Sunday, September 10, 2006

Landmark peace talks stumble

IRIN report 8 Sep 2006 excerpt:
Peace talks between Uganda and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have hit a hitch after rebels objected to the inclusion of war victims in the government delegation, Ugandan government officials said on Friday.

Mediators had been trying to make some headway after a landmark truce took effect on 29 August, but rebels broke from talks to consult with their leader, Joseph Kony.

"We disagreed on the representation of war victims at the talks," Captain Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the Ugandan government delegation, said. "The LRA objected to their inclusion, but they have no business determining our delegation."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

ICC still calling for Kony's arrest

Reuters report Aug 28 2006 [via CFD] excerpt:
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors said on Monday they still hoped for the arrest of leaders of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) despite an offer of amnesty by Uganda under the terms of a truce.

Leaders of the cult-like rebels, who are infamous for massacring civilians, mutilating survivors and kidnapping thousands of children, are wanted by the Hague-based Court to face war crimes charges.

"We believe that the countries or the states which have an obligation to execute the arrest warrant will do so," the court's deputy prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told journalists.

"We still maintain that because we think those persons who bear the greatest responsibility should not go unpunished."

He was speaking at a news conference called to discuss a separate case and reiterating the Court's position.

The ICC issued arrest warrants against LRA leader Joseph Kony and his deputies last year but has no police force to hunt down its targets, so must rely on Ugandan, Sudanese and former southern Sudanese rebel troops to bring them to justice.

Under the terms of a truce agreed on Saturday, Uganda has offered amnesty to LRA leaders, including those hunted by the ICC, if they abandon their hideouts and assemble at two Sudanese camps within the next three weeks to thrash out a final deal.

The LRA said all leaders including the ICC indictees would come to the camps.

Asked about Uganda's truce offer, Bensouda said: "We certainly hope that they will execute the warrant that has been issued against the top leaders of the LRA."

Uganda begins ceasefire with LRA

Excerpt from BBC report today:
A ceasefire between Uganda's government and the Lord's Resistance Army rebels has come into force.

The truce, signed on Saturday, gives rebels three weeks to assemble at points in southern Sudan where the regional government will protect them.

Comprehensive peace talks are then meant to start. Uganda has pledged that it will not try to attack the rebels.

Thousands have died during the 20-year conflict in northern Uganda, and more than one million have fled their homes.

The ceasefire took effect at 0600 local time (0300 GMT) on Tuesday.

Ugandan army spokesman Maj Felix Kulayigye told the BBC that so far the truce was holding.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Lukwiya death angers LRA

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) delegation to the peace talks in Juba has reacted angrily to reports that one its top commanders, Raska Lukwiya, was gunned down by the UPDF in northern Uganda.

Lukwiya death angers LRA

Photo: END OF THE ROAD: The body of Raska Lukwiya lying at Pajimo army detachment in Kitgum district

See full article Lukwiya death angers LRA by Henry Mukasa in Juba, New Vision Online, Aug 13 2006. Excerpt:
Sunday Vision reported yesterday that the LRA third-in-command, Maj Gen Raska Lukwiya, was killed on Saturday by the UPDF in Kitgum district. Lukwiya's body, clad in a green army uniform, was reportedly identified by former LRA commanders at Pajimo barracks in Kitgum.

He was killed together with his bodyguard at Obem village, 7km southwest of Mucwini sub-county at about 10:00am.
Lukwiya was the third on the list of the International Criminal Court (ICC) of LRA commanders wanted for crimes against humanity. Others are Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti and Okot Odhiambo, based in DR Congo.

Also indicted is Dominic Ongwen, who is said to be trapped in northern Uganda.

Meanwhile, the Government has said it is awaiting the LRA response to its ceasefire proposals, as talks resume in Juba today, reports Cyprian Musoke.

Internal affairs minister and government chief negotiator Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda told a press briefing at the media centre yesterday that despite the 'temporary hitch' of the LRA side walking out of the talks, the Government is still resolved in its search for peace.

"We had a temporary hitch, which came when we were still talking. Each side presented their case on disarmament and cessation of hostilities and how they should be handled.

"We waited for our colleagues on the other side to present their case, but they said because government had not declared a unilateral ceasefire, they decided to walk out of the talks."

He said his team and the mediators headed by Southern Sudan Vice-President Dr Riek Machar continued with the talks, in which the Government presented its stand on the remaining item No.5 concerning disarmament and reintegration of the LRA 'compatriots'.

"We agreed that the mediators liaise and share with them (LRA) our proposal on disarmament and cessation of hostilities.
"They did and on Monday (today), we are resuming talks. We expect the LRA to respond on what they think about our proposals on disarmament, cessation of hostilities and reintegration," he said.

Commenting about the killing of Lukwiya, defence minister Crispus Kiyonga said although the Government regrets the loss of any Ugandan, his death should not stop the talks.

Rugunda said he was on an agreed two-day recess, but state minister for foreign affairs Okello Oryem was in charge of the Juba team.

"I also came for consultations to make sure that we remain as focused as before," he said.

He denied that the Government was arrogant and was using the carrot-and-stick trick to 'hammer' the LRA.

"We are engaged genuinely in peace talks for an agreement to conclusively end the war. We believe these brothers and sisters should end the conflict and get reintegrated. The soft landing we are talking about is multi-faceted," he said.

He said the Government had proposed two assembly points for LRA, one in Nabanga, Sudan and another in Waliggo, Kitgum district. The areas will be guarded by the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

"This is why we have said, there must be conditions for ceasefire, like mechanisms for monitoring it," he said.

He said depending on the outcome of talks, the ICC should appreciate a peaceful resolution.

Meanwhile, the ICC has asked the UPDF for Lukwiya's body to confirm whether he is the one.

The northern army spokesman, Lt Chris Magezi and the regional UPDF child protection officer, Capt Patrick Ochira, who took journalists to Pajimo army detachment to view the body, said, "An official from ICC called me yesterday evening (Saturday) and this morning again (Sunday), asking to have a chance to look at the body of Lukwiya.

" told them that the body would be taken to Gulu district where he hailed from so that the relatives could claim and give it a decent burial. They want to confirm if he is the one to avoid wrong identification like it happened for the case of Dominic Ongwen,"

Ongwen was reported killed in Teso about a year ago but was later seen alive.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Ugandan LRA terrorist organisation to spill army secrets

July 22 2006 Monitor Online report from Juba/Kampala by Frank Nyakairu, Angelo Izama, Jude Luggya:
Just when observers felt the chemistry between the government delegation and that of the Lord's Resistance Army negotiating an end to the 20-year northern Uganda crisis was getting better, they were treated to yet another shock yesterday.

At a press conference at the RA International Hotel in Juba yesterday, LRA dropped another bombshell on the government delegation sticking to their demands that the UPDF be disbanded.

"We are constrained to comment that the GoU Delegation includes a Colonel who one time went to Gulu Government prison cells at night with armoured vehicles, forcefully removed out some 23 detainees suspected of being rebel collaborators and shot one of them called Yumbe Lukac dead," said LRA spokesman Obonyo Olweny.

This allegation is apparently in response to claims by the Ugandan delegation two days ago that the LRA delegation harboured a man responsible for hacking civilians in Patongo Pader district and boiling their bodies in cooking pots in 2002.

The rebels delegation did not name the killer Colonel but the remarks seem to be aimed at the head of UPDF's northern intelligence, Col Otema Awany, who together with Col Leopold Kyanda are the only Colonels on the Ugandan delegation.

