Uganda: Little Egypt

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August 22, 2011: It has been almost six years since the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) launched an attack inside Uganda. This is remarkable, but there are reasons. The LRA’s long string of atrocities has finally burned it politically in northern Uganda. Thus it comes as no surprise that the Ugandan Army’s intelligence gathering in northern Uganda has improved immensely. The LRA still terrorizes parts of the northeastern Congo and the southwestern Central African Republic. The government of Southern Sudan reports that LRA bands move about in its territory.

August 17, 2011: Police in the capital broke up a demonstration. The demonstrators were conducting a candle light vigil in honor of nine protestors killed in April by the police. Opposition politicians described the police action as a brutal attack on peaceful demonstrators. Various opposition groups have stated that they will conduct more protests against the government of President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986. Opposition groups are comparing him to former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Museveni rejects the comparison.

August 9, 2011: A high level court dismissed government-preferred charges against Kizza Beisgye, former candidate for president and the most prominent opposition leader. Besigye got 26 percent of the vote in the last presidential election, and then accused the government of election fraud. The government had accused him of fomenting food riots earlier this year that left several people dead. After Besigye was arrested, he was beaten by police. This is now (understandably) a popular cause for Uganda’s opposition political parties. The court described the government’s evidence as implausible.

August 1, 2011: The war against the LRA left many land mines in northern Ugandan. For the past several years the government has sponsored several de-mining projects, coordinated by the Uganda Mine Center. Recently the mine center noted that it has de-miners working on a nine-kilometer long stretch just south of the Southern Sudan border (Lela-bul area). It will take at least another year to clear the mine fields.

July 29, 2011: US AFRICOM believes the LRA’s senior commander will ultimately either be killed or captured alive. The hunt for Kony continues and the U.S. is now involved in supporting the efforts of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and Uganda to bring Kony to justice. Kony was reportedly hiding in Sudan’s Darfur region in 2010.

July 22, 2011: The government has received the two of six jet aircraft purchased from Russia. Eventually Uganda will have six Su-30MK fighters. The first jet flew in on July 11. The purchase remains highly controversial in Uganda. The opposition contends it is a waste of money. The government says it needs the jets to protect Ugandan air space and specifically Ugandan oil fields. The precise cost of the six aircraft is not known though Ugandan media say between $740 and $750 million. Uganda currently has six Russian-made MiG-21 interceptors and five MiG-23s. The Ugandan military has indicated that it intends to selectively upgrade its equipment over the next few years. Oil gives Uganda something to defend, and also pays the costs of the new weapons. The opposition wants the money spent on civilian infrastructure and economic development. The government counters that lack of military equipment and poor quality equipment hindered the war against the LRA. It was not until the Ugandan military acquired attack helicopters (Mi-24s) that it made real progress against the LRA in northern Ugandan. Critics can still point to the Ugandan military’s miserable maintenance record. The attack helicopters have a very low readiness rate. The speculation is that the new Su-30s will suffer the same fate. They will look good in the hangar, but will rarely be aloft.

July 12, 2011: Thomas Kwoyelo, a senior LRA commander, went on trial in Kampala. He is being tried in the International Crimes Division Court. The ICDC was set up as part of peace negotiations between the government and the LRA. Kwoyelo was captured in the Congo in 2009. He is charged with murder and abduction. He is also implicated in an attack on a Congolese village (one reason the court is called international).

 

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