Uganda: The Threat From Sudan

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July 13, 2012: Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) senior commander Joseph Kony continues to evade the international effort to arrest him. Late last year that effort intensified as U.S. special operations personnel began providing intelligence data and logistics assistance to his pursuers. In the past, when military pressure increased, the LRA would disperse. The leaders would hide and the fighters would break up into small groups, with as few as four or five members each. Kony and his surviving LRA loyalists are using these tactics once again.

These small, dispersed LRA bands operate as little more than criminal gangs. The LRA bands attack poorly armed villages, steal food, and abduct civilians. For the LRA, theft and looting are logistics operations. Sometimes the abductees are used to transport booty, food, and equipment.

The LRA dispersal area is huge, in square kilometers roughly comparable the state of Texas. Kony uses the vast region’s size and political divisions to his advantage. For years Kony maintained hide-outs in the territory’s most remote regions, frequently crossing international borders to hide his tracks and create diplomatic complications for his enemies. Remote certainly applies to the south-eastern CAR’s (Central African Republic) Chinko River area and Sudan’s western Darfur region, the two areas where Ugandan security officials say they believe he is likely hiding.

Kony also has a knack for moving at just the right time. Uganda contends that Kony gets intelligence tips from Sudanese intelligence and that the LRA still receives material assistance from Sudan. The Sudanese deny both allegations, vehemently.

The failure to bring Kony to heel, despite last year’s introduction of sophisticated international security advice and support, has frustrated the governments of Uganda, South Sudan, Congo, and the CAR. On June 29, the UN Security Council asked for more international assistance. The African Union is in the process of creating a 5,000 soldier force to combat the LRA, with units provided by Uganda, South Sudan, the Congo, and the CAR. The force needs equipment, trainers, and funds to support training. (Austin Bay)

July 12, 2012: Some 40 Congolese Army soldiers are being treated at Ugandan medical facilities. The Congolese soldiers were injured in fighting with the Congo’s M23 rebel movement. M23 fighters attacked a Congolese Army border garrison post and over 600 Congolese soldiers fled into Uganda. The healthy Congolese soldiers are being returned to the Congo.

July 8, 2012: The government announced that it expects to begin oil production sometime in 2013 (likely late 2013). The government estimates that Uganda has at least two billion barrels in oil reserves but that is a conservative figure. Test wells are being drilled in other potential oil fields. The government is looking for investors to help build infrastructure, to include local refining capacity as well as pipelines. The government wants to cooperate with Kenya in building an export pipeline. Kenya is also touting the discovery of potentially commercial oil fields. The worry in Uganda is that investors will see Kenya, with its access to the sea and already existing refining capacity, as a better investment.

July 6, 2012: Congolese M23 rebels attacked the Congolese town of Bungagana (on the Ugandan border). During the attack at least 2,000 Congolese civilians and 600 Congolese Army soldiers fled into Uganda. The Ugandan Army (Ugandan Peoples Defense Force, UPDF) disarmed the Congolese soldiers. They were then given refugee status.

July 2, 2012: CAR officials revealed that LRA fighters launched several more attacks between June 21, and June 25, near the town of Bakouma. LRA fighters attacked a remote hunting concession, killed two people and abducted 14.

July 1, 2012: The government announced that the military has intelligence information which indicates the LRA commander Joseph Kony is now hiding in Sudan’s Darfur region. The government estimates that the LRA has from 300 to 500 fighters. Uganda has around 800 soldiers assigned to pursue Kony. Uganda openly acknowledges that its forces are operating in the Central African Republic and uses facilities in South Sudan.

June 29, 2012: An AU (African Union) official tasked with overseeing the AU’s joint effort to destroy the LRA, reported to the UN Security Council that there is evidence that the LRA is getting weaker. However, the organization remains a threat. The report asserted that the LRA’s ability to command and control its dispersed forces has been disabled.

June 27, 2012: Ugandan peacekeepers serving in Somalia with the AU’s AMISOM mission reported that they had captured and occupied the town of Balaad. Somali Islamist Al Shabaab militiamen fled the town. The Ugandan soldiers captured one militiaman and seized several weapons. The military reported that during the month of June, Ugandan peacekeepers captured the town of Afgoye (northwest of Mogadishu) and El Fitri. They also raided the port of Elmaan and the Esaley airfield, 40 kilometers northeast of Mogadishu. Al Shabaab used the port and air field to ship in arms and foreign fighters from Yemen.

