Sunday, September 23, 2007

Uganda: Museveni calls for one African army

President Yoweri Museveni has criticised his African peers for relying on foreign military forces to maintain peace and security on the continent.

Here is the full story by TABU F. BUTAGIRA & RONALD BATRE, September 24, 2007, from KAMPALA/ARUA via
Gen. Museveni said Africa needs to immediately build one strong army that would intervene swiftly to restore calm in any beleaguered state and end unnecessary western benefaction. "Should Africa continue to seek defence patronage from abroad?" Mr Museveni asked on Friday, adding: "In whose interest is this patronage?"

Presently, over 13, 000 UN troops under the United Nations Mission in Congo are struggling to restore calm in the restive eastern DRC where renegade rebel chief Gen. Laurent Nkunda is fighting the Kinshasa government of Joseph Kabila.

On August 1, the UN approved the deployment of 26, 000 military and police personnel to Sudan's volatile Darfur region where an estimated 200, 000 people have died and another 2 million displaced since a conflict erupted in the oil-rich western province in 2003.

The home-grown African Union troops deployed there earlier are over stretched and have under performed mainly due to logistical bottlenecks and lack of money.

"While we may get help from bodies like the United Nations, it is imperative that we take initiative in promoting peace and preventing conflict," Mr Museveni said in a speech read for him by State Finance Minister (general duties), Jachan Omach at International UN Peace Day national celebrations in Arua on Friday.

"We need to build a credible military force that can guarantee the future of the African race". The President said many of the wars ravaging African Countries have continued to escalate and claim more lives due to delayed response arising from over reliance on foreign armed forces.

He said conflict resolution must be given a new priority on Africa's development agenda if harmony is to prevail within and between the continent's 53 nations. "Africa must strive to be ideologically independent if we are to secure and maintain peace and stability across (national) borders. We must share the same vision for our continent," Mr Museveni who had initially disagreed on fast tracking formation of a single African government, said.

"Conflicts have devastated the African continent, causing loss of millions of lives, human rights have been abused and entire populations forced to abandon dwellings and take on refugee status," he said.

"It is not only appalling but also abhorrent that the perpetrators of such acts normally attack defenseless civilians, children and women in order to advance their causes". The International Peace Day was celebrated under the theme: Promoting Cross-border Peace and Stability; Our Commitment, Struggle In Our Development and Progress.

Uganda: UN to help flush out LRA terrorists

Sept 16, 2007 - New Vision report from Kampala by Alfred Wasike [hat tip Enough]
THE UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUC, is ready to back the Congolese army to flush out the LRA and other armed groups from eastern Congo to ensure security in the Great Lakes region.

"We are very concerned about the presence of the LRA and other armed groups in the DRC. Now we have the mandate to use force. We are deploying together with the DRC army to make sure that the LRA or other armed groups don't make the DRC their safe haven," said William Lacy Swing, the head of MONUC.

Swing has been in Kampala for the meeting of the Tripartite Plus Joint Commission, which was attended by ministers of defence and foreign affairs, as well as security chiefs, from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC.

The four Great Lakes countries are discussing ways to deal with the armed groups based in eastern Congo which are threatening the security of the region. Uganda's delegation included ministers Sam Kutesa and Dr. Crispus Kiyonga, external security chief Dr. Robert Masolo and his colleague from internal security, Dr. Amos Mukumbi.

Swing, also the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Congo, told journalists yesterday at Speke Resort Munyonyo that MONUC planned to increase its presence in the area where the LRA is.

"We have moved about 90% of our forces to the eastern DRC. They (LRA) must go back and finalise the peace talks in Juba. We want to ensure that the peace talks succeed."

He said the other armed groups in the DRC included ADF (Allied Democratic Forces), PRA (People's Redemption Army), FDLR (Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda), FNL (National Forces of Liberation) as well as the forces of Laurent Nkunda.

Swing regretted that, although 15,000 members of armed groups had been demobilised, fresh fighting in the east had led to the displacement of over 600,000 people.

