Uganda: Gin And Gunrunners


November 9, 2009: Though senior government officials publicly scorned threats by Somali Islamists to attack targets in Uganda, the security agencies are taking precautions. Though many doubt Al Shabaab has “the reach” to put its own suicide terrorists into the capital, Ugandans have long accused Sudan's Islamist government of propping up the Lords resistance Army (LRA). Given Islamist connections throughout East Africa, it is not a big leap of the imagination to think that Somalia's Al Shabaab Islamic terrorist group could use Sudanese intelligence as a resource to attack Uganda. The government does not want to frighten away visitors (especially tourists who will spend hard currency), which in part explains the official scorn.

November 5, 2009: A senior LRA leader, commander Charles Arop surrendered to a Ugandan Army (UPDF) intelligence unit which is operating with the Congolese Army in the eastern Congo. Ugandan liaison officers and detachments continue to operate with the Congolese Army in its fight against the LRA. Arop said he fled an LRA base in Congo's Garamba Naitonal Park in December 2008, as Ugandan and Congolese troops launched their joint offensive. Arop initially had around 100 LRA fighters with him. Since then the men with him have either surrendered or been killed. This suggests that that the Congolese Army managed to keep the pressure on Arop's contingent, forcing it to constantly move. Arop is accused of directing a massacre in the Congo town of Faradje on December 25, 2008, as his fighters raided the town. Over 140 people were killed in the Faradje incident. This means it is very likely Arop will face war crimes charges.

October 30, 2009: Police and security forces discovered and deactivated a bomb found in a building located on a major city street in the capital. The discovery of the bomb follows threats by the Somali Islamist group Al Shabaab that it would conduct terror strikes in Uganda.

October 27, 2009: Three LRA fighters surrendered to the army in West Nile province (northwestern Uganda). One of the rebels who surrendered said that they had been in the Central African Republic (CAR) in early October near the town of Obo. Their group was attacked and its senior commander killed. There was no information on who conducted the attack against the LRA group, though past statements from the defense ministry have suggested Ugandan intelligence detachments are monitoring LRA movements in eastern Congo and along the CAR border. The defense ministry also reported that though there have been no recent LRA attacks inside Uganda, there are indications that some LRA groups have recruited fighters from South Sudan and the CAR. This is the kind of information that defectors and surrendering fighters provide.

October 23, 2009: A senior Al Shabaab spokesman (Somalia Islamist group) threatened to launch suicide bomber attacks on Uganda and Burundi. The spokesman threatened to bomb targets in Kampala (Uganda's capital) and in Bujumbura (Burundi's capital). Both Uganda and Burundi have troop contingents serving with African Union peacekeeping forces in Somalia.

October 20, 2009: The military began joint training exercise Natural Fire 10. The exercise involves 1200 personnel from five East African countries and the United States. The exercise is designed to improve the ability of the participating forces to operate together and to improve their ability to respond to a humanitarian crisis (eg., natural disaster, wave of refugees, food crisis). Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and the US are participating in the exercise, which will last ten days. The exercise has a regional security angle (training involving convoy operations and operating vehicle checkpoints is on the schedule), but will also include working on engineering projects and running medical programs. Around 450 US troops will deploy during the exercise.

October 15, 2009: Police officials in Uganda's Karamoja region banned the sale of home-made gin in the region. The police say Karamoja warriors get drunk on the gin and then become more violent. Also, many local arms smugglers may be involved in the gin business.




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