News commentary from Peter Eichstaedt, Thursday, 28 May 2009:
Rumblings from the north
Word has spread quickly around Uganda about a possible regrouping of former rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda.
An article by Chris Ocowun, a reporter for the government's New Vision newspaper, says that a couple of top former LRA commanders reportedly have been meeting secretly with former rebels.
They are said to be Odong Kao and Santo (Sunday) Otto, and the government fears that they may be gathering for a return to the bush.
Otto came to the attention of Ugandan authorities when he defected in 2007 from the LRA in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Upon his return to Kampala, Otto provided graphic details of LRA leader Joseph Kony's execution of his long-time deputy, Vincent Otti. Otti had long been the man pushing Kony to sign a peace deal, and had clearly convinced at least half or more of the LRA that this was a good thing.
Instead Kony killed Otti, which forced an exodus of many other LRA fighters who had been aligned with Otti, including Sunday Otto.
So now what?
New Vision reported that the Ugandan army spokesman, Capt. Ronald Kakurungu, said: “These two former LRA commanders returned from rebel captivity and benefited from amnesty. However, they have been engaging in suspicious activities, which we, as security agents, are getting concerned about.”
It also reported that in 2006, security operatives netted Odong Kao with two wives of LRA chief Joseph Kony who were trying to return to Garamba, where Kony and his rebels were at the time.
Kakurungu also said the former deputy speaker of Gulu municipal council, Alex Okot Langwen, was recently arrested over security related crimes. He said Langwen was briefly detained at Gulu barracks before he was transferred to Kampala.
This is the second time Langwen is being arrested on allegations that he has connections with the LRA rebels. In 2006, he was arrested and charged with treason before he was released after receiving amnesty.
If nothing else, this could be symptom of the growing resentment in the north against the lack of redevelopment efforts by the government in the north. More and more often one hears comments that unless something is done quickly, another rebellion could begin.
Uganda does not need that.
In another concern, freelance journalist Patrick Otim who worked for the Gulu station Mega FM, was also arrested for unknown reasons and his whereabouts are unknown.