and Ugandan officers used satellite imagery and Ugandan field intelligence reports to triangulate where they believed Mr. Kony and his fighters were hiding. The plan was for the Ugandan military to bomb his camp and then cut off his 700 or so fighters with more than 6,000 Ugandan and Congolese ground troops. On Dec. 13, the day before the attack, several American advisers traveled to a staging site near the Uganda-Congo border for a final coordination meeting, a senior American military official said.

Thick fog delayed the attack by several hours, Ugandan officials said, and they lost the element of surprise. By the time Ugandan helicopters bombed Mr. Kony’s hut, it was empty. Ugandan foot soldiers, hiking many miles through the bush, arrived several days later and recovered a few satellite phones and some guns.

The Ugandans say they have destroyed the rebels’ control center and food supplies, rescued around 100 abducted children and killed several fighters, including some commanders. But the operation has been widely criticized by human rights groups as essentially swatting a hornet’s nest.

On Dec. 25, around 5 p.m., villagers in Faradje, a town near the national park, walked out of church as 50 to 70 armed men emerged from the bush.

Most villagers had no idea who they were. Some Congolese towns had been attacked before the offensive, yet the raids were not so widespread that word would have trickled back to remote places like Faradje.

The armed men spoke a strange language (probably Acholi), but there was no misunderstanding them after the first machete was swung. Whoever could run, did. Christine Ataputo, who owns the one restaurant in town, watched from the forest floor as the rebels raped, burned and butchered. She was lying on her belly when she saw that her 18-year-old daughter, Chantal, had been captured.

“They took her away on a rope,” she said.

Chantal has not been seen since, and even more than a month later, Faradje still has the whiff of char. Around 150 people were killed Christmas Day. Several other villages, some more than 100 miles away, were simultaneously attacked. In one town, after the rebels killed 80 churchgoers, they ate the villagers’ Christmas feast and then dozed among the corpses, according to Human Rights Watch, which documented the massacre.

“These guys are just moving around, doing whatever they want, killing, raping, whatever,” said Charles Gaudry, a field coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, which says more than 50 villages in the area where it works have been attacked. “There’s zero protection.”

The United Nations has more than 16,000 peacekeepers in Congo, including about 250 in Dungu. But United Nations officials said they were spread too thin in other war-racked parts of eastern Congo to take on the Lord’s Resistance Army. At the time of the nearby massacres, the peacekeepers in Dungu were guarding the airfield.

Villagers across the area are now banding together in local self-defense forces, arming themselves with ancient shotguns and rubber slingshots. In the past in Congo, home-grown militias have only complicated the dynamic and led to more abuses.

Even where there are Congolese troops, there is not necessarily protection. The family of the 10-year-old girl in the hospital said she might have been shot by a Congolese soldier who missed the rebel who was assaulting her.

The other night, by the light of a flashlight, a young doctor took one look at the girl and ordered her evacuation to Goma, a city along the Congo-Rwanda border. She may lose one of her legs, he said. But at least in Goma there is a special hospital to treat girls who have been raped. In eastern Congo, there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of them.

LRA top commanders Okot Odhiambo & Dominic Ongwen planning to surrender to Ugandan government?

From Ultimate Media via ugpulse.com 6 February 2009:
Uganda Government News: Another LRA top commander to surrender

Another top commander of the Lords Resistance Army, Dominic Ongwen is also planning to surrender to the Ugandan government.

Okot Odhiambo, the LRA second in command has already contacted the International Organisation for Migrations to help him surrender in return for assurances of amnesty.

Odhiambo told French news agency AFP that he and Ongwen are together and are ready to surrender and give up fighting. Odhiambo says they are ready to surrender with the 120 LRA rebels which are with them in their hideout.

Ongwen is among the top LRA rebel leaders who were indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. The others are Okot Odhiambo, Joseph Kony as well as Raska Lukwiya and Vincent Otti who have since died.

If the two top leaders defect, it will be a serious blow to LRA leader Joseph Kony who will be further isolated, having lost four of his top fighters.

This comes at a time when the LRA leader today asked the government for a ceasefire to be able to finalize peace negotiations and sign a peace agreement. The Uganda army has been with the help of DRC and South Sudan soldiers having military operations against the LRA in their bases in Garamba, DRC.

The Uganda army has said the news of top LRA leaders asking to surrender is evidence that he military operation codenamed Operation Lightening Thunder has been successful.

Odhiambo and Ongwen are wanted by the ICC over a raft of war crimes charges, including raping, killing civilians and forcibly enlisting child soldiers.

The two men decided to turn themselves in after the governments of Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo launched a joint military offensive to flush holdout LRA rebels in their border hide-outs.

Brigadier Patrick Kankiriho, the Ugandan army officer commanding the military operations said yesterday that the army was in negotiations with the rebels on how they can surrender safely.
See related post at Congo Watch today, Friday, February 06, 2009: Why are the LRA in DR Congo in the first place? Why didn't Uganda solve the Kony problem sometime during the 20 years he fought in Uganda?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda’s Permanent Representative on the UN Security Council, formally welcomed by the President of the Council

Press Statement
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
Uganda Media Centre
Monday, 02 February 2009
Dr Ruhakana Rugunda arrived in New York and assumed his seat as Uganda’s Permanent Representative on the UN Security Council yesterday. He was formally welcomed by the President of the Council. In his opening remarks Dr Rugunda reiterated Uganda’s commitment to play a constructive and positive role in the Council at promoting international peace and security.

The meeting of the Security Council today considered the situation in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Darfur. The Security Council condemned the renewed fighting in Darfur and called on all parties to cease hostilities immediately and refrain from any further escalation. The Council expressed support for the political process and accelerated deployment of UNAMID to ensure the protection of civilians.

On the DRC, the Council welcomed talks between the DRC and Rwanda in an attempt to find a solution to the crises in the eastern DRC. It expressed support for the mediation efforts by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region and the AU/ICGLR Co-facilitator former President Benjamin Mkapa.

The Council also expressed support for the joint DRC/Rwanda efforts and the DRC/Uganda/South Sudan efforts to decisively deal with the negative forces operating in the DRC. They called for closer cooperation with MONUC in this regard.

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