"This circus cannot go on," said Mr Robert Kabushenga of the Uganda Media Centre yesterday in reaction to the LRA deluge. He said the government feels the LRA delegation is unserious.

"Some of the demands made by the delegation are not practicable, which leads to the feeling that the LRA are not genuinely committed to the peace talks.

They should stop monkeying around" Kabushenga added saying the LRA High Command in Garamba had a more "realistic" view of the situation.

The government, Daily Monitor has exclusively reported, is maintaining high-level direct contacts with LRA leaders Joseph Kony and his core commanders holed up in Garamba.

Those contacts achieved a diplomatic break through on Thursday when government agreed to re-unite the Garamba commanders with members of their close family.

A meeting of Kony and Acholi elders is also in the works. While both sides in Juba insist they are committed to the talks, the impasse created by LRA demands and the unwillingness of the Uganda team to give way appears unlikely to be broken.

Uganda's team, led by Internal Affairs Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda wants a comprehensive agreement at the end but still consider LRA a terrorist organisation whose leaders have been indicted by the ICC.

Yesterday LRA insisted its political agenda was there for everyone to judge and threatened to present more evidence on UPDF atrocities if further provoked. The peace talks in Juba are seen by many as the best chance to end the civil war, which is regularly described by aid agencies as one of the world's worst and most forgotten humanitarian crises.

Meanwhile, the South African government has said it is ready to give the peace talks a shot in the arm if the parties asked.

"If asked by Uganda or Southern Sudan leaders or anybody to participate, we would be available to do that," South African Minister of Security and Safety Mr Charles Nqakula told journalists in Kampala on Wednesday. South Africa and Uganda are involved in engaging FNL, the last rebel group still holding out in Burundi to abandon their fight and join the government of national unity.

Nqakula is the facilitator at the Burundi peace talks while President Museveni chairs the Great Lakes Peace Initiative, which is sponsoring the talks.

Like LRA, the Burundian rebels have caused a stalement in the talks by demanding the disbanding of the current army in Burundi on the grounds that it is dominated by the minority Tutsi ethnic group.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Elders cite atrocities committed by Ugandan rebels, army

Elders from various counties in southern Sudan and northern Uganda on Thursday presented a statement at peace talks in Juba, alleging atrocities committed against civilians by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan army. - Full report IRIN July 21, 2006.
Meanwhile, the Ugandan government is to fly Kony's relatives and elders from Acholi region to meet him in the Democratic Republic of Congo next week in an effort to build confidence with the rebel group and facilitate the Juba peace talks.

"Kony has asked to meet his mother, while other commanders want to meet their relatives and we are arranging for this," the spokesman for the Ugandan delegation in Juba, Paddy Ankunda, said. "Though decisions taken at the peace talks will be by the LRA delegation, we think that efforts of the relatives could be supplementary. This is a confidence-building measure."

LRA should drop unrealistic demands

July 20 2006 New Vision Online report excerpt:
Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has made several demands at the on-going peace talks in Juba. Among others, they want the scrapping of UPDF and a power sharing arrangement. These demands are untenable.

What the LRA should insist on is integration of ex-fighters who qualify and wish to join the army. The Government would have no problem with this as it has done it in the past. For example, in June 2004 hundreds of ex-LRA fighters were integrated into the UPDF, after training, at a ceremony witnessed by the army chief, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima. Earlier, fighters from other armed groups like FEDEMU, UFM, WNBF, FOBA and UNLA were integrated. This alone makes the UPDF national in character.

It would be a joke, for example, if the LRA demanded that their leaders be made Vice-President, Prime Minister or ministers in the validly elected government in Kampala. Their demands should centre on personal security, re-integration in the community and resettlement packages.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

LRA peace talks kick off in South Sudan

Peace talks between the Ugandan government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) formally opened on Friday in the southern Sudanese capital of Juba, in a bid to end the brutal 20-year conflict ravaging northern Uganda.

"I have the distinct honour and privilege to open these peace talks between the government of Uganda and the Lord Resistance Army," southern Sudan's President Salva Kiir said. Full report IRIN July 14, 2006.

Kony will eventually face trial, says ICC prosecutor

Luis Moreno-Ocampo

Photo: Luis Moreno-Ocampo, ICC chief prosecutor. IRIN July 7, 2006:

The International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted five top leaders of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), including the commander Joseph Kony, in October 2005 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity including abduction and sexual enslavement of children.

However, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has announced a total amnesty for Kony, on condition that the rebel leader renounced terrorism and accepted peace. Talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA are due to start on 12 July in Juba, Sudan.

In an interview with IRIN at The Hague on Thursday, the ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo insisted that Kony eventually has to face trial. Below are excerpts:

QUESTION: How do you respond to President Museveni's statement that the LRA leader, Joseph Kony, would be offered a total amnesty [despite his indictment by the ICC] if next week's peace talks are successful?

ANSWER: We are a prosecutor's office. We cannot make any comment on how the President of Uganda executes his mandate. What we know is that Uganda helped to carry out our investigations. We collected evidence showing how the LRA systematically attacked civilians, abducted children to use them as soldiers or as sex slaves. We even have evidence that Joseph Kony himself has been raping girls. We will show all this during the trial.

We believe that the best way to finally stop the conflict after 19 years is to arrest the top leaders. In the end, the LRA is an involuntary army [since] the majority of fighters are abducted children. Arresting the leaders is the best way to stop those crimes. That is our mission and we believe that we will achieve it in the long run. It is a challenge not for Uganda, Sudan or the [Democratic Republic of] Congo. It is a challenge for the international community. This is a new court supported by 100 states. We do our judicial work; we cannot be involved in the rest.

Q: After President Museveni's declaration, did you get in touch with Ugandan authorities to seek clarification on the meaning and implication [of the amnesty offer]?

A: We have a clear relationship with Uganda and we expect them to execute their legal duties. We hope this will be done.

Q: How do you qualify cooperation between the ICC and Sudan on the one hand and the ICC and Uganda on the other, now that the two nations seem to prefer putting peace before justice?

A: The Ugandan government helped us a lot during the investigation. They [Ugandan authorities] have a duty to execute the arrest warrants [issued against the five LRA leaders in October 2005] because they are a member of the ICC. The case of Sudan is different. Sudan is not party to the ICC, but in October 2005, that country voluntarily signed an agreement committing itself to execute the warrants and that is very important.

I remember meeting local people in northern Uganda who were telling me that the most important issue was to make sure that Sudan was not supporting Kony. That is why it is very important that they [the Sudanese authorities] signed an agreement. Also, the current peace process is the consequence of our warrants because they pushed Kony to move from his safe haven in southern Sudan into [the DR] Congo. There was pressure. Now he [Kony] is trying to transform the situation and our worry is that in the past he used this time to re-arm and attack again. But in the long run, Kony will be arrested.

Q: Do you fear that the ICC could be accused of sabotaging the ongoing peace efforts?

A: Our efforts to render justice [will] help to restore peace in Uganda. I met the Sudanese foreign affairs minister in 2004 and he told me that Sudan was no longer supporting the LRA. Sudan reduced its support because we intervened. The [DR] Congo too has requested MONUC [the UN Peace keeping force] to arrest Kony because that country is party to the ICC. I think the court is helping. We have a mandate to render justice. We want just the five top leaders. They can do whatever with the others; they can invite them to come out as most of them are former abducted children.

