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.