Uganda: November 25, 2002


Behind the scenes of Sudan's reversal-of-opinion on Uganda's Operation "Iron Fist". On 25 November, the Ugandan Army told the United Nations that Sudan would allow Uganda to continue an offensive against Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in southern Sudan, for as long as it took to wipe out LRA bases there. Sudanese Foreign Minister Isma'il had said that the agreement was not renewed because Uganda had not given a time limit for the operation, nor specified where it would be operating. The reports triggered diplomatic activity between the African neighbors and a visit to Kampala by Sudanese envoy al-Mahdi. Ugandan Defense Minister Mbabazi had been told in that meeting that the operation would be allowed to continue and that reports that Khartoum had change of heart were "misconstrued by the media". 

On 23 November, the Ugandan Army offered a $450,867 reward for information leading to the capture of rebel warlord Joseph Kony and his 38 commanders (or $11,560 per head). The statement says 25 of the wanted commanders are operating inside of Uganda, while 14 are in southern Sudan.

Landmines laid by the various rebel groups continue to plague Uganda's citizens. In 2000, Unicef reported that there were an estimated 500 mine casualties and that figure has since increased. Minefields have been identified near the Kitgum, Moyo, Gulu, Arua, Kasese Bundibugyo, Kabarole and Apac districts. The number nor exact location of landmines is unknown. 

The LRA rebels know that their legacy of leaving unmarked minefields, torturing civilians and taking hostages will come back to haunt them some day. They have told captives (who have since been rescued or escaped) that they will not surrender to the Ugandan Army, for fear of civilian reprisals. 

If the rebel groups can be neutralized, Uganda has a shot at a bright future. President Yoweri Museveni told the press on 22 November that Uganda's economic performance over the last 15 years would have been much greater than the present 8 percent, had it not been for terrorism. - Adam Geibel


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