Saturday, April 04, 2009

Who is re-supplying the LRA?

Over the last week there have been a growing number of reports that the LRA has been re-supplied from the air.

The Sudanese government has routinely denied that it is re-supplying the LRA, but the question remains - how are the rebels managing to continue their operations if they have no outside backer?

LRA attacks

Map source: BBC report 4 April 2009:
Who is re-supplying the LRA?
Ugandan rebel movement the Lord's Resistance Army, now based in the far north of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is continuing its attacks on civilians in DR Congo and southern Sudan, despite a three-month campaign to hunt the rebels down.

The BBC's Africa analyst, Martin Plaut, looks at how the LRA has survived and considers who might be re-supplying it.

On 14 December last year Ugandan aircraft attacked camps of the LRA in the remote Garamba National Park, in the north-east of the DR Congo.

The operation against the LRA - known as Lightning Thunder - was launched by Uganda, DR Congo and Sudan.

But despite fierce engagements, the rebels have not been defeated and are continuing a series of murderous attacks on civilians.

Around 100,000 Congolese and 60,000 southern Sudanese have been driven from their homes.

Scattered across a vast area of northern Congo and southern Sudan, the continued operations of the Lord's Resistance Army and their leader, Joseph Kony, are perhaps not surprising.

This is an area of dense forests and swamps - ideal territory for rebel attacks.

But what is less easy to understand is how the LRA manages to co-ordinate its ambushes when its forces are so dispersed.

Where do they get the satellite phones they use - as well as the ammunition, food and medicines their forces require?

'Air drops'

Over the last week there have been a growing number of reports that the LRA has been re-supplied from the air.

Late last month there was an attack on the village of Banda, which forced locals to evacuate the area.

This - according to the reports - was designed to clear the area for an air-drop to take place.

There is also the testimony from LRA abductees who managed to escape from the rebels.

They say that air-drops took place in a mountainous area called Karago, west of the town of Aba.

The United Nations mission in Congo, Monuc, says it has heard the rumours, but has no evidence that the air-drops are taking place.

"Our military seem sceptical that the reports are true, given the level of co-ordination that would be required on the ground," Monuc spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai told the BBC.

"But the fact is that we just don't know and often lack reliable, timely, actionable intelligence," he said.

Although there is no confirmation of these reports, they have come from several sources.

So where might the flights have originated?

Southern Sudanese officials have said openly that they believe that Khartoum continues to support the LRA.

The accusation has been denied by the LRA spokesman, David Matsanga, who told the BBC Focus on Africa programme that the suggestion is designed to frustrate attempts to re-launch the peace process.

"The Ugandan government is looking for ways of finishing the situation militarily, because they don't want to talk about what has happened," said Mr Matsanga.

"These accusations are coming now to inflame the situation," he added.

The Sudanese government has routinely denied that it is re-supplying the LRA, but the question remains - how are the rebels managing to continue their operations if they have no outside backer?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Sudanese refugees in Uganda return home - Ikafe camp closes on June 1, 2009

From Ultimate Media 02 April 2009:
Uganda People News: Ikafe refugee camp for closure
Ikafe refugee camp faces closure. John Alinaitwe, the refugee officer at the Prime Minister’s office in charge of West Nile said Ikafe camp closes on June 1st, 2009.

Alinaitwe explains that this camp is set to close because most of the Sudanese refugees who have been occupying it have gone back to Sudan. He tells Ultimate Media that the remaining few Sudanese refugees in this Ikafe camp have been joined with their counterparts residing at Okollo camp in Yumbe district.

Alinaitwe says even Okollo camp could close before the end of this year if the Sudanese refugees there continue to voluntarily return home the way those at Ikafe have done.

He encourages the Sudanese refugees to voluntarily go home saying the donors were now planning to cut down their support for the Sudanese refugees and intending to help Sudanese in their homeland.

Oil discoveries around Uganda's Lake Albert - Bishop sees no return to civil war despite rebel warning

International oil companies operating in Uganda have announced plans to step up production following oil discoveries around Uganda's Lake Albert, which have been reported to be among the largest deposits discovered in the region.

From Ecumenical News International, Nairobi:
UGANDA: Bishop sees no return to civil war despite rebel warning
By Fredrick Nzwili, April 02, 2009
Ugandan Anglican Bishop Nelson Onono-Onweng has said he is confident that civil war will not return to the northern part of his country, despite warnings by a rebel leader that the discovery of huge oil reserves in the region might re-ignite fighting.
"This is nonsense. This is propaganda," Onono-Onweng told Ecumenical News International from Gulu in the north of Uganda, in a reference to the rebel leader's comments.

Onono-Onweng, bishop of the Diocese of Northern Uganda, is part of the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, a group of Christian, Muslim and traditional leaders that has worked to bring peace to the region, where the rebel Lord's Resistance Army began fighting 20 years ago.

In 2006, the Ugandan government and the rebels signed a truce, and two years later they signed a cease-fire that stopped short of an all-out peace agreement.

Another church leader, Roman Catholic Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu, noted how the territory had changed since the cease-fire.

"The region remains calm and people are re-adjusting themselves to new life, though not completely. They are still waiting for the formal conclusion of the talks," Odama said.

Still, the LRA's chief negotiator, David Matsanga, told a news conference in Nairobi on March 13 that the discovery of oil in Uganda's northern region could ignite a fresh war.

International oil companies operating in Uganda have announced plans to step up production following oil discoveries around Uganda's Lake Albert, which have been reported to be among the largest deposits discovered in the region.

Tension has been increasing in recent weeks as rebel leader Joseph Kony has repeatedly failed to sign a final peace deal to end the LRA rebellion against the Ugandan government.

Kony and his supporters are holed up in neighboring Congo, and have been the target of a joint military operation by Uganda, Congo and the semi-autonomous region of South Sudan.

This military operation has now wound down but the operation led to a violent backlash by the LRA against hundreds of Congolese civilians.

Despite the uncertainty, Onono-Onweng said he was confident the LRA would not return to northern Uganda.

"How can the rebels defeat three armies? We do not see how they can return," the bishop said.

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