Q: Kony's deputy, Vincent Otti, says the ICC should send a team to their hideout in the Garamba national park in north-eastern DR Congo to hear their version of the story. Will you respond to the invitation?

A: This is a court. The court has to respect the law. We have to respect the victims. If these people want to give their version, they have to come to the court. The judges will guarantee their rights and safety and they will receive legal advice.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sudan: Uganda government, LRA peace talks delayed

Peace talks between the Ugandan government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), scheduled to start in the southern Sudanese capital of Juba on Wednesday, have been delayed, a Sudanese official said. IRIN reported 12 Jul 2006.

Friday, June 30, 2006

LRA victim: 'I cannot forget and forgive'

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

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

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

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

The memories of it all are so painful.

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

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

People were screaming from all corners of our village.

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

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


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

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

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

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

I was already spiritually dead.

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

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

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

Bad omen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 22, 2006

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

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

Read more at Jan Pronk Weblog June 19, 2006.

Joseph Kony (LRA), exposed

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

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

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

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

Uganda: New blogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sudan wants ICC Kony trial delayed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 15, 2006

UK agrees to jail Charles Taylor

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

Saturday, June 03, 2006

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

Sunday Vision report by Frank Mugabi June 3, 2006:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 02, 2006

ANALYSIS-Justice or peace? South Sudan meets rebel fugitive

Reuters report by Daniel Wallis June 2, 2006.

Joseph Kony

Photo: LRA rebel chief Joseph Kony (New Vision)

Kony talks set for Juba, South Sudan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

South Sudan's VP Kiir defends $20K to LRA's Kony

Reuters report May 30, 2006 via Sudan Tribune - excerpt:
Sudan's First Vice President Salva Kiir defended giving aid to the wanted Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) saying it would help start peace talks and stop them looting and killing in the lawless south.

In a videotaped meeting in early May between south Sudan's vice president, Riek Machar, and LRA chief Joseph Kony, Machar secured a request for peace talks and handed Kony a wad of cash saying it was $20,000 to buy "food...not ammunition."

Kiir, also president of autonomous southern Sudan, said the LRA had chosen the path of peace and approached his government to mediate talks with the Ugandan government. Kampala has given Kony until the end of July to stop the rebellion before talks.

"This is the only way to stop them from killing, from raping ... what is wrong with that if that can bring them back to law abiding citizens of Uganda?" Kiir asked reporters late on Monday night in Khartoum.

UN Mission in Sudan wants info on LRA's Kony

At long last, questions are being asked about who funds Kony and his terrorist group the LRA and how come he hasn't been caught yet.

Reuters report (Evelyn Leopold) May 30, 2006 - excerpt:
In southern Sudan, where the UN already has a peacekeeping force, [British Ambassador] Jones Parry said the [UN in southern Sudan] mission wanted information on Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.

He said he wanted to ask Kony "questions about his funding and how he manages without much hindrance to move as freely as he does."

Reuters last week obtained an exclusive video that showed Kony taking $20,000 in cash from the No. 2 of the ex-rebel Southern People's Liberation Movement.

The cooperation of the SPLM, a sworn enemy of Kony in the past, had been viewed as key to helping hunt him down. He had been supported by Khartoum during its three-decade civil war with the SPLM in the south.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Lutheran church accuses South Sudan government of supporting LRA

The Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sudan has accused the GoSS of providing financial support and relief aid to the Lord's Resistance Army while thousands of people in southern Sudan are displaced and left without food due to its activities, the Juba Post said.

Bishop Andrew Mbogo Elia said the Lord's Resistance Army is even taking over some villages in Western Equatoria and settling thus displacing the original residents.

The Bishop considers the present state of affairs in Western Equatoria as worse than pre-CPA days.

The Commissioner for Nabanga County in Western Equatoria adds that the Lord's Resistance Army is settling and cultivating the area and that an airstrip has been established in the area to deliver food to them.

The Vice-President of Southern Sudan government Riek Marcahr has given rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony at least 20,000 dollars.

In a video-taped meeting on 2 May, South Sudan's Vice-President Riek Machar handed Kony the package that also included several tons of food rations which is understood to be facilitation towards "a new lease of life" for a much weakened rebel group. (ST/Juba Post) 26 May 2006.

LRA Joseph Kony meets SPLM/A Riek Machar

Photo: LRA Joseph Kony is shaking hand with southern Sudan's vice president Riek Machar. (Reuters)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pictures of the $100 laptop: 1st working model of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)

From May 23, 2006 blog entry by Pablo Halkyard at PSD blog - The World Bank Group:
Pictures from the unveiling of the first working prototype of the $100 Laptop at the Seven Countries Task Force today. Green became orange, and the hand-crank is gone. Compare with Intel's sub-$400 entry and AMD's $185 version.
Note, at the entry a techie commented: "Awesome. I want one. What is there to stop gringos from buying them all to have their recipes on the kitchen or to use as poolside or beach laptop?"

Click here to learn about One Laptop per Child and view pictures of original green prototype with hand crank.

1st working model of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) on Flickr

Photo: 1st working model (OLPC) - taken at 11:45 AM on May 23, 2006; cameraphone upload by ShoZu - Uploaded to flickr by Pete Barr-Watson

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Refugee International urges UN to expand southern Sudan mandate to end rebel LRA

Washington-based Refugee International (RI) said the LRA attacks on civilians in southern Sudan are impeding humanitarian access, slowing the ability of refugees and displaced people to return home, and causing new displacement and refugee outflows, Xinhua/ST reported May 18. 2006. Excerpt:
"The UN Security Council should strengthen UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS)'s mandate to allow it to disarm LRA combatants and cooperate with the Ugandan Amnesty Commission to repatriate them to Uganda, execute International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants for the LRA top commanders and protect civilians in south Sudan," the aid agency said.

"The UNMIS must be given a stronger mandate, more resources, and higher troop levels to protect civilians proactively," the RI said.

"We request donors, particularly the United Kingdom and the United States, to allocate adequate resources to UNMIS for these new responsibilities," the RI added.

The agency's statement comes a day after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni offered another chance to the elusive leader of the LRA rebels to end the two decade old war.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Museveni gives LRA rebels 2 month ultimatum or face a combined force of Ugandan and southern Sudanese troops

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has given the leaders of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) a two-month ultimatum "to peacefully end terrorism" or face a combined force of Ugandan and southern Sudanese troops. Full report by IRIN via Reuters May 17, 2006.

Reuters by Daniel Wallis May 17, 2006:

Uganda will guarantee the safety of an internationally wanted rebel leader if he gives up his 20-year insurgency before the end of July, President Yoweri Museveni said in a statement released late on Tuesday.

Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed prophet chief of northern Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) was the first target of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which last year issued arrest warrants for the former altar boy and his top deputies.

Experts said the ICC's move effectively blocked any further talks with the leadership of the cult-like group, notorious for slaughtering villagers and abducting thousands of children.

Diplomats said at the weekend the leader of neighbouring southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, passed Museveni a message from the elusive LRA boss.

They say it was Kony's first attempt to communicate with Museveni in more than a decade, and during a meeting on Tuesday with British International Development Secretary Hilary Benn, Museveni said he and Kiir had agreed to give Kony "a last chance".

The statement from Museveni's office mentioned the ICC's indictment of Kony and four of his commanders, but added: "If he got serious about a peaceful settlement, the government of Uganda would guarantee his safety."

The vice president of southern Sudan, Riek Machar, met secretly with Joseph Kony two weeks ago and reached a deal to stop the group terrorising villagers in the south, Machar's office said in a statement on Wednesday.

