Uganda: Terrorists Coming and Going

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November 19, 2010: The government now estimates that the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has only 200 fighters. Other sources put its strength at 350 to 400. The LRA remains dangerous, having murdered around 2000 civilians in the last two years. They have hit unprotected villages in the Congo, Central African Republic, and southern Sudan. This is why many insist the government's campaign has failed. That depends on what you call failure, at least if considered from the Ugandan perspective. The LRA's ranks have been substantially diminished. In 2002 and 2003, LRA strength ran from 4,000 to 5,000 fighters. At that time the LRA had bases in southern Sudan but also maintained active cadres in northern Uganda. Northern Uganda has now been relatively free of LRA cadres for around three years. Indeed, the LRA is now a regional terrorist and criminal problem. That's terrible, and no one argues the organization should not be stopped. The LRA commits heinous crimes. But from a political perspective this means the remnant LRA has more enemies. That's fine with the Ugandan government.

November 17, 2010: Because of internal security concerns (terror threats among them), the government announced that it was suspending leave for members of Ugandan security forces (presumably including national police) until March 2011. The statement mentioned security concern for crowds gathering for holiday festivities. The July terror strikes were carried out during the World Cup football (soccer) tournament. Targets included cafes where large crowds were watching the soccer tournament.

November 13, 2010: The government is taking steps to improve security at its virus and agricultural research laboratories. The complaints of lax security turned out to be legitimate. Uganda holds samples of the Ebola virus because the virus is endemic to central Africa. The country itself suffered an Ebola outbreak in 2007. Ugandan medical personnel have also reported that it often takes a long time for biological samples to reach the laboratories so that a disease can be identified. That is due, in part, to reliance on ground transportation via a primitive road network. Uganda is concerned that a terrorist group could use Ebola or some other endemic disease as a bio-weapon. A terrorist group could raid a lab or intercept a sample enroute to a lab. The concern is legitimate, given threats against Uganda from the Somalia Islamist extremist organization Al Shabaab. The government is seeking aid from international donors to upgrade the labs' capabilities as well as improve their protection. An air delivery system for samples from distant sites would speed up sample gathering as well as reduce the possibility of attacking a courier.

November 12, 2010: The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF, an ally of Al Shabaab) may be trying to set up a base inside the country. The ADF has bases inside the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the Rwenzori Mountains area. The Congolese Army conducted several anti-ADF operations in the region this past summer so it is conceivable that some ADF fighters have moved back into Uganda.

November 9, 2010: The government announced that its Amnesty Commission would continue to support programs for former LRA fighters who applied for and received amnesty.

November 8, 2010: Ugandan security officials issued a new warning about potential terrorist attacks conducted by Al Shabaab or its allies. The warning called for increased public vigilance. A police warning in the capital, Kampala, suggested that the public avoid shopping areas and markets that have not complied with access control guidelines. The police are also increasing security checks at public gatherings.

November 6, 2010: Al Shabaab, the Somalia militant Islamist group, once again threatened Uganda with new terrorist attacks. Al Shabaab is trying to force Uganda to withdraw its peacekeeping contingent from the African Union's AMISOM peacekeeping operation in Somalia. Al Shabaab took credit for the July 11, 2010 terror attacks in Kampala. A man identified as an Al Shabaab senior commander recently threatened revenge attacks for what he said were violent acts committed by Ugandan troops in Somalia. The Ugandan government continues to hold 34 people in prison for alleged involvement in the July terror attacks.

November 2, 2010: Several non-governmental aid organizations are reporting that assistance efforts in two northern Ugandan districts once plagued by the LRA are beginning to show results, albeit slowly. One project involves leasing farm land to displaced persons and in some cases disarmed and demobilized former LRA rebels. The two districts identified are the Katakwi and Pader districts. Land disputes between current occupiers and displaced persons who return to claim ownership continue to be a source of trouble. The peace deals worked out with LRA defectors all included promises of help in re-integrating into civilian life.

November 1, 2010: So far this year the LRA has conducted at least 22 known attacks in southern Sudan's West Equatoria state. The LRA attacks displaced 45,000 people. 13,000 of the displaced are now living in a camp in the town of Ezo.

 

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