Uganda: February 27, 2002

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Are 15 Ugandan People's Defense Forces battalions with heavy artillery massing on the Sudanese border? Uganda's Aruu county Minister of Parliament Samuel Otto Odonga found the deployment of 25,000 UPDF troops on the 30,000 acre Aswa Ranch in Atanga sub-county alarming, claiming that it was causing panic amongst his consituents. The day-and-night manuevers could only mean that Uganda is gearing for war with the Sudan. Odonga told the press that he had "talked to the Minister of State for security Wilson Muruli Mukasa and he told me that UPDF is preparing to crush Sudan, the enemy." 

An unnamed senior UPDF officer from the 4th Division confirmed the presence of the troops in Aswa but said they were only undergoing yearly "routine training." Army Spokesman Maj. Shaban Bantariza also said the deployment of soldiers anywhere in the country is allowed by the Constitution but declined to discuss the numbers involved.

The UPDF might well be massing to go after the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), since thousands of civilians in Uganda's north have been killed, maimed and abducted in over a decade of fighting which began in 1986. In 1995, Uganda cut off diplomatic ties with Sudan on grounds that Sudan backed Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army. 

However, in mid-February Sudanese government planes attacked LRA camps near Juba city (southern Sudan), ending the marriage of convenience between the LRA and Omar Bashir's government. About 300 LRA rebels killed two civilians on 23 February, in an attack on a Local Defence Unit detachment in Agoro market, Lamwo county, Kitgum district.

According to a China Press report, war with the Sudan posed a threat to China's energy security in 2002. State-owned China National Petroleum Corporation has a 40% stake in Sudan's Unity field, which was expected to produce about 10 million metric tons of crude oil in 2002.- Adam Geibel

 

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