"The Tripartite Plus countries must ensure that they come up with effective strategies to accelerate disarmament of the armed groups. This is the surest way for us to eliminate the negative forces," he pointed out.

Uganda: No more military coups — Kutesa

September 22, 2007 report by Felix Osike, Sunday Vision, Uganda:
MILITARY coups will no longer be tolerated in African countries, foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa has said. Uganda has had three military coups since independence in 1962.

The minister was on Friday delivering a paper titled “Africa’s Global Relevance and Uganda’s growing Role” at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House in London.

“There is a resolve to have and support democratically elected governments in the African Union. No longer will coups d’etat and military dictatorships be tolerated by the African Union,” Kutesa remarked.

Uganda has a history of coups and military dictatorships. The first coup was in 1971 when the army toppled a civilian government led by Milton Obote and installed its commander, Gen. Idi Amin as president. The second coup took place in 1980 when the Military Commission removed Godfrey Binaisa. And the third had coup-prone Obote overthrown a second time in 1985.

Kutesa stated that although Africa was faced with surmountable problems, wars were ending: “While two decades ago, you had many military dictatorships in many African countries. We now have stability.”

“Some of these struggles, therefore, like the ones we had in Uganda to get rid of Amin and LRA terrorists, could not be avoided. They have helped us attain the stability that we are now enjoying,” he added.

The foreign affairs minister, however, observed there was still a problem in Darfur, Sudan which will be sorted out with the involvement of the international community.

“We are also helping the leadership in Somalia to stabilise that country. The problem of Burundi is being resolved. An elected government is in place,” he said citing examples of change, “There is no more war in Angola, Mozambique, Southern Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the large part of Congo. South Africa was liberated in the early 90s and is a functioning democracy.”

He urged the international community to support the agreements Uganda signed with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Arusha, Tanzania on dealing with the negative forces in the DRC, joint oil exploration on Lake Albert and resolving the border conflict.

“We are negotiating with the Lord’s Resistance Army in Juba, Southern Sudan. We hope a comprehensive peace agreement will be signed in the near future. The stability created in Africa will promote democracy and observance of human rights.”

Kutesa argued that democracy was a process and not an event. “The process in Africa is on, and it is irreversible. The mistake some people in the West make is to judge the decades-old democracy in Africa against that of the West, which is Centuries old.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"A state of emergency has been declared in Uganda" - UNICEF

Email just received from UNICEF:
Dear Miss Ingrid Jones,

Children in urgent need of help as flooding
sweeps across Africa

The worst flooding in decades is devastating countries across Africa and affecting more than 1.5 million people.

The early arrival of the rainy season has displaced more than 500,000 people, destroyed livestock and crops and put millions of children at risk of deadly waterborne diseases.

17 countries affected across Africa

- In Sudan an estimated 3.5 million people are at risk of deadly waterborne diseases and flooding has destroyed or damaged 191 schools. UNICEF is currently working to get 44,000 affected children back to school.

- A state of emergency has been declared in Uganda where UNICEF has already begun distributing water kits and basic household equipment.

- In Ghana flooding has destroyed livestock and farmlands. UNICEF is supplying water kits, shelter and mosquito nets across the north and east of the country.

Children are the most vulnerable

In every disaster children are the most vulnerable and often the worst affected. UNICEF urgently needs to reach children in 17 African countries to provide clean water, shelter and a safe environment to ensure that lives are not lost to outbreaks of disease caused by the flooding.

A gift of £50 will protect children from the risk of deadly disease

A gift of £50 from you would allow UNICEF to provide ten families with basic water kits. By providing these families with water containers, purification tablets, soap, buckets and basic hygiene supplies you will protect at least 30 children from the deadly risk of waterborne diseases.

Please help us protect children affected by these devastating floods by making a donation today using our secure online donation facility.

With sincerest thanks on behalf of all the children who will benefit from your donation.

