Uganda: The Rebels Are Too Damn Many

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May 4, 2013: Kony 2012, the movie, put the spotlight on the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its senior commander, Joseph Kony. Efforts to capture Kony have so far failed. It’s 2013, and rumors continue to percolate through east and central Africa that Kony is now hiding in Sudan, which denies the accusation. Despite the Central African Republic’s (CAR) ongoing political troubles, the African Union and UN-backed operation to capture Kony and end LRA depredations has continued. During April Uganda suspended operations in the CAR, after claiming that it would not. In early April the leaders of the coup which toppled the CAR government in March said that all foreign forces had to leave the CAR. However, Ugandan hunter patrols are now active in southeastern CAR. The AU (African Union) and UN have commended South Sudan and Congo for their participation in the anti-LRA operation and said that these operations have reduced the number of murders and atrocities in their respective countries. But Kony is still out there, somewhere.

May 1, 2013: Ugandan opposition politicians in parliament have vowed to investigate reports that at least two regional police commanders are using defense funds to train illegal militia forces. The militias are being formed to attack political opponents of President Yoweri Museveni. Opposition leaders identified the commander of the Kampala South police district as one of the rogue officers. Senior police officials in Kampala denied the allegations.

April 27, 2013: New reports claim that LRA commander Joseph Kony is hiding out in the Kafia Kingi region of Sudan. Kafia Kingi is a territory claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan. The enclave is (from South Sudan’s perspective) at the very western edge of South Sudan’s Western Bahr al-Ghazal state. Sudan currently occupies the enclave. Human rights organizations and the Ugandan government have frequently claimed that Sudanese military has provided the LRA with weapons, equipment, and money. The new reports (based on statements made by LRA defectors) claim that the Sudanese Army has given Kony safe haven. Kony may have used Kafia Kingi as a hideout in 2010. There are reports that he returned to the area briefly in 2011 and 2012.

April 26, 2013: Opposition politicians have asked the military to deny LRA rebels permission to serve in the Ugandan Army unless the military is certain that the former rebels are reliable and disciplined. The opposition complaints came after media reports that an army soldier who killed ten people in a shooting incident on March, 8th was a former LRA rebel.

April 23, 2013: The army reported that it has suffered over 400 desertions in recent months. The army, surprising many Ugandans, published an official list naming the deserters. The army said that, although desertions have always occurred, it was worried about what it considered to be a wave of desertions. An investigation of a foiled attack on a unit headquarters (Mbuya area) revealed that several deserters planned the attack. The military wants the public to help find the deserters. The list included 37 members of the elite Special Forces Command (SFC). The military said five of the 37 SFC deserters named on the list had been arrested in mid-April (in other words, a few days before the list was officially released). These deserters claimed they deserted because they had been forced to do hard labor. Media noted that most of the deserters from regular military units came from tribes in northern and eastern Uganda. Tribes in these regions have reported that their members serving in the military complain that they are treated very poorly compared to soldiers from southern, western, and central Uganda.

April 17, 2013: For the first time in 33 years the Karamoja town of Moroto has running water. The Moroto district had a water system built in the 1960s, but the system was damaged during the violence at the end of the 1970s. It fell into complete disrepair during the civil war in the 1980s. In 2010, the UN provided support to repair and rebuild the system. The project included new construction and new wells. Residents in Moroto attributed recurrent outbreaks of cholera to the lack of clean water. Citizens of Karamoja complain that the national government neglects their region. Karamoja is located in northeastern Uganda.

April 9, 2013: The military said that the temporary suspension of anti-LRA operations in the Central African Republic (CAR) announced April 3 would continue until further notice. U.S. advisers working with the Ugandan Army will also continue to suspend operations. The military said that the rebel leaders in the CAR had explicitly refused to cooperate with the Ugandan military and the AU-UN joint force. Meanwhile, a U.S. military spokesman called the suspension of operations in the CAR a pause. Forty U.S. advisers are currently in the CAR advising and training forces involved in the LRA hunt. Those special operations soldiers will remain in the CAR at two camps, one located near the town of Obo and the other near Diema. The U.S. forces will not be withdrawn. A total of 100 U.S. special operations troops are assigned to the anti-LRA mission. The other 60 are in Congo, South Sudan, and Uganda.

April 8, 2013: The government and Ugandan media are reacting to reports that the latest U.S. National Intelligence report speculates that Uganda will face violent instability in 2013. The report was given to the U.S. Senate’s intelligence committee on March 12th. The Ugandan government dismissed the U.S. analysis as indicative of American ignorance of central and east Africa.

The UN and the government announced that talks between M23 Congolese rebels and the Congo government have resumed in Kampala. The Ugandan government is acting as mediator in the talks.

April 5, 2013: The UN said that the Ugandan Army is still determined to continue anti-LRA operations in the CAR despite a demand by the new CAR government that foreign forces exit the country. Note that UN statement was a bit opaque and addressed Ugandan determination. At the moment anti-LRA operations have been halted. However, UN diplomats are trying to get the new CAR government to support the joint anti-LRA mission. The UN’s special representative in the CAR has encouraged the new government leaders to continue to support the AU and UN –backed operations. The special representative said that Kony must not be given a reprieve. UN and AU officials said that operations in neighboring nations to eliminate LRA cadres and protect civilians from attack by LRA rebels continue. 