"They agreed that there should be no more attacks on the civilian population in the south by this group release all captives from the south immediately," the statement read out over the telephone to Reuters, said.

It also said Kony agreed to talks with Museveni with mediation from the south Sudan government and that Kiir had given Museveni a videotape of the meeting held near Yambio town near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).


For years, the LRA have used bases in the lawless mountains of southern Sudan to raid northern Uganda, where the war has uprooted up to two million people and triggered one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters.

The LRA has no clear political aims beyond opposition to Museveni. Last year, a group of its fighters moved from Sudan into the jungles of neighbouring DRC.

On Saturday -- after attending Museveni's inauguration the day before -- Kiir briefed the Ugandan leader.

"The president said if Kony did not take up the latest peace offer, Kiir and he agreed that (Kiir's former rebels) the Sudanese People's Liberation Army and Uganda's military would jointly handle him militarily," the statement said.

Previous attempts at dialogue stalled early last year after the main rebel negotiator surrendered. The unsealing of ICC arrest warrants in October effectively ended any practical support for more talks with Kony, diplomats said.

(Additional reporting by Kamilo Tafeng in Sudan)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Ugandan president calls for cooperation in Great Lakes

The newly sworn in Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has called for increased regional cooperation to ensure peace in the Great Lakes, AngolaPress reported 13 May 2006:

Museveni made the call shortly after he was sworn in for his third term in office at a colorful ceremony held at Kololo National Ceremonial Grounds in Kampala on Friday.

He said his country will continue to work with its neighbors to consolidate peace in the region.

The president appreciated the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Sudan government for co-operating in the uprooting the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels from southern Sudan and northern Uganda.

The LRA rebels were using their bases in southern Sudan to launch attacks against Uganda but a combined operation between the SPLA and the Uganda People's Defense Force, forced them to flee to the jungles of Garamba National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

"We hope the Congo government, the SPLA, the Sudan government, the UN forces in Congo and Sudan will work with us to capture the LRA remnants now hiding in Garamba National Park," said Museveni.

He said the Congo government and the UN must also resolve the issue of eastern Congo being a safe haven for terrorists and negative forces from the Great Lakes region.

"We are ready and able to help in that task," said Museveni, who also appealed to the African Union Peace and Security Council to get involved in the process.

"The region, working with Barundi Political Parties, successfully resolved the issues of Burundi that had been paraded as insoluble. Similarly, the problems of eastern Congo, Darfur and Somalia can be solved, primarily, by the respective African regional organizations," said Museveni.

The Great lakes region is characterized as Africa's most volatile area after millions of people have lost their lives and millions have been displaced from their homes by violent conflicts.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Uganda says most LRA rebels relocated to DR Congo

May 5 2006 Xinhua/ST report in full:

The Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) has said about 95 per cent of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in southern Sudan have relocated to eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The UPDF 5th Division spokesman, Lt Chris Magezi, told Xinhua by telephone on Friday 5 May that most of the rebels have crossed to the DRC to join rebel leader Joseph Kony and his deputy Vincent Otti who are believed to be hiding in the jungles of Garamba National Park, eastern DRC.

"About 95 per cent of the LRA are now hiding in the DRC after our hot pursuit in southern Sudan," said Magezi.

He noted that there just a few remnants that are remaining in southern Sudan which the rebels used as their base to launch attacks against the Ugandan government, in a rebellion that has left tens of thousands of people dead.

"Our forces in southern Sudan have made major successes in wiping out these rebels. And because of our fire power, they are fleeing to the DRC," Magezi added.

UPDF spokesman, Maj Felix Kulaigye told Xinhua by telephone on Friday that Defence Minister Amama Mbabazi had returned from Sudan where he had gone to meet President Omar Al-Bashir and the UN Khartoum team to reach a regional mechanism to handle the LRA.

President Yoweri Museveni said on Thursday that there is need for the government to work in conjunction with the Sudanese government, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army and the United Nations Force in the DRC (MONUC) in ending the war in northern Uganda.

The Ugandan military said recently if Kony and his 150 armed combatants are given a safe haven in the DRC, they could build up and become a regional problem.

According to Minister Mbabazi, Uganda is to send defence and foreign affairs officials to meet the DRC authorities on how the two neighbouring countries can wipe out LRA rebels.

"It is a matter we are pushing with vigour and we are sure to receive positive reports," Mbabazi said shortly before leaving for the Khartoum meeting.

About two weeks ago, the Ugandan government proposed to the UN Security Council to allow the UPDF pursue the LRA rebels in the DRC.

Last week, the DRC government said UPDF soldiers were sighted on its territory pursuing the LRA, a thing the Ugandan army denied.

The LRA rebels have been fighting the Ugandan government for the last 20 years in a rebellion that has left tens of thousands of people dead and over 1.4 million people living in internally displaced persons camps in northern Uganda.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

First batch of Sudanese refugees back home from Uganda

The first convoy of 160 Sudanese refugees in Uganda repatriating to South Sudan left Tuesday from the northern district of Moyo to Kadjo Keji, some 30 kilometres north of the Ugandan border, Sudan Tribune reported May 3, 2006:

Sudanese refugee woman

Photo: A Sudanese refugee woman waits to embark in a bus in Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya December 17, 2005 to return into south Sudan.

From now until the rainy season starts in June - when the roads become impassable - UNHCR plans to help 160 refugees a day return home to their areas of origin.

So far, 27,000 of the some 174,000 Sudanese refugees in Uganda have registered to repatriate, said UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis.

In preparation for the return, representatives from Sudanese communities and local authorities in the return areas came to Uganda in mid-April on a "come-and-inform visit" to tell refugee leaders what they could expect back home.

Last week, UNHCR sent 13 refugee leaders on a two-day "go-and-see visit" to South Sudan, where they saw for themselves the health, education and water conditions in the area. After also talking with the local population in Kajo Keji area, refugee leaders returned to the refugee settlements in Moyo to tell refugees about their findings so they could make their own decision about returning.

There are still 350,000 Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries and some 4 million internally displaced in Sudan itself. Since UNHCR started voluntary repatriations in December 2005, some 3,000 refugees have returned from neighbouring countries to South Sudan.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

East African military chiefs meet to review security progress

East African military chiefs began a three-day meeting in Nairobi on Monday to review security progress in the region ravaged by conflicts, insecurity and poverty, Xinhua reported April 24, 2006:

The East African Chiefs of Defense Staff Meeting which drew military chiefs from 12 states called on regional governments to support the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade to deal with conflicts in Sudan, northern Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia and other trouble spots.

In his opening remarks, Kenya's Defense Minister Njenga Karume said the African Union (AU) is assembling a strong rapid response force to deal with conflicts and disasters on the continent.

"The African Union has formed a standby force aimed at ensuring quick intervention in conflicts arising within the continent," Karume told military chiefs from Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, Mauritius, Madagascar, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Seychelles, Somalia and Tanzania.

Karume said that under the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade, the force is meant to encourage Africans to deal with crises on their own continent, where the AU will have the authority to intervene in border wars and internal conflicts.

Kenya's Chief of General Staff, Gen. Jeremiah Kianga, decried insecurity and conflicts as major problems underpinning the continent's backwardness.

"Waging peace is the new battle cry for Africa and in that battle fields we are currently the front-line troops and we carry the hopes and aspirations of many in Africa and our region in particularly," said Gen. Kianga.

Kianga, having said Kenya had played a key role in conflict resolution in Somalia and Sudan, called for more help to make the idea a reality.