June 26, 2012: The government arrested five Pakistanis it claimed were linked to the radical Somalia Islamist group, Al Shabaab. The government said the men were planning to launch an attack in the capital, on the second anniversary of the so called World Cup terror attacks (July 2010) which killed 79 people. The men were captured in Ntoroko district (Rwenzori Mountains, near the Congo border). The rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF, and ADF-NALU) had used the area as a training base. The ADF is now semi-defunct but it had Islamist political aims. In the mid-1990s it wanted to create an Islamic state in Uganda.

June 25, 2012: The LRA attacked a French uranium mine in southeastern Central African Republic (CAR) near the town of Bakouma. The attackers stole food and laptop computers. Investigators reported that the group was positively identified as being LRA. The CAR military reported that it had fought with a rebel group near Bakouma on June 23. That group was initially identified as the Popular Front for Recovery, a rebel group from Chad.

June 2, 2012: Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni’s recent comment that he will step down before age 75 has sparked a lot of discussion in the country. Museveni has been in power since 1986. His current term expires in 2016. Museveni claims he was born in 1944, which makes him 68, though opposition politicians claim he is older. Many of Museveni’s own supporters have been quietly urging him to retire in favor of younger leaders.

May 31, 2012: The Ugandan military accepted delivery of two more Russian-made Su-30MK2 fighter jets. The Ugandan Air Force now has six Su-30s, which completes its initial order. The deal was worth around $750 million. There had been some speculation that Uganda might buy eight of the aircraft. Opposition politicians criticized the expenditure as outrageous. The government argued that the country needed the aircraft to protect Uganda’s oil resources. The government now argues that uncontested Sudanese Air Force attacks on South Sudan have made the case that Uganda needs high performance aircraft capable of intercepting Sudanese jets.

May 25, 2012: The government indicated that it will let the Amnesty Act lapse. This means it will no longer grant blanket amnesty to former members of rebel groups. Former members of rebel groups will have to go through the court system to seek amnesty or face trial for crimes. The blanket amnesty program began in 2000, and has been controversial, particularly regarding the LRA. The government originally passed the legislation in order to demonstrate that it was willing to seriously negotiate with the LRA. It was included in a peace agreement, which the LRA has never signed.

May 22, 2012: The government expressed concern that unresolved border issues between Sudan and South Sudan will lead to a larger regional war. The government would prefer that the belligerents reach a border demarcation agreement and end the conflict. Uganda, however, has made it clear that it favors South Sudan in this dispute and has left little doubt that it is willing to be an active military ally on behalf of the south. Ugandan military leaders have declared that Uganda will not sit back if the Sudan and South Sudan conflict turns into an all-out war. South Sudan’s government has stated that it counts on Uganda’s support in a war with Sudan.

May 13, 2012: International media have discovered that the U.S. is training Ugandan forces for peacekeeping duty in Somalia. The training at the Singo Training facility has been going on for almost five years. However, class sizes have increased. Currently some 3,000 Ugandan soldiers are undergoing training at the facility. The U.S. pays for the facility, where training is conducted by U.S. contractors.

May 12, 2012: Ugandan troops operating in the CAR captured Caesar Achellam, a senior LRA leader (he holds the rank of major-general) and one of Joseph Kony’s top lieutenants. His wife and one member of his escort group were also taken. The Ugandan soldiers set up an ambush on the River Mbou (south-eastern CAR). Achellam and a group of LRA fighters were attempting to cross the river and enter the Congo. The ambush triggered a firefight. Between ten and fifteen LRA fighters in Achellam’s group escaped.

May 10, 2012: Tullow, a British oil company, announced that its consortium will spend $750 million in Uganda this year on oil drilling, production, development, and new exploration.

May 9, 2012: The government denied an allegation by Sudan that it supporters anti-Sudanese rebels. Uganda counter-claimed that the Sudanese allegations are propaganda intended to divert international criticism arising from Ugandan allegations that Sudan supports the LRA. Ugandan security officials claim they have people with direct knowledge of Sudanese support for the LRA, to include a captured LRA fighter who reported that Sudan had supplied him (and presumably other LRA fighters in his contingent) with new uniforms.

The government of Sudan has asked that UNAMID (UN-AU hybrid peacekeeping operation in Darfur) discontinue direct flights between Darfur and Uganda. Currently UNAMID makes use of Uganda’s international airport at Entebbe. Entebbe is a major logistical base for the UNAMID operation. UNAMID also uses Kampala as a rest area for UNAMID personnel. Several flights from UNAMID headquarters in El Fasher (North Darfur state, Sudan) go straight to Entebbe. Sudan noted that Uganda-Sudan diplomatic relations have deteriorated and asked that UNAMID re-route its flights through Khartoum.

 

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