Uganda: Bandit Rules


April 8, 2009: Uganda and Kenya continue to spar over Migingo Island in Lake Victoria. The Ugandan Army (Uganda Peoples Defense Forces) arrested nine Kenyan fisherman earlier this week essentially because they had not received permission from the government to fish in Ugandan territory. Kenya, however, claims that the island lies within its territory. At the moment Ugandan forces occupy the island. A lot of people do not rate this confrontation as particularly serious; Uganda and Kenya continue to discuss building a pipeline through Kenya to transport oil from Uganda's recently discovered oil fields. However, the dispute recalls the August 2007 firefight between Uganda and Congo over Rukwanzi Island in Lake Albert. That left two people killed, a Congolese and a British citizen.

April 5, 2009: Human rights activists have called the Uganda, Sudan and Congo combined three-month-long offensive against the LRA a "failure." Why? Because those same activists estimate over 800 civilians in the Congo were killed during the operation, most of them by the LRA. The NGOs lambast the Ugandan and Congolese forces for failing to protect vulnerable civilians. Indeed, that is one way to rate an operation -- the cost to civilians caught in the crossfire. However, LRA cadres had attacked vulnerable Congolese villages before-- villages that weren't protected by Congolese forces (military or police) or UN peacekeepers operating in the Congo. The criticisms follow an announcement by the UN made two weeks ago that it would deploy a battalion to northeastern Congo to protect civilians in the area. It does seem clear that the LRA still has fighters operating in the Congo. If anyone knew where the LRA bands were at any time, the LRA would have been wiped out years ago. But the LRA operates like bandits, keeping on the move, and often attacking any villages they encounter, for supplies and slaves.

Reports traced to refugees suggest that the LRA has received some supplies from outside the Congo, one report alleging the LRA received an airdrop of supplies. That rumor led to a statement from South Sudan that it believed the Sudanese government was still supplying the LRA. The Sudanese national government denied the allegation. Ugandan military sources also think the LRA has received some supplies. Who knows? Everyone knows that the LRA looted the towns and villages it attacked during the retreat from the Ugandan military offensive --in other words, the LRA supplied itself by stealing from the vulnerable civilians whose deaths human rights activists deplore.

March 25, 2009: The LRA now says that the International Criminal Court's (ICC) decision to indict Sudan's president Bashir demonstrates that ICC indictments are a "stumbling block" in peace negotiations. That's the argument Bashir is making in Sudan, and it is an old one made by the LRA since its senior commander, Joseph Kony, was indicted by the ICC.

March 24, 2009: Ugandan agreed to send another battalion of peacekeepers to Somalia to serve with the African Union (AU) force. Uganda has around 1600 troops in Somalia (two battalions plus some support personnel). The government indicated that the troop increase would be around 800, bringing the force in Somalia to somewhere between 2400 and 2500 soldiers.

March 22, 2009: Ugandan commanders reported that Ugandan Army forces in Congo had completed their withdrawal. Twelve Ugandan soldiers died during the anti-LRA operation (code named "Lightning Thunder") that involved forces form South Sudan, Congo, and Uganda. The Congolese government has promised the Congolese Army units will continue to pursue LRA cadres. Both Ugandan and Congo claim that the LRA was badly damaged by the Ugandan offensive and that remnant LRA bands have scattered. That may be true but isn't necessarily good. Reports from the Central African Republic (CAR) indicate that LRA cadres remain in the southeastern corner of that country, having fled the Congo during the Ugandan offensive. Kony's location, as always remains uncertain. Rumors have him in Congo, Sudan, and the CAR. There may be something to the rumors. It's likely Kony, forced form his sanctuary in Congo's Garamba National Park, is constantly moving.

March 19, 2009: The LRA, through representatives in Kenya, is once again calling for new peace negotiations. The LRA statement said that LRA fighters inside the Congo "want to go home" to Uganda but maintained that the LRA was still strong and capable of resistance. The representatives claim that Uganda's offensive in the Congo failed to destroy LRA units. Uganda now estimates that its forces killed at least 100 LRA fighters. This is somewhat lower than earlier estimates which put the LRA death toll at 150.




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