Uganda: Tribal Troubles


September 30, 2009: The Bugandans are protesting again, and Bugandan protests are always big trouble in Uganda. Bugandans are demanding autonomy for their tribe. If “Buganda” (also called Baganda) looks a lot like “Uganda,” it's because the British colonialists used the tribe's name to describe the region. The Bugandans were the dominant ethnic group in what is now southern Uganda, and the King of the Bugandans still has a tribal court located in Kampala, the capital. When Uganda achieved independence in 1962, the Bugandans were granted a degree of autonomy (a “semi-federal” relationship with the government).

The Bugandans accuse the government (specifically, they accuse President Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Movement, NRM, political party) of playing off one tribe against another, in a manner similar to the British colonialists. The Bugandans argue that the NRM's policies are aimed at minimizing Bugandan influence with the intent of eventually dividing the Bugandans politically and ending their autonomous rights. The Bugandans also accuse the government of favoring the Bunyoro tribe in a long-running land dispute between the Bugandans and Bunyoros. Tribal politics is a big deal in Africa, because there are still over 500 major tribes active (with tribal leadership in place and operational) and most African nations possess several dozen tribal groups, who are quite serious about preserving their traditions, and political power.

September 25, 2009: The government reported that around 1.2 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) have returned to their homes since the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement was signed in 2006 with the Lords Resistance Army (LRA). Most of the 1.2 million were living in protected camps in northern Uganda. Another 600,000 IDPs, however, have not returned to their homes. “Homes” is not the word the government uses, since many of the IDPs homes have been destroyed or (in some cases) have been taken over by squatters. The government uses the phrase “area of origin” – meaning the district or sub-district in which the IDPs originally lived. Another recent report indicated the IDPs who have not returned have not done so because they face land disputes with squatters or with other tribes. The drought has also made food resources scarce and farming difficult. It is a hard choice, but in the camps the IDPs do receive food aid and emergency assistance.

September 24, 2009: A spokesman for the LRA said that senior LRA commander Joseph Kony had contacted the government. Kony allegedly wants the government to agree to a ceasefire and then resume peace talks. The spokesman also said that Kony believes the Juba peace accord is “dead” and the peace deal must be renegotiated. Yes, this announcement has been made on a regular basis by the LRA for the last four or five years. In fact, on September 4th the LRA withdrew from peace negotiations mediated by South Sudan – the “negotiate then withdraw from negotiations” oscillation. Though the LRA's official announcement did not address this issue, diplomats in the region believe Kony wants a peace agreement that will guarantee he will not be arrested and prosecuted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC charged Kony with 33 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. At one time the Ugandan government indicated that it was willing to consider a deal with Kony where he would face trial in Ugandan courts. That suggestion never went past the discussion stage because the ICC would not retract the indictments.

September 19, 2009: Five Ugandan soldiers serving with the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia (AMISOM) were killed when Somali Islamists belonging to the Al Shabaab organization detonated two car bombs. A total of 17 peacekeepers were killed in the attack.

September 11, 2009: Police and military units confronted Bugandan tribe protestors in Kampala. The government reported that police opened fire on “pockets of trouble” outside Kampala where protestors were building barricades and setting fire to stacks of automobile tires. The protests broke out earlier in the week when the King of Buganda was denied permission to visit a tribal area north of Kampala.

The government claimed that “criminals” among the demonstrators had tried to burn police stations in the area. The government cryptically claimed unresolved security issues were the reason it denied the Bugandans permission to visit the area north of the capital. The government also shut down a radio station owned by the Kingdom of Buganda. Five people died in the protests and armed confrontations.

September 8, 2009: The East African Community (EAC) is trying to help Uganda and Kenya resolve their border dispute which centers on Migingo Island in Lake Victoria. The EAC consists of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, and Tanzania. An attempt to conduct a joint border survey failed earlier this year.

September 7, 2009: The Ugandan Army (UPDF, Ugandan Peoples Defense Force) reported that its forces have pursued LRA cadres into the Central African Republic (CAR). The pursuit is part of the “continuing offensive” against the LRA. The offensive began on December 15, 2008 with a strike on LRA camps in the Congo's Garamba National Park. Most Ugandan units withdrew in March 2009 from the Congo, but Uganda kept liaison officers and intelligence units there to monitor the LRA. How does the army supply its light units engaged in anti-LRA recon and strike operations? Uganda actually lacks the equipment to conduct sustained parachute airdrop operations, but the Ugandan Peoples Defense Air Force (UPDAF) has had training in conducting humanitarian aid airdrops. US Air Forces-Africa (17th Air Force, air component of AFRICOM) has trained the UPDAF to do this. Uganda has had to deliver aid by parachute drops in northern Uganda. The same skills quickly translate to supplying a light infantry unit operating along the CAR-Congo border. All the UPDAF needs (to make it completely legal) is overflight permission from the Congo and CAR government. The Congolese government is Uganda's ally against the LRA, so presumably overflight rights from Kinshasha can be easily obtained.

September 5, 2009: The Government of South Sudan (GOSS) said it is investigating the incident that occurred on the South Sudan-Uganda border on September 1. The GOSS said that it believe policeman attacked the border farm, not soldiers as first reported. The GOSS said that it intended to keep “excellent relations” with Uganda.

September 3, 2009: The government reported that on September 1, seven gunmen entered northern Uganda (Moyo district) and at gunpoint forced a group of Ugandan farmer to uproot their crops. The gunmen told the farmers they were on Sudanese territory. One source claimed the gunmen were South Sudanese soldiers, from the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA). On September 2, the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) said it was completely unaware of the incident. On September 3, Ugandan demonstrators, protesting the government's failure to protect them, shut down a customs post at Afogi. A spokesman for a group of Sudanese merchants (“border traders”) said they feared reprisal attacks from angry Ugandans. The incident instantly strained relations between South Sudan and Uganda, though they are allies against both the LRA. During the Sudan civil war, Uganda provided long-term support to the south Sudanese.

August 31, 2009: Uganda now has 2700 troops deployed with the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM).




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