Yours sincerely,
David Bull

Executive Director

PS: Please forward this on to a friend if you think they would also be interested in making a donation and supporting our appeal.

The cost quoted for the water kits is an estimate and is subject to where they are sourced and the quantity available.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ugandan chimps threatened by massive felling of forests

From IANS/ June 12, 2007:
Somewhere in the remote jungles of western and northwestern Uganda, a struggle for survival reigns between the impoverished peasants and chimpanzees.

Ecologists here are worried that the already endangered primates are losing the battle for land in a country where forests are being decimated at a fast rate.

The chimps are either killed, wounded, left homeless or orphaned and multi-pronged efforts are being made by conservationists to both save the habitat of the chimps and protect those orphaned or displaced.

'We are very concerned about the habitat of the primates. People cut down the forests for gardens and timber and the chimps get displaced. The chimps fight and the humans fight back and the chimps are either killed or orphaned,' said Moses Mapesa, executive director of the state-owned Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

Uganda has over 5,000 chimps in the wild and those threatened are mostly in privately owned forests in the Bunyoro region in north and northwestern Uganda.

UWA rescues the abandoned and orphaned chimps and hands them over to ecologists at Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary situated on an island on Lake Victoria.

The wooded island situated 60 km south of the capital Kampala, is at present home to 42 rescued chimps.

The centre funded by international conservation groups and the Ugandan government was founded in 1998 but ecologists there are worried that the number of chimps being orphaned and taken there for refuge is on the increase.

The sanctuary's executive director, Lillian Ajerova, said some of the big forests, which existed before have been cut down or become fragmented with the chimps finding themselves in different locations.

'At the moment we have 42 chimps at Ngamba Island. These include 17 males. The oldest chimp is 25 years and the youngest about a year. There is an indication that the number of orphaned chimps is on the increase,' she said.

'In 1998, we started with 19 chimps. Now we have 42 and in the last year we got five chimps that had been rescued. This is a very, very big number, which we got in only a period of six months. This shows that the problem is getting bigger,' Ajerova said.

Statistics from the National Forest Authority (NFA) indicate that Uganda's forest cover has been reduced from 4.9 million hectares to 3.6 million hectares from 1990 to 2005.

Forests cover 24 percent of the East African country's total land surface to-date, a fall from over 70 percent 100 years ago, NFA says.

Environmentalists are embarking on a programme among the people living around the chimpanzee areas, sensitising them on conservation, advising them on the crops to grow and empowering them with skills.

'We are trying to see how we can move together to minimize the problem. Among others, this involves education and provision of skills to women,' Ajerova said.

'We want to address the problem in such a way that the humans co-exist with the chimps,' said Mapesa.

Monday, March 05, 2007

LRA shun Acholi meeting in Juba

Mar 4 2007 New Vision Online by Gloria Laker in Juba:
The Lord's Resistance Army rebels did not show up for the Acholi peace conference, Wang Oo, held in the South Sudan capital of Juba.

Gulu chairman Norbert Mao said the rebels were invited but they did not turn up and never communicated why.

The conference that was scheduled to end yesterday was organised in an attempt to restore talks between the Government of Uganda and the LRA rebels as a way of ending the northern Uganda conflict.

About 150 people, who included elders, MPs, and opinion leaders from the Acholi districts of Gulu, Kitgum, Amuru and Pader, attended the conference, which was funded by DANIDA and the Canadian government. It was organised by the Acholi cultural leader, Rwot David Onen Achana.

The leader of the opposition in Parliament, who is also the Agago County MP, Prof. Ogenga Latigo, pleaded with Dr. Riek Machar to continue mediating in the talks.

Ogenga asked the LRA rebels to resume the talks as the team tries to solve the issues they raised.

He said the conflict had greatly affected the people of South Sudan and northern Uganda.

Meanwhile, the Sudanese President, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has said the LRA rebels will only be tolerated in Sudan for peace negotiations, a special envoy told the meeting in Juba on Saturday.