"With logistic support, troops from Africa can help immensely in resolving conflicts in the states affected by civil strife," said Kianga.

"Our sub-region has historically been one of the most conflict-prone in the continent and this has created a great yearning for peace amongst our peoples, which we must work very hard, to fulfill," he added.

About 2,000 Kenyan troops have been deployed in various parts of the world in peacekeeping missions.

Africa has standby brigades in each of the continent's five regions -- eastern, southern, western, northern and central Africa. Each brigade comprises four light infantry battalions, each with 750 personnel and 70 vehicles and a military observer unit with 120 officers.

"We have our troops in five African regions on standby to deal with civil strife and disaster occurrences in any country on the continent," said officials from the AU.

The officials said the AU would harmonize the five regional brigades to make it easy for troops get deployed to any country faced with conflict or disaster.

Kenya is part of the East Africa Stand-by Brigade, which has its headquarters in Nairobi and is operating through the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

But the officials said the Nairobi meeting plans to set up a new Secretariat to be based in Nairobi to de-link conflict resolution from IGAD.

IGAD's member states include Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Rwanda and Djibouti.

The military chiefs are expected to come up with recommendations which will be approved by the defense ministers who are due to meet in Kenya's capital of Nairobi on Wednesday. Enditem Editor: Lin Li

Friday, April 21, 2006

South Sudan offers to mediate between Uganda, LRA rebels

Southern Sudanese officials have offered to mediate between the Ugandan government and rebels who have been fighting for 19 years, a Sudanese official said Thursday.

"We are in the process of bringing the two together," Riek Machar, vice president of the autonomous southern Sudan government, said in a telephone interview from the southern capital, Juba.

"We have offered to act as facilitators and if they see that we could be mediators in their talks then we will do it," Machar said, adding both sides seemed open to the overture and that peace talks could start "any time."

Ugandan officials, however, said they doubted the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, a force with no clear political agenda, was ready for peace talks.

"I don't think any previous overtures to the LRA have yielded positive results ... I don't think they are interested in dialogue," Uganda's presidential spokesman Onapito Ekomoloit said in a telephone interview.

Full report Associated Press (ST) 20 Apr 2006.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Survey reveals grinding poverty in war-affected northern Uganda

Seventy percent of the population in war-affected northern Uganda live in absolute poverty, with each adult's consumption expenditure at about 20,000 Uganda shillings (US $11) per month, according to a survey released this week. Full report IRIN 7 Apr 2006.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

US asked to arrest Ugandan-American rebel Jongomoi Okidi-Olal - The real brain behind LRA leadership?

Report at Xinhua today:

Desperate to end the northern insurgency, the Ugandan government is pressuring the United States to arrest a Ugandan-American accused of assisting the rebels.

Uganda wanted Washington and the United Nations to arrest a Ugandan-American citizen, Jongomoi Okidi-Olal, and hand him over to the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to the state-owned New Vision daily on Sunday.

The insurgency of Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have left tens of thousands people killed, 1.4 million others homeless in the last 20 years.

In September last year, deputy LRA leader Vincent Otti crossed into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with about 400 fighters and their families.

However, Otti was forced to return to southern Sudan following a meeting between his representatives, officials from the DRC government and the UN Observer Mission in the Congo (MONUC).

Diplomatic and security sources said Okidi-Olal's role in LRA was confirmed during a meeting between LRA leaders and a DRC Ninth Regional Commander, who was accompanied by MONUC officials.

When the commander talked to Kony by satellite phone, the rebel leader asserted that LRA's entry into the Congo was a result of negotiations between LRA's New York representative (Okidi-Olal) and Congolese officials.

Kony gave MONUC officials Okidi-Olal's telephone number.

Okidi-Olal was also attacked by The Philadelphia Inquirer last month as being a Kony supporter as the paper accused U.S. officials of dealing with a person "with iffy links and motives."

In response to the media report, Kemal Saiki, MONUC's director of public relations, said when the LRA entered the DRC, its commanders gave the UN mission a phone number answered by a man claiming to be Kony.

Kony referred "all discussions about the infiltration of LRA in the DRC to 'our leader' in Washington and gave his phone contact."

Okidi-Olal answered that phone number.

Security sources said when contacted by UN officials, Okidi-Olal admitted links to LRA but said that he was "only a messenger" and that he was committed to seeing an end to the LRA war.

A diplomatic source said Uganda has repeatedly asked the Bush administration and the UN to arrest Okidi-Olal because he is considered to be "the real brain behind LRA leadership." Enditem

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Uganda rebel 'terror' appals UN

The activities of rebels in northern Uganda are "terrorism of the worst kind anywhere in the world", UN humanitarian affairs chief Jan Egeland has said.

Security must be improved in the region where Lord's Resistance Army rebels abduct children and carry out attacks, he said while visiting Pader district.

Mr Egeland urged the Ugandan government and international community to do more to end the humanitarian crisis.

Almost two million people have been displaced during 20 years of civil war. Full report (BBC) 1 Apr 2006.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Five LRA rebels captured in South Sudan

Five suspected LRA rebels were captured early yesterday when they attempted to attack Lobonok IDP camp near Jebel Kujur, west of Juba town, southern Sudan.

The suspected rebels were captured in joint ambush laid by Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers and a police patrol in the early hours of Wednesday 29 March morning.

A source at Central Equatoria police training unit in Buluk told Sudan Radio Service (SRS) that police are now interrogating the captives before handing them over to the United Nations police in Juba.

The source explained that one of the suspects was found wrestling with an unarmed civilian before he was arrested. (SRS/ST)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

UN aid chief Jan Egeland arrives in Uganda

UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, arrived Thursday in Uganda at the start of a nine day East African mission to assess the humanitarian situation in war ravaged northern Uganda and Sudan's region of Darfur.

During his trip, Egeland is to visit war-displaced people and hold talks with government officials in Uganda, Sudan, Chad and Kenya, the UN Humanitarian Coordination Office spokesman in Kampala, Christophe Illemassene, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. - via Bahrain News Agency

Monday, March 27, 2006

Khartoum says south Sudan safe for refugee return

Khartoum's state interior minister Brig. Aleu Avieny Aleu said the estimated 200,000 Sudanese refugees in Uganda should not fear the LRA rebels, who are Ugandan but have long used hideouts in southern Sudan.

"They are not affecting you when you go home, and they should not be the reason for you not to go home," he said in the Ugandan capital Kampala. "You will be protected."

Aleu was signing an agreement with Ugandan authorities and the UN refugee agency that sets up a legal framework for the first voluntary repatriations of Sudanese who fled to Uganda.

Full story (Reuters) 27 March 2006.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sudan: Sudanese burn Ugandan LRA rebels

The rising public hostility in southern Sudan towards the LRA rebels was manifested yesterday in Yambio town when the public burnt three bodies of the ugandan rebels in a market, reports Emmy Allio, Kampala AllAfrica March 20, 2006:

The residents vented their anger in the morning on the bodies of the rebels, sending signals that LRA was not wanted in their society.

Using Congo's Garamba National Park as a sanctuary, the Kony rebels crossed to Yambio where they raided the main market and attacked the detachment of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) at around midnight on Saturday. But their lack ran out when the SPLA killed three of them.

SPLM/A liaison officer in Kampala Lual Chol said the LRA killed two civilians and injured two soldiers of the United Nations Mission in Sudan.

