Uganda: Terrorist Slavers Remain Invincible

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October 24, 2012: Peace activists from Congo and Uganda have asked the government to re-open peace negotiations with the Lords’ Resistance Army. Religious groups from both countries and representatives from the Acholi tribe (northern Uganda) met at a conference in northern Uganda. The groups stated that they believe that the time has come to open new peace and reconciliation talks with the rebel group. A Ugandan contingent also asked that the government reinstate the blanket amnesty policy, arguing that LRA rebels in Congo, Sudan, and the Central African Republic (CAR) would quit fighting and come home if the policy were reinstated and observed. The religious organizations have also held talks in the CAR, where the LRA is also active. The LRA drew many of its members from the Acholi tribe. The government will probably ignore the appeals because it believes the LRA is fragmenting. Access to U.S. tactical intelligence is one reason. The increasing number of anti-LRA cross-border operations is another. The government also believes it has won the political and information battle with the LRA as well. The African Union’s multi-national Regional Task Force (RTF), which has the mission of ending the LRA’s insurgency, is expanding in size. Despite all these efforts, the LRA continues to exist and sustains itself via looting, kidnapping, brainwashing (of young captives), random atrocities, and slavery. 

October 14, 2012: The government has stopped paying some Ugandan 60,000 retirees (soldiers, teachers, and government workers) after an accounting audit discovered that several hundred pension checks were going to people who did not exist. Ghost soldiers are not a new phenomenon – that is, non-existent soldiers who are on the unit rolls but whose pay goes into the pockets of corrupt officers. The same goes for ghost workers. Ghost pensioners are not a new phenomenon either but cracking down on them is. The halt in payments, however, has affected honest pensioners as well. The government hopes to begin paying pensions to non-ghosts by the end of October.

October 11, 2012: The Ugandan Army now believes that LRA senior commander, Joseph Kony, is hiding out in the north-eastern corner of the CAR, in the CAR’s Vakaga prefecture. The area is near the Sudan border. Uganda has army units in the south-eastern CAR’s Haut-Mbomou region and has increased its operations in the area. As a result, the LRA has moved. The military said its sources are abductees who have escaped from LRA bands. At the moment there are at least ten LRA bands in the CAR. Three of the bands are large, by LRA standards, with from 30 to 100 rebel fighters. The LRA is believed to have between 200 and 400 active fighters.

October 9, 2012: Uganda celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence from Great Britain. Several opposition political groups, however, boycotted the government’s official ceremonies. The opposition accused the government of corruption and of denying political freedoms.

September 29, 2012: The Ugandan Army officially assigned 2,000 soldiers to the African Union’s anti-LRA Regional Task Force (RTF). South Sudan contributed 500 soldiers. In March 2012, the African Union and the UN called upon South Sudan, Uganda, the Congo, and the CAR to do a better job in coordinating their efforts to combat the LRA. The RTF is described as a regional collective effort to end the LRA insurgency.

September 23, 2012: The Kony 2012 Internet video continues to attract viewers world-wide, and the global viewers continue to ask, why does the LRA commit such vicious and violent crimes, atrocities like mass murder, mass kidnapping, public rapes, and mutilation (with machetes and hand axes) of the living and the dead? The answer is cruelly simple: spectacular violence attracts media attention and it frightens defenseless Central African villagers. LRA commanders know they must do both if they and their movement are to survive. Media attention, even negative attention, gives the LRA a measure of political power. The atrocities receive deserved headlines, and deserved condemnation, but the headlines also tell Central African governments that despite their efforts (and international aid, like U.S. Special Forces advisers) the LRA remains in the field. Despite their poverty and fragmentation, LRA fighters are potent enough to launch attacks over a swath of Central Africa roughly the size of Texas. In this strategic-political respect, the intent of the LRA’s spectacular violence differs little from that of other terrorist groups like Al Qaeda; compared to their adversaries, the LRA is very weak, but its ability to wreak havoc has no bounds. Frightening defenseless Central Africans also serves the purpose of tactical survival. When the LRA left northern Uganda it left its most reliable source of food, supplies, and manpower: sympathetic members of the Acholi tribe. In Congo, South Sudan, and the CAR LRA fighters are not rebels but foreign thugs. The LRA bands must survive by looting and plundering (and perhaps air drops from Sudan, according to the Ugandan government). Theft takes less effort if the locals are already afraid. Theft also helps explain the LRA’s penchant for kidnapping (abduction). The LRA is short of personnel and the bands need load-bearers for the food they steal. They also need load carriers for their military supplies. Fear also buys silence. If the villagers know they will be killed, or have an arm sliced away, if they pass on information about the LRA to the UN, Congolese Army, or CAR national police, they are less likely to do so. For the LRA the threat of horrendous physical reprisal is a means of exerting political control. A fellow villager with a disfigured face or a missing hand serves as a bitter reminder to others that it is better to keep quiet than inform on the LRA. (Austin Bay)

September 17, 2012: The government reported that proven oil reserves now top 3.5 billion barrels. This is a 40 percent increase over 2011 estimates. New exploratory wells are being drilled. Private industry officials have estimated that Uganda could have eight to ten billion barrels of oil, with a value of over a trillion dollars.

September 12, 2012: LRA rebels ambushed a CAR (Central African Republic) Army truck convoy and killed one soldier. Six others were wounded. The attack took place in a very remote section of the eastern CAR. The region borders on Congo and South Sudan. The convoy was on the road to Obo (some 170 kilometers away). The CAR government reported that the army contingent was the lead element of an African Union military force deployment in the area. The CAR also acknowledged that the LRA had attacked two villages and abducted 55 people.

September 7, 2012: A group of northern Ugandan religious leaders arrived in the CAR to speak with former LRA captives. The group also urged LRA defectors to return to Uganda.

September 6, 2012: Ugandan Army forces severing with AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) deployed near the port of Elmaan (40 kilometers north of Mogadishu). The deployment was described as part of an operation to take territory from the Islamist extremist group Al Shabaab.

September 5, 2012: A Ugandan Army unit operating in the CAR killed one LRA rebel and captured another.

September 3, 2012: The Congo believes members of the Ugandan Army (UPDF) may have been involved in the mass slaughter of a herd of 22 elephants. The elephants were killed in April 2012, in the Congo’s Garamba National Park. The elephants were each killed with one shot in the head and their ivory tusks taken from their corpses. Observers in the Congo reported seeing a Ugandan military helicopter flying low over the park about the time the mass slaughter occurred. For several years the Lords’ Resistance Army had bases inside the huge park. LRA fighters have also been accused of poaching elephants and selling the illegally-obtained ivory. Ivory sells for $1,000 a kilogram on the international black market, though reportedly Chinese buyers will pay as much as $2,500 a kilogram. China has money and its people have a huge appetite for carved ivory objects. The average weight of an elephant tusk is hard to estimate. A survey of various wildlife biologist estimates of average tusk weight found that a typical young adult elephant tusk could weigh ten kilograms, though mature adult males can grow tusks that weigh more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds). On July 9, Ugandan media reported that Ugandan customs officials had stopped an ivory smuggling operation. Ugandan customs agents seized 426 kilograms of illegal ivory at Kampala’s Entebbe international airport. The ivory was concealed in metallic suitcases which were supposed to be shipped to Indonesia. In an Asian black market that would mean the shipment was worth between $425,000 and one million dollars. On June 20 Ugandan media reported that earlier in the month customs officials seized an illegal shipment that had 35 pieces of ivory (presumably 35 tusks) that had an estimated value of $500,000.

 

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