In January, Bashir threatened to "get rid of the LRA from Sudan". The rebels have since refused to resume talks in the South Sudanese capital unless a neutral venue is found outside Sudan. Uganda has rejected the request as a time-wasting tactic.

Reuters quoted the special UN envoy for the conflict, Joaquim Chissano, the former Mozambique president, as saying that the Sudanese president had clarified that he welcomed the LRA in south Sudan for peace talks only.

"He clarified his position ... These people are welcome to the talks and to dialogue. But if they are not going to participate in peace, there is no reason for them to stay in Sudan," Chissano said in Juba.

"The only way forward is to talk with everybody until consensus is reached," he added.

UN envoy meets LRA leader Joseph Kony nr Sudan-DRC border - Juba peace talks resume this week- Dr Machar

Mar 5 2007 SomaliNet news report by David Odoki:
Peace talks between the Ugandan government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army are set to resume this week, after a months' long lull. The decision was reached at a seven-hour meeting last Thursday between UN envoy Joachim Chissano and rebel leader Joseph Kony.

Former Mozambique president Chissano is the UN envoy for the conflict in Northern Uganda. Dr Riek Machar, the chief mediator and vice-president of South Sudan, told Daily Monitor that he expects the LRA negotiating team to return to Juba this Wednesday.

"I expect the LRA delegation to return to Juba for us to resume the peace talks," Dr Machar said by telephone from Juba. A review of the cessation of hostilities agreement renewed in December would be first on the agenda, he said.

Early this year, the LRA's delegation left Juba demanding a change of venue and mediator, citing bias by Dr Machar and an unsafe environment in South Sudan.

Those issues, which have stalled the talks, appear to have been discussed in the meeting that transpired between Mr Chissano the LRA's leadership, sources said.

The meeting, which is Kony's second with a top UN official, took place late Friday in an undisclosed location near the Sudan-DR Congo border.

Late last year former UN humanitarian affairs chief Jan Egeland visited Kony at his remote base in Garamba, DR Congo.-(The Monitor)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Otti in DRC: LRA says no to truce

Reuters report by Tim Cocks Feb 28 2007 (via IOL) - excerpt:
Lord's Resistance Army rebels will not renew a landmark truce with the Ugandan government set to expire on Wednesday, a top LRA official said, raising fears of a new chapter in the brutal 20-year war in northern Uganda.

The LRA pulled out of peace talks with the government in south Sudan's capital Juba last month, citing security fears after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir threatened to "get rid of the LRA from Sudan".

They have refused to resume talks unless another venue outside Sudan is found, a request Kampala rejects as a time-wasting tactic.

"We are not going to renew anything," LRA deputy commander Vincent Otti told Reuters by satellite telephone from his forest hideout in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Otti said the LRA had no plans to resume hostilities, but would hit back in self-defence. He added that the LRA would happily sign an extension of the truce in another venue.

Addressing journalists late on Tuesday, President Yoweri Museveni warned military operations against the LRA were still possible.

"Peace in Uganda will be maintained with or without peace talks," he said. "Talks were mainly for the benefit of the terrorists. If they don't give in, that will be their problem."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Ugandan rebels move towards CAR - Sudanese official

Reuters report (via ReliefWeb) by Skye Wheeler, 23 Feb 2007:
Ugandan rebels have crossed into Sudan from hideouts in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and were moving north on Friday towards the Central African Republic, a Sudanese official and aid worker said.

Paul Matthews Rikito, director of Tambura County in southwestern Sudan on the CAR border, told Reuters he saw two groups of Lord's Resistance Army rebels moving north.

"They are so many. The first group was more than 1,000," Rikito said by phone. "They are heading towards CAR."

He added that the group included women, children and cattle.

The LRA denied the move. "We are not moving anywhere near Central African Republic. We have no intention to," LRA spokesman Godfrey Ayoo said.

But local aid workers corroborated the sighting.