April 3, 2013: The Ugandan Army announced that it will have to suspend anti-LRA operations in the Central African Republic based on the policies of the new CAR government (the Seleka coalition). Ugandan forces, however, will not leave the CAR. They will return to their bases in the CAR and remain in those bases until further notice.

Meanwhile, the U.S. announced that it will pay a five million dollar reward for information leading to the capture LRA commander Joseph Kony.

March 26, 2013: The government, attempting to quiet fears that the anti-LRA operation in the Central African Republic is about to end, said that it intends to keep Ugandan military forces in the CAR and continue the operation. CAR rebels (in the Seleka coalition) officially seized power on March 24th. The rebels then said all foreign forces must leave the CAR. The rebels had said several times that if they took power they would demand that all foreign forces withdraw. Senior Ugandan military officers have reportedly told the government that it is essential that the new CAR government (ie, the Seleka government) support the international anti-LRA operation.

March 19, 2013: The UN said talks between M23 and the government of Congo will resume very quickly. The talks are being held in Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

March 15, 2013: Government officials have urged nations supporting the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to better coordinate their aid efforts. The government also reported that since 2010, over 3,000 Somali soldiers (Somali federal government forces, the Somali National Army) have trained at the Ugandan Army training center in Bihanga. The European Union Training Mission (EUTM) has trainers at Bihanga. The Ugandan Army also provides some of the instruction.

March 11, 2013: The February 6th briefing by a senior army general continues to roil Ugandan politics. The briefing, conducted by Gen Aronda Nyakairima, followed a series of statements by senior government officials (including the president) that the army might intervene if the parliament continued to accuse the president and executive branch of corruption. Nyakairima then said that the military would not let bad politics damage the country. Nyakairima said the military would not permit turmoil in Uganda. Opposition political leaders called the statement a direct threat. Critics said that over time the Ugandan Army has become a respected institution and Nyakakirima’s threat could undermine respect for the military.

March 9, 2013: Despite repeated official assurances by the military that Ugandan forces will continue to pursue the LRA in the Central African Republic, the unstable political situation in the CAR is affecting anti-LRA operations. Ugandan Army officers have reported that the rebels have defeated the CAR government and will likely form a new national government. However, the rebels are not honoring agreements made by the current CAR government. The army is indicating that it is prepared to continue operations against the LRA in the CAR. But the UN, AU, and the Ugandan government must engage the rebel leaders and get them to agree to support the joint anti-LRA effort in their country. If the rebels do not agree to support the anti-LRA operation, several senior military officers are worried that they will be forced to withdraw completely from their forward operating bases in the CAR. The army is prepared to order its soldiers to pull back to the CAR bases located at Obo, Zemio, and Djemah. Uganda has around 2,900 soldiers deployed in the CAR.

Getting the rebels to support the former government’s agreements may be difficult. Why? According to CAR sources, the government of Sudan (Khartoum) has provided Seleka with support. Uganda has repeatedly alleged that Sudanese intelligence provides support to the LRA and rumors continue to that effect. There are also reports that Kony has left the CAR and moved into Sudan, possibly the western Darfur region.

March 4, 2013: The government said the military would continue to pursue LRA terrorists operating in the Central African Republic, despite the rebellion in that country. The CAR operation is vital because the military continues to believe that LRA commander Joseph Kony is most likely hiding out in the remote area of the CAR where South Sudan, Sudan, and CAR borders meet. In late 2012, rebel fighters belonging to Seleka began a series of attacks against the CAR government. Seleka means alliance in Sango (a language spoken by many CAR tribes) and it is just that -- a CAR rebel alliance. Seleka’s leaders accused the CAR government of abrogating the 2007 CAR peace agreement.

March 1, 2013: The military confirmed that it had beefed up units deployed along the Uganda-Congo border. In late February, fighting erupted along the border. The worst fighting was between M23 Congolese rebels and a Mai Mai militia, but there was also an incident involving Congolese security forces. There were also reports of fighting between two M23 rival factions. The Ugandan Army’s 2nd Division is deployed in the border region.

February 26, 2013: The government indicated that it will likely commit troops to a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. UN Security Council Resolution 2085 (passed in December 2012) authorized the creation of the African International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA). The African Union will organize and deploy the force. At that time the UN asked Uganda to consider providing troops for the mission. Though the government statement fell short of a firm commitment, the government of Mali has officially asked Uganda to participate.

February 24, 2013: The government agreed to support the UN’s Peace Security and Cooperation Framework. The framework affects security operations in central Africa and is designed to help countries combat rebel organizations like the Congo’s M23 group. Diplomats regarded Rwanda’s and Uganda’s agreement as essential since both countries have been accused of providing M23 rebels with support. The framework will include the creation and deployment of a new UN brigade in the Congo. The so-called Intervention Brigade will be tasked with combating rogue militias.

February 21, 2013: The government gave official refugee status to 15 members of Eritrea’s national soccer team. In December 2012, the Eritrean soccer team was participating in an international tournament in Kampala and 17 players turned up missing. Everyone suspected they had defected and that proved to be the case. The players requested asylum, claiming they faced reprisals in Eritrea. Two players later decided to return to Eritrea. Many Ugandans supported the players’ requests.

February 20, 2013: Ugandan civilians reported heavy gunfire and possible artillery fire along the Uganda-Congo border.

 

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