2008: Along the Sudanese border, an army
patrol ran into a group of 30 Sudanese tribal warriors, smuggling weapons. A
battle broke out, and eight of the warriors were killed, while the rest fled
back to Sudan. Several automatic weapons were recovered. This gun battle in the
bush is part of a disarmament campaign along
the Sudanese border. This has been successful, removing about two thirds of the
40,000 illegal guns held by tribesmen in the last seven years. Most of the
weapons were recovered through a government "weapons turn-in" program in the
Karamoja tribal region (northeastern Uganda). The Karamoja are cattle herders
who occasionally engage in smuggling and raiding.
tribal warriors acquired automatic weapons when cheap, Cold War surplus AK-47s
flooded into Africa from East Europe in the 1990s. This made tribal raids a lot
more deadly than when all that was used was spears and bows. Uganda's program
has had mixed successes, mainly because the government did not keep pace
with the rising price of weapons. As
recently as four years ago an AK-47 sold for around $200, which is a lot of
money in that part of Africa. Now AK-47s sell for over $700.
government offered competitive prices for weapons. Meanwhile, the guys with
guns have turned their attention from rustling to hijacking, and convoys carrying food are being ambushed with greater frequency. The region
has been suffering from a drought and more and more people are depending on
outside food aid. Food is always a useful commodity, but in an area afflicted
by starvation it is a precious commodity. This could be an indication of even
more trouble in northeastern Uganda. So the government has increased patrols,
and the troops have orders to fire on any tribesmen carrying automatic weapons
(which are illegal, semiautomatic hunting rifles are OK).
2008: Relations between the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) and Uganda are
increasingly strained. This is a bit unexpected. Uganda was a major supporter
of the SPLA (Sudan Peoples Liberation Army, which forms the core of the GOSS).
Trade between Uganda and GOSS has increased. Uganda and the SPLA cooperate
against the LRA. However, GOSS officials or spokesmen now issued at least three
statements that the South Sudanese believe the Ugandan Army has sent troops
into South Sudan and had them "masquerade" as LRA rebels. The masquerade has
gotten out of hand. One of these attacks took place in early June. Another
allegedly took place on June 30. The June 30 attack was a large one, involving
at least 30 attackers. That would indeed be a large-scale effort for the LRA,
which has withered to a hard core cadre. Another incident occurred on July 23.
GOSS accused the Ugandan Army of an attack on a camp site that left ten people
dead. On the same day, however, GOSS president Salva Kiir stated that the
Ugandan Army had not been "expelled" from South Sudan.
2008: The Ugandan government is playing fast and loose about peace
negotiations. Uganda claims that it is "waiting on Joseph Kony" to sign the
peace agreement, but if he fails to sign, it will "consult" with the Congolese
and Sudanese governments about "how to deal with the LRA." If this sounds like
a big stick (a war threat), well, it is.
2008: Uganda, responding to allegations that the Ugandan Army had attacked
Sudanese civilians, said that the LRA
should leave South Sudan, not the Ugandan Army.
2008: LRA holdouts accused Uganda of attacking LRA bases inside the Congo. The LRA accusation got even more complicated
when an LRA spokesman accused Ugandan soldiers of impersonating Sudanese
soldiers and crossing into Congo from South Sudan. Uganda denied the
2008: South Sudan's Vice-President Riek Machar said that the Ugandan Army
cannot operate in South Sudan and should leave. South Sudan had accused the
Ugandan Army of killing a Sudanese citizen in a military operation in June.
2008: The Lords Resistance Army is in tatters. The latest Ugandan military
figures claim the LRA has only 600 to 700 fighters. The intelligence is based
on statements by LRA defectors and former LRA prisoners (for the most part
kidnapped or abducted women and children). Essentially the LRA is down to one
unit: Joseph Kony's bodyguards. This used to be called a "brigade" and was
named Control Altar
2008: South Sudan's Vice-President Riek Machar has reportedly written LRA
commander Joseph Kony and asked him to open "direct channels" to him so that
the peace process can continue.