"The group (of LRA) ... is following the Namatina River in a northwest direction. They are moving fast," said Andy Wren, who works for aid agency Norwegian People's Aid.

He said cited south Sudanese military sources with whom his organisation works closely.

Under a landmark truce signed in August and renewed in December, the rebels were supposed to assemble in two places in south Sudan -- one on the DRC border, near the top leadership's hideouts, and one on the Uganda border.

But they have repeatedly missed deadlines to do so.

Last month, delegates representing the rebels walked out of peace talks in the south Sudanese capital, Juba, saying they feared for their security after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir threatened to "get rid of the LRA from Sudan".

The rebels say they have since scattered their forces in southern Sudan and the DRC on security fears and will not resume talks unless another venue can be found, outside Sudan.

The talks had raised hopes of an end to a two-decade war that killed tens of thousands and displaced 1.7 million people.

Rikito said extra south Sudanese soldiers had been deployed to protect civilians from LRA attacks, adding that the rebels looted food from villages and robbed a clinic.

The rebels are notorious for killing and robbing civilians, mutilating victims and abducting children to use as fighters.

Analysts fear LRA fighters on the Sudan/CAR border would further destabilise an area that is already a regional tinderbox because of a spillover from Sudan's Darfur conflict, which has displaced hundreds of thousands in CAR and Chad.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Uganda rebels quit assembly areas, reject Sudan mediation

Reuters report (via ST) Feb 22, 2007:
Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army rebels said on Thursday they have left two assembly points in southern Sudan set up under a landmark truce with the Ugandan government, fearing for their safety.

LRA spokesman Godfrey Ayoo said the rebels would never resume negotiations in south Sudan's capital, Juba, despite claims by the chief mediator, south Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar, that they were due to do so this week.

A truce renewed in December gave the rebels until last month to gather in two places in south Sudan - Owiny-Ki-Bul, on the Uganda border and Ri-Kwangba, on the Democratic Republic of Congo border.

Ayoo said both groups had dispersed and the LRA's top leaders were back in their jungle hideouts in the DRC.

"We withdrew from Ri-Kwangba because of security concerns, so we are back in Congo," he said. "The group in Owiny-Ki-Bul has scattered in southern Sudan."

Ayoo was talking by phone from Nairobi. LRA delegates have refused to return to Juba since Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir threatened to "get rid of the LRA from Sudan".

The Juba peace talks had raised hopes of an end to two decades of conflict in northern Uganda that have killed tens of thousands and displaced 1.7 million people.

But the truce expires at the end of this month, with no agreement on when the two sides will meet to extend it.

Uganda accuses the rebels of repeatedly failing to assemble in agreed locations, which the rebels deny. Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Machar told Reuters on Tuesday he expected LRA delegates back in Juba this week to set a date for resuming talks.

"Our position has not changed," Ayoo said. "We are not going back there (to southern Sudan). We are fully united in the search for a new venue."

The Ugandan government has said it will not move the venue.

But Ayoo said the LRA would keep their guns silent, even if the truce expires. The government has made similar comments.

Many Ugandans fear the LRA will never sign a peace deal unless the International Criminal Court in the Hague drops indictments against its top leaders for war crimes like rape, mutilation and abducting children to use as fighters.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Summit displaces Uganda street children

Uganda is preparing for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in November by clearing beggars from the capital's streets.

Aid workers fear that the centre cannot cope with the influx.

Most of those living on Kampala's streets are from the troubled and underdeveloped region of Karamoja.

Full story by Sarah Grainger BBC News, Kampala 21 Feb 2007.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Uganda, DRC, Sudan agree to fight rebels

Via SudanTribune - Uganda, DRC, Sudan agree to fight rebels - by John Thawite, Sunday Vision Feb 10 2007:
Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan have resolved to jointly fight rebels operating along their common borders, the Sunday Vision reported.

They have agreed to exchange information, have joint military teams to verify the location of rebels and set up joint verification missions in the respective countries.