"The wounded were flown to Juba hospital. But the population is angry at the rebels who fled back to Congo," Lual said.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Netting Uganda's rebels

The ICC needs the backing of regional states and the full support of the UN if it is to secure the arrest of leaders of the Lords Resistance Army, writes Ayesha Kajee for Institute for War and Peace Reporting 22 Mar 2006 - via ReliefWeb:

The International Criminal Court, ICC, made legal history last October when it issued arrest warrants for key rebel leaders in northern Uganda. But reeling in the suspects is likely to prove extremely difficult, and will only be possible if neighbouring states are forced to cooperate with the detention order.

Five top figures in the Lord's Resistance Army, LRA, were listed in the warrants and if apprehended, they would stand trial at the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity. They include the group's leader Joseph Kony, a self-proclaimed prophet, his deputy Vincent Otti, LRA commander-in-chief Raska Lukwiya, and brigade commanders Okot Odhiambo and Dominique Ongwen.

Their capture would help bring an end to the nearly forgotten civil war that has ravaged northern Uganda for almost two decades. Over that time the LRA's peculiar messianic vision has played out to brutal effect, with some 20,000 children abducted and forced to serve the LRA as guerrillas, sex slaves and porters.

Those children who escape the brutalising effects of LRA "conscription" still bear the brunt of the impact which the conflict has had in this part of Uganda. An average of 131 people die in the north of the country every day as a result of either direct violence or the poor conditions in camps for displaced people.

More than 1.6 million people live in camps for the internally displaced, where extreme poverty is compounded by malaria and HIV/AIDS. Every evening, thousands of children must walk many miles to safe houses and churches in the nearest towns, for fear of abduction by the LRA.

The ICC must rely on the Ugandan army to execute the arrest warrants. But even though the military outnumbers the LRA 20 to one in the region, it has been unable to carry out any of the arrests since they were ordered.

This failure has reinforced a perception among northern Ugandans that President Yoweri Museveni's government cares little about their fate, prompting many to vote against him in the multi-party elections held in February.

Hot on the heels of Museveni's third-term victory, the ICC - whose 600 prosecutors, investigators, judges and other international staff are based in The Hague - announced it was ready to receive suspects if any were arrested.

"We have 12 cells for Ugandan suspects in Scheveningen...," said ICC Registrar Bruno Cathala. "We need the help of states to arrest these people."

Cathala's use of the plural "states" is revealing since it emphasises what is likely to be an essential ingredient of ICC success in the case - cooperation by Uganda's neighbours.

In recent months, Otti has been leading LRA forces operating out of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC. In January he launched an ambush that killed several United Nations peacekeepers inside DRC. The government in Kampala has also alleged that Rwanda has supported the LRA in western Uganda, a charge denied by the Kigali government.

For many years, the government in Khartoum was accused of aiding LRA combatants who made southern Sudan their base. Since March 2002, a joint agreement between the two governments allows Uganda's soldiers to enter southern Sudan in hot pursuit of the LRA.

But Kony and his lieutenants have continued to elude capture, leading to speculation that Khartoum is still secretly helping the LRA by leaking information and supplying arms. In a BBC interview last month, the Sudanese vice-president and president of the southern Sudan government, Salva Kiir Mayardit, expressed his suspicion that the country's armed forces are supplying Kony with ammunition and other forms of support.

In February this year, Ugandan troops claimed they had attacked Kony in southern Sudan and killed four of his bodyguards - but, as in previous instances, Kony got away and is reported to have joined Otti in the DRC.

Christian Palme, spokesperson for the ICC's chief prosecutor, has expressed hope that arrests will take place this year.

But it is clear that if the ICC is ever to bring these fugitives to trial, the international community must pressure the DRC, Sudanese and Rwandan governments to cooperate in the manhunt.

Each has its own reasons for dragging its heels. Rwanda and Uganda have been implicated in the conflict in DRC and in the removal of diamonds and gold from that country, causing friction between them and with the government of DRC.

In Sudan, meanwhile, the LRA has historically served Khartoum as a useful policy instrument as it battles secessionist groups in the oil-rich south.

In short, wherever mineral resources, arms trading and politics come together, there are forces which might find it expedient for the shadowy Kony to remain at large.

Meanwhile, the death toll in the northern Ugandan conflict grows steadily.

David Drew of Britain's All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes Region and Genocide Prevention, which recently visited the region, told journalists that "pressure from the West and UN needs to be brought to bear on Kampala - the humanitarian and security situation in northern Uganda cannot go on a day longer".

The parliamentarians' report recommended that UN forces currently stationed in both DRC and Sudan should be mandated to act against the LRA, and that Uganda should itself be pressurised to step up actions against the rebels.

UN forces in the region currently have a limited peackeeping mandate which excludes military offensives against rebel forces.

The time for action in northern Uganda is long overdue. The 100 ICC member states now have an obligation to help ensure that the court's arrest warrants are executed.

Uganda, both as the location of the conflict and as the nation that initiated the ICC investigation in 2003, has a key role to play, but it has wavered along the way and needs bolstering. The likeliest route forward is probably a two-pronged approach, with multilateral pressure on Uganda and its neighbours being combined with a motion within the UN itself.

A decision by the Security Council to empower UN missions in the region to execute the warrants will be difficult to pass, given the United States' vehement opposition to the ICC. The US is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the court and does not recognise the ICC's jurisdiction.

But as in the UN decision to refer Sudan's Darfur conflict to the court last year, sustained lobbying on the human rights front might sway the Americans not to use their power of veto power in the Security Council.

When a thousand lives are being lost each week in what Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, has called "the biggest forgotten, neglected humanitarian emergency in the world today", decisive action by the UN could help decapitate a guerrilla movement that has terrorised northern Uganda for the last 20 years.

Ayesha Kajee is a researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs whose expertise includes matters relating to the International Criminal Court.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sudan: Uganda's LRA attacks in Yambio, terrorising Equatorians

Two days ago, on March 18, Yambio residents awoke to another heavy assault on the town from midnight. Locals say rebel Lord Resistance Army came and starting attacking many places to loot. There was heavy gunfire all over the town and this lasted for more than six hours, till dawn.

"Some UN peace keeping force and SPLA forces fought back but it seems our forces were pinned down in their places and LRA went on to loot many houses and places", said a local source to Sudan Tribune.

Full report March 20, 2006.

Sudan, Uganda to renew military protocol on LRA crackdown

Sudanese government has officially informed Uganda that it was ready to renew the military protocol signed between the two countries to enable the Ugandan army pursue the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels inside Sudanese territory, reports Sudan Tribune Mar 20, 2006. Excerpt:

Since the signing of the protocol in March 2002, Sudanese and Ugandan officials meet periodically to renew the military protocol extending the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) operations in southern Sudan.

A high-level military delegation is expected to arrive in Khartoum by the end of this week to finalize negotiations about some amendments which will elaborate parts of the protocol.

The delegation would meet SPLM officials to discuss the formation of a coordinating committee which would include the Sudanese armed forces, the SPLM and the Ugandan army, with the aim of coordinating operations against the LRA which has become a real threat to peace and stability in the south.

A joint coordination was going on between the Sudanese army and SPLM with regard to the LRA dossier. The two sides were committed to end Ugandan rebels' existence in the south at the quickest time possible.

Relations between Sudan and Uganda have improved generally, despite the regular Ugandan accusations that the Sudanese Army still supports for the LRA rebels.

The LRA has been conducting insurgencies against Museveni's government since 1988.