This was during a one-day security meeting at Hotel Margherita in Kasese last week chaired by the Ugandan people's Defence Forces (UPDF) second Division commander, Brig. Hudson Mukasa who also led the UPDF delegation.

Brig. Gen. Bahuma Ambamba led the DRC army side while Col. Adoor Deng headed the Sudanese People's Liberation Army delegation. The UN peace keeping force in the Congo (MONUC) delegation was led by Brig. Gen. Duma Mdutyana.

Issuing a press statement after the meeting, the Rwenzori Mountains Alpine Brigade spokesperson, Lt. Robert Kamara and the 2nd Division Intelligence Officer, Capt. Paul Muwonge, said the UPDF and DRC army had agreed to set up liaison offices in Congolese towns of Bunia and Aba and Arua and Kisoro in Uganda. They said the meeting was a follow-up to the Great lakes Region Pact on security, stability and development that was held on December 15, 2006. At the December meeting, Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Joseph Kabila (DRC), agreed to eliminate their crossborder insecurity.

The Lord's Resistance Army rebels are operating in the Garamba zone in the DRC after fleeing from Sudan while remnants of the Allied Democratic Front are also in the Rwenzori Mountains of eastern DRC.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ugandan rebel 'prophetess' buried

Feb 3 2007 BBC report excerpt:
. The burial has taken place in Uganda of Alice Lakwena, the self-proclaimed prophetess who began the long-running insurgency in the north of the country.
She died in a refugee camp in Kenya last month, but was buried in her native village in Gulu district where she is still remembered as a healer.

Alice Lakwena led a rebellion against President Yoweri Museveni in the 1980s.

Her followers were defeated by government forces, but regrouped to form the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

The LRA - led by Ms Lakwena's cousin Joseph Kony - is now holding talks to end its 20-year conflict.

"Thousands of people attended her burial," a local official in Gulu district said.
Note, her followers believed magic potions protected them in battle.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

LRA peace talks Juba completely cancelled

Juba Post article Jan 25 2007 by Badru Dean - excerpt:
According to The Monitor, Otti reportedly said they are still committed to peace talks to end the 20-year rebel insurgency but that nothing Khartoum can say or do will lure them back to negotiations in South Sudan.

The comments were in reaction to South Sudan President Salva Kiir comments on Monday on South Sudan TV that he would call for mass action against the Lord's Resistance Army rebels, if they continue to attack his people.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Uganda rebels 'welcome in Sudan'

BBC News Jan 17 2007 - excerpt:
South Sudan's Vice-President Riek Machar has told the BBC Ugandan rebels have not been asked to leave his country, the venue for peace talks.

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) want him to be sacked as chief mediator after comments by Sudan's president saying they were no longer welcome.

LRA leader Joseph Kony and three of his top commanders are wanted on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court and have indicated that no deal can be signed while warrants for their arrest remain in place.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Uganda tightens security at Sudan border

Jan 6 2007 New Vision/ST article:
Jan 5, 2006 (KAMPALA) - Uganda said it has deployed more troops and beefed up security measures at the border of Uganda with Sudan, the Ugandan New Vision reported.

The northern-based army spokesman, Lt. Chris Magezi told journalists on Wednesday: "We are very vigilant along the Uganda-Sudan border."

He said the Lord's Resistance Army rebels raided Luru village in south Sudan and looted several property including goats and other food stuffs.

Magezi added that the rebels also grabbed a gun and pistol from a Sudan People's Liberation Army soldier.

"The rebels have refused to assemble at Owiny-Kibul as agreed by the two negotiating teams. Instead, they are roaming around committing atrocities," the army publicist said.

Magezi added that the army had deployed enough troops along the border to ensure that the rebels do not cross to Uganda before the talks are concluded peacefully.

He stated that the recent request by rebel commander Joseph Kony to shift the peace talks venue to Uganda was a way of coming back to Uganda to begin committing atrocities.

He revealed that the ambushes took place not far away from Owiny-Kibul where the rebels are assembling.