Friday, March 17, 2006

LRA rebels clashes with Ugandan army, SPLA in Bahr al-Jabal State, S Sudan

The Ugandan army clashed with the LRA rebels in Bahr al-Jabal State southern Sudan. The Sudan People’s Liberations Army (SPLA) seconded the Ugandan army. Causalities were not available to the press, the Juba Post reported Mar 16, 2006. Excerpt:

The LRA rebels who crossed into Lainya County last week entered Mukaya Payam and clashed with UPDF at Warago area North of Yei Kobo river. The UPDF both on the ground and air followed the LRA rebels and the helicopter gunship could be seen scooping in the area of the battle.

According to the executive director of Yei River County Aggrey Cyrus, the LRA rebels were rounded up by both the SPLA Forces and the UPDF.

Boma Administrator of Biri Clement Juma Saimon, said the security situation in his area has grown from bad to worse. Most of the people displaced are in total fear of the next attack as LRA rebels frequently cross through this route. He added that the government must address the issue of insecurity in the area because people are going to face hunger. The cultivation of the land is now disturbed as well as the education of the children.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Uganda judge says Besigye treason trial to proceed

A Ugandan judge ruled on Wednesday that treason proceedings against opposition leader Kizza Besigye which have worried Western donors and dominated the run-up to last month's election will go ahead, reports Reuters/ZI March 15, 2006.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sudan's VP Kiir orders expulsion of Ugandan LRA rebels from S. Sudan

Sudan Tribune article Mar 8, 2006 (Khartoum) says Sudanese first-vice-president and president of southern Sudan government Lt. Gen Salva Kiir Mayardit instructed the joint command to purge the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) from Southern Sudan. Excerpt:

Commander Haj Hamad Jaily said after a meeting with Kiir that the command will abide by the instructions of the first vice-president in the south and eradicate the LRA forces that oppose the Ugandan regime, and regain stability in the south.

He added that the meeting was aimed at widening collaboration between the SPLM and the Sudan Armed Forces.

He further said they agreed with the SPLM to achieve the main goal, which is the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

In an interview with the BBC on 20 February, Kiir reiterated an accusation already advanced by many southern responsible. He charged Sudanese army of supporting Ugandan rebel Lord's resistance Army.

But, he added he has no prove on the implication of the Sudanese army.

Last October, the International Criminal Court (ICC) unsealed arrest warrants it issued three months earlier for five LRA commanders, including the leader, Joseph Kony.

Sudan agreed to cooperate with the ICC on the case of Joseph Kony. Warrants for their arrests have been distributed to Uganda, Congo and Sudan.

The LRA has over the years abducted more than 30,000 children, forcing them to become fighters, porters or concubines. The rebels have killed thousands of civilians and forced more than a million to flee their homes, but appears to have no clear political agenda and little contact with the outside world.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

7m people in Uganda need immediate food aid - Drought prompts cut in Nile flow

BBC March 8, 2006 reports that Uganda says it is cutting the flow of water through its main dam at the point where Lake Victoria feeds the Nile, blaming it on widespread drought. Excerpt:

The Ugandan government said the flow had been cut by almost a third to allow the lake to refill as it is at its lowest level for more than 80 years.

At least 7m people are estimated by the United Nations to need immediate food aid as a direct result of the drought.

Other problems are expected to put more than 20m in need in the next year.

James Morris, head of the World Food Programme (WFP), said an area from Eritrea to Tanzania was affected by the worst drought in decades.

He said the WFP was appealing to its usual donors - Western nations and Japan - for more aid.

However, he said it was also looking for increased contributions from the Gulf states and the wider Arab world.

Such countries currently provide less than 1% of funding for the WFP, Mr Morris said.

For example, no funds have been received from Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that the vast majority of those in need were Muslims, he said.

New patterns of drought on the continent mean the WFP has to mount a "more sustained emergency response", he added.

He said the agency still needed $189m (£108m) to help fund aid to Kenya.

Some 3.5 million people in the country are currently thought to need help.

Uganda has dismissed claims made last month, that it has been secretly draining Lake Victoria to maintain electricity supplies.

Uganda's Besigye cleared of rape

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye is found not guilty of rape, but still faces other charges.

Full story (BBC) 7 March 2006.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Western Uganda's boy king holds 2-day parties

From News 24 (SA) March 4, 2006:

Kampala - Tens of thousands of Ugandans flocked to the hilltop palace of Africa's youngest tribal ruler on Saturday, for two days of noisy parties marking a decade in power for the 13-year-old boy king.

Dancing, singing and blowing trumpets, they strained for a glimpse of Oyo Nyimba, who sat before a throng of guests on a throne covered in lion skin, under an arch of elephant tusks.

The youthful Omukama (King) Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV became the world's youngest monarch when he succeeded to the Toro throne in 1995, after the death of his father, Patrick.

Since his coronation as a three-year-old, Oyo Nyimba has had to grow into his role as leader of western Uganda's one million-strong Batoro tribe.

When he is not in class at an international school in the capital Kampala, the heir to the country's centuries-old Toro Kingdom plays football and video games and goes to the cinema like any other well-off Ugandan teenager.

Courted by ambassadors

But on weekends and during the holidays, he is courted by ambassadors and presidents making the four-hour drive to his imposing Karuzika - "palace" in the local Lutoro language - above the sleepy Fort Portal town.

The three-story home, looking out over lush green tea plantations and banana groves, was renovated by one wealthy visitor - his "good friend" Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader.

Until he is 18, kingdom affairs are handled by regents.

Meanwhile, Oyo Nyimba says art, music, maths and swimming are his favourite classes at school, he doesn't like science, and he wants to study for a tourism degree in London.

He denies having a girlfriend, or a best friend.

Although he no longer needs the toy cars he used to play with to relieve the tedium of lengthy tribal ceremonies, Oyo still finds some of his official duties dull.

In a rare interview with a Ugandan newspaper this week, Oyo said: "I get bored, especially during functions.

"You are just sitting with grown-up people. I don't know what is going on in the kingdom. It is quite confusing to me."

Chief guest this weekend at Oyo's Empango (moon) accession parties is expected to be Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni, who was re-elected last week for another five years in power.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Uganda's Museveni is the best choice for South Sudan

Excerpt from an opinion piece Mar 3, 2006 by Martine Akwal, a Sudanese residing in Canada:
Egypt is southern Sudanese number one enemy and the enemy of the whole Sudan. Egypt has brain washed and enslaved our brothers in the north. Today, most of our brothers in the north call themselves Arabs not because they are or chose to be, but because Egyptian government made them to believe so. It is using northern government as a tool for controlling river Nile. Egypt is against the idea of giving southern Sudanese population self-autonomy and possibly independence. As I write, I am sure Egypt is working hard against the comprehensive Peace Agreement.

If at all the allegations that SPLA officers were campaigning for Museveni were true, I would say, they did the right thing because we southern Sudanese cannot risk having a new government in Uganda. We don't know whether or not the new leader would survive Egyptians manipulation against southern Sudan. But thank our ancestors, Museveni is back to power for five more years, the exact number of years we southerners need to secede or unit and live with our "black Arab" brothers if only they miraculously change.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

ICC says cells ready for Uganda war crimes suspects

March 1, 2006 Reuters report says International Criminal Court cells are ready to receive war crimes suspects and officials said on Tuesday the court hoped indictees from Uganda would be arrested this year so its first trials can start.

The ICC, set up as the world's first permanent global war crimes court to try individuals, issued its first arrest warrants last year for five leaders of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, accused of stoking 19 years of conflict.

"We all hope there will be arrests in the Uganda situation in the coming year," Christian Palme, spokesman for the ICC's chief prosecutor, told the briefing.

The court has also launched investigations into war crimes in Congo and Sudan's Darfur region.

Palme said the ICC was planning a new trip to Khartoum, but could not say when. Sudan's government refuses to allow any Sudanese citizen to be tried outside national courts and says it will not allow ICC investigators to work in Darfur.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Uganda's Museveni wins election

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been re-elected for a third term by a clear margin, official figures show.

Mr Museveni won 59% of the vote while main rival Kizza Besigye took 37%, the Electoral Commission said. Dr Besigye, who alleges fraud, rejected the result.

Full report (BBC) 25 Feb 2006.

Friday, February 24, 2006

South Sudanese in "LRA Triangle" flee Ugandan LRA rebels

Coalition for Darfur points us to a Sapa-AFP report 24 Feb 2006 that claims deadly raids by the LRA have forced scores of villagers in southern Sudan to flee their homes to spend nights in the bush fearing abductions and killings, a German humanitarian group has said. Excerpt:

The insurgents have been carrying out raids in vast southern Sudan belt called the "LRA Triangle" which lies between Rasola town near the DR Congo border, the region's capital Juba and Lokukei town near the Ugandan border.

"The threat imposed by the LRA forces the local population to leave the village during the night to hide in the bush," said Klaus Stieglitz, the deputy director of Sign of Hope.

Last week, LRA fighters attacked villages around Rajef, 12 kilometres south of Juba and brutally hacked to death three people, including a 70-year-old man and looted cassava farmland, the group said.

"It is a shame that these people nearly feel like animals. They are in fact deprived of their human dignity," he said after touring villagers around Rejaf and Nimule outposts in southern Sudan, where the group delivered humanitarian support.

In areas outlying Nimule, about 150 kilometres southeast of Juba, the insurgents have abducted at least 92 people, including children, and villagers believe that most of them are still held by the ruthless insurgents, they said.

"The villagers told us they can identify the attackers as the LRA because of the ethnic Acholi accent in their language," Stieglitz told a press conference in Nairobi. Sapa-AFP

Ugandans begin presidential vote - Feb 23, 2006

CNN report Feb 23, 2006:

Ugandans have turned out to vote in the nation's first multi-party presidential elections in 25 years.

The biggest challenger to incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, who has held power for 20 years, is Kiiza Besigye, 49, of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).

Though polls had Museveni in the lead, it was not clear whether he would get the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

Thousands of international observers are on hand to monitor the voting.

Nearly 50,000 forces oversaw security at polling places around the country, where 10.5 million people are registered to vote.

Observers said voters waited patiently in long lines before they got their chance to vote.

Afterward, their thumbs were dipped in indelible ink to ensure they did not try to vote again.

Polling stations were slated to close at 7 p.m.


Photo: Workers prepare ballot boxes in Kampala on Wednesday.

Backed by a handful of fighters, Museveni wrested power in a 1986 coup, inheriting a country in ruins, wracked by sectarian strife and in economic free fall after former leader Idi Amin expelled its Asian business community.

Museveni set about restoring stability and reviving the country's economy. In the process, he became a darling of governments and international institutions.

U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush each visited Uganda and came away praising his leadership, particularly in helping the country combat AIDS.

Even after 20 years in the job, there is more to do, he said. "I don't think what we have done is enough," he told CNN. "I think it's simply a beginning."

But his critics contend that he should step aside before his taste for power becomes an addiction.

Besigye, Museveni's one-time friend and former personal physician, accuses the incumbent of condoning corruption, and described him to CNN as "somebody who abandoned the cause."

-- CNN Correspondent Jeff Koinange contributed to this story.

Uganda's first lady leads the way

As the Ugandan president and his challengers prepare for a showdown at the polls on Thursday, the country's first lady is also running for election after a campaign which has seen women politicians making remarkable progress. Janet Museveni (57) is making her first foray into politics by running as a parliamentary candidate in rural Ruhama in western Uganda.

On a continent where men have dominated post-independence politics, the past year has seen the beginnings of a gender shift. As well as President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Liberia, there is Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, South Africa's Deputy Prime Minister, who joins two other prominent female leaders in Southern Africa: Zimbabwe's Deputy President, Joyce Mujuru, and Mozambique's Prime Minister, Luisa Diogo.

Critics say Uganda's first lady has an unfair advantage: not many candidates have the president campaigning on their behalf the weekend before an election.

Full story at Mail & Guardian 23 Feb 2006.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

South Sudan's Salva Kiir says Sudanese army supports Ugandan LRA

Copy of African News Dimension report Feb 21, 2006:

Sudanese first-vice-president and president of southern Sudan government Lt. Gen Salva Kiir Mayardit said, for the first time, he believes that Sudanese army support Ugandan rebel Lord's resistance Army.

In an interview with the BBC Arabic service, Kiir reiterated an accusation already advanced by many southern responsible. He further said that Ugandan rebels receive support in the suburb of the Southern Sudan capital Juba.

Last December, the responsible of the SPLM intelligence service, Edward Lino, had accused in an interview with the Sudanese al-Sahafa the Sudanese army of supporting the Ugandan rebel LRA.

But, Kiir added he has no prove on the implication of the Sudanese army.

Sudanese Defence Minister Lt-Gen Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein denied last year receiving any official complaint from the SPLM regarding the involvement of elements of the Sudanese army in supporting the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army militias.

Sudan's Salva Kiir, had said Saturday on 4 October 2005 that he would hand Kony over to the International Criminal Court. But Kiir said he did not know Kony's whereabouts. The Sudanese government had provided bases for the LRA south of Juba, but after it began to withdraw its support the LRA began raiding and looting Sudanese villages for food, and killing Sudanese civilians.

On 13 October 2005, the ICC unsealed arrest warrants it issued three months earlier for five LRA commanders, including the leader, Joseph Kony.

While Sudan and the International Criminal Court (ICC) differ over Darfur, Khartoum is cooperating in the case of Joseph Kony, one of five top Lord's Resistance Army members named in a sealed indictment compiled by prosecutors of the permanent war crimes court. Warrants for their arrests have been distributed to Uganda, Congo and Sudan.

Sudan once backed the LRA, even as Uganda supported the southern-based Sudan People's Liberation Army in its civil war with the Sudanese government. But Sudan and Uganda normalized relations in 2001, Sudan's southern civil war ended in January and the SPLM joined a national unity government. Ugandan troops have since been allowed to operate in some parts of southern Sudan against the LRA.

Human rights groups say the Lord's Resistance Army has over the years abducted more than 30,000 children, forcing them to become fighters, porters or concubines. The rebels have killed thousands of civilians and forced more than a million to flee their homes, but appears to have no clear political agenda and little contact with the outside world. Source: Sudan Tribune

Monday, February 20, 2006

Kiva: Loans that change lives, become a lender to a small business in Africa

Kiva website states it provides a new, sponsor a business option for individuals to connect with small enterprises in developing countries through flexible loans and invites readers to become a lender to a small business in Africa and be reimbursed for the loan.

Sounds like a good initiative. Not sure how it all works. According to the website, Kiva is experiencing a huge outpouring of support and cannot list businesses fast enough. Excerpt:
"Latest journal from Peace Poultry Tororo, Uganda , January 3, 2006: This business has received loan money worth $300. The money has already been put in business to increase the stock."
Source: